How to Deal with a Mean Rooster

How to Deal with a Mean Rooster

Mean chickens occasionally appear in nearly any breed, more commonly among roosters than among hens. The first thing to do is try to figure out what triggers an attack. Sometimes it’s something as simple as he doesn’t like your new chore boots, your favorite floppy pants, or the way you swing the feed bucket. Making a simple change in how you do things often can stop the problem before it gets out of control.


Pay Attention

Once you get over the shock of that first attack, start paying attention to the rooster’s body language, which will give you a pre-attack warning. Usually the rooster will sidle up to you and start skittering sideways as he gets closer. He’s thinking of attacking, but he also has one eye toward an escape route in case the attack goes wrong. As he launches the attack he’ll spread his wings and puff out his hackles to make himself look big and fierce.

During your initial assessment phase, protect yourself by wearing long pants and boots. Since most attack roosters will aim at your lower legs, they can easily draw blood on bare legs. If you have to protect yourself by holding up a foot, a boot will deflect the brunt of the attack.

Not all roosters mount a direct attack. Sometimes a rooster will lay low until he thinks you aren’t looking, then run up behind you and launch an attack on the back of your legs. In this case, if you are paying attention and notice he has begun to charge, and you turn around before he reaches you, he may abandon the plan. And if not, you will be in a better position to hold up your booted foot to prevent an attack on your legs.

Try Appeasement

An attack rooster needs assurance that you are not a threat. One way to reassure him is to appease him with judicious stroking. First you have to catch him, for which you’d be wise to wear long sleeve and gloves. Once you have the rooster cradled in one arm, and with good grip on both his legs, use the other hand to gently stroke his throat and wattles while you talk to him in a soothing and reassuring voice. Note the puzzled look on his face as he realizes how good that feels.

Continuing to hold him and talk to him, sit down or walk around until the rooster seems fully relaxed. When you’re ready to release him, set him down gently. If he walks calmly away, fine. If he turns and tries again to attack, catch him and start over. This procedure may need to be repeated for several days, or even weeks, until the rooster finally figures out you aren’t there for a fight.

Some chicken keepers feel the way to a rooster’s heart is through his stomach, believing he is unlikely to attack a person who brings scratch and other tasty treats. It’s true that a rooster can’t eat and attack at the same time. But if you throw the treat at him, he could take your arm motion and being pelted with grain as an act of aggression. Divert the rooster’s attention by throwing scratch near, but not directly at, him.

What Not to Do

Whatever you do, don’t attack a mean rooster, which only eggs him on. Such tactics as kicking him, hitting him with a stick or broom, or squirting him with a water pistol will only make him feel even more threatened than he already feels.

To remove yourself as a tempting target, walk away, with haste if necessary. But don’t run, which invites an aggressive rooster to give chase. On the other hand, don’t turn the tables and chase the rooster. He may run and hide now, but invariably will come back later for a rematch.

Don’t try to stare him down. Face-to-face conflict is a typical attack stance between two roosters, and the last thing you want is for the mean rooster to believe you are a meaner rooster for him to conquer so he can move up in the pecking order. Besides, if he decides to launch an attack at your face you could be in a world of hurt.

If you can’t tame him with kindness, maybe he’s a hopeless case. Some roosters are just plain ornery. Others turn mean as they age. A rooster is nice to have as part of the home flock, but you don’t really need a rooster. If the rooster maintains attack mode no matter what you do, get rid of him before you or someone else gets seriously injured.

And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.

Gail Damerow, author, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens

Written by Gail Damerow

19 Responses to How to Deal with a Mean Rooster

  1. We also rescue roosters people claim are mean and we do just what you say, my daughter call it the cuddle treatment, and I don’t tolerate the attacking, I stand my ground and once I pick him up we talk and he likely gets a burrito wrap in a towel and the talking and cuddling. Longest we have had to break bad behavior is 2 weeks. And some breeds are harder than others. But all have come around and even re-homed after rehab 🙂

  2. I have a gorgeous rooster that has begun to attack. I can’t keep him because I have two grandaughters 5 and 7 that he has chased and I’m afraid they are going to get hurt. I need to find him a good home.

    • We have a rooster that has had three other owners. He is highly aggressive. He was originally named “Pecker” double entendre intended. We changed his name to “Chicken Ceasar Salad” or Caesar for short. He had been paired with a single hen and he quickly killed her with his previous owners.

      Literally you could not walk near him without being violently attacked and pecked or clawed. He chased and attacked everyone. His owner’s kid hated him so much he wanted us to let him rip out his tail feathers once he was caged because the bird was “so mean to him.” My teens said, “No, absolutely not.” They gave him to us because they figured we would just kill him and eat him.

      Caesar did not even groom himself. His feathers looked horrible and filthy. He had a wound on his right wing where a clump of feathers were torn off, his comb was covered in scabs from dog marks and bites from a recent attack in which he was nearly killed. He is missing most of the feathers on the front of his neck from having them torn out by dogs. Most of his tail feathers were either broken, torn out or in dismal, filthy conditions. He endured being kicked, attacked and chased by dogs (for months) having rocks thrown at him and hit with objects. most of his toenails are gone, either due to frostbite or violent amputation from animal.He is really traumatized and angry.

      We initially caged him first in a cat catcher and a cat kennel pushed together for 24 hours. I wanted him restrained and forced to have us in control of his safety. The next day, we then expanded his cage area to about 3 x 2 feet. This allowed him to become desensitized relatively quickly.

      We go in daily to just sit with him. We played chick and chicken sounds for him. He became calm and positively responsive, meaning he is not going to be a danger to chicks.

      The first evening, he crowed continuously. We gave him abundant straw to sleep on in the cat carrier, which seemed to confuse him at first as he has been outdoors in the weather with little protection for most of his life.

      The next morning he crowed for five hours straight and throughout the day. He started at 3:00am with loud crowing. As he is indoors, no one slept. We fed him the scratch pellets the prior owner gave us. The second day he woke up at 4:00 am and started crowing. We expanded his cage that afternoon and started feeding him raw oats, gave him some sand and placed green hay in front of the carrier where he had a nice straw bed.

      As soon as he woke up, we gave him more food and sat with him, him caged in and us outside the cage. He was still EXTREMELY HOSTILE the first four days, violently going for anything placed near the cage. Literally, you could not change his water bowl without getting violently attacked. Any shoes or fingers or feet near his cage got instant violent response.

      Each day, someone sits with him, talks to him, sings to him, plays chicken and chick sounds. My kids and I eat our meals there in the same room. We bring our dogs in and let them sniff at him and lay down. He cannot flee but he is obviously afraid at first, then visibly calms down and looks curious. However, we are conditioning him to NOT react with violence. Suddenly, around day three, he realized he really liked some of the food we gave him. He issued a very bubbly chirp and sounds like a cooing dove, sounds I did not even know a rooster could make.

      Today is day 5. We can now place our bare feet or fingers on the cage or even put them through without instant violence. The dogs come in and lay down. They are getting accustomed to him and he to them. We do not want our dogs pouncing on him anymore than we want him attacking and potentially blinding them or provoking them to kill him. He has a lot of wounds on his comb and lots of missing feathers and physical injury. However, he is preening now. And what is most amazing? The third night he was here, he did not even crow. He simply went to bed early. We had to check on him to be sure he was still alive he was so quiet. Birds are especially easy to condition; but this still surprised me.

      In just five days we have greatly reduced his aggression. He has been eating big: organic quinoa, hay, saltine crackers, oats, apples, dried cherries, lots of carrots. His poop looks a lot healthier (he previously ate a little scratch twice a day and then fended for himself). He is now grooming himself. The few tail feather he has left are shiny. In two days I noticed that his cheek feathers were fluffy and clean. He is more curious than aggressive now. We are looking for a group of at least 5 adult hens to pair with him.

      And just so you know, I have a lot of experience rehabilitating abused animals, so this is not a big deal to me. I am hoping that he will be ready for hens in another week or so. I think he will be a good rooster. The injuries to his comb

  3. I get that this would teach the rooster that I’m not a threat, but do I still have to worry he might attack my children?

  4. How can you stop an attack that is rooster to rooster or rooster to hen? They are fine with us and each other most of the time but it is like they get a stick up their butts every once in a while and end up chasing each other around attacking multiple times…I do not want any to get hurt and the main one if he is separated gets severely anxious and then i’m worried about that cause he works himself to such a frenzy looking for the others…and the others crow looking for him…they have been together being hatched and all seem very close.

  5. I have a Rooster who’s been pretty docile, but tonight he took a nice chunk out of my arm; when I wasn’t looking. I’ve tried all the suggestions above, bet they seem not to have worked. Needless to say. I almost ended his existence tonight. I’d like to keep him, but if this continues. I’ll give him away.

  6. I hatched my breeding pair of Ayam Cemani in an incubator and hand raised them to be human friendly. As soon as the rooster was able to crow, it’s like instinct took over & his past was forgotten. He bows up to me anytime he sees me and does that side stepping thing. I just pick him up and pet him, but he seems to hate that. I’m afraid that I might be making things worse by doing that because I might be embarrassing him in front of his gal. I don’t hold him long enough I guess. I need to try to pet the wattle and throat as you mentioned. It’s just so strange how they go from being handled every day growing up to not liking to be touched at all.

    • I have had several Ayam Cemani roosters raised from chicks to be held. Once they matured the weren’t overly fond of being held, but I did it anyway. I sold one when he was eight months old. I’ve had the other two for four years, though my favorite one just passed away a few weeks ago and I miss him terribly. The all tolerated being handled into maturity.
      I don’t know if it’s embarrassment or just an instinctive desire not to be controlled, but there have been times when I could just tell they were only tolerating being held. I think they appreciate being shown respect, so I recommend you keep on handling them frequently. If they seem restless let them go and come back another time.
      Sometimes I have taken them away from the flock for some one-on-one time with just me. That seems to help. The boys became accustomed enough to it that they seldom tried to hop off of my lap if I released them. My favorite boy lived in our house. He used to come up to where my husband or I was sitting and sit on our feet to indicate he wanted to be picked up. In his case, I think he was lonely and wanted some contact.
      My boys have all liked to have their combs stroked or the head rubbed right at the back of the comb. It seems to make them relaxed and sleepy. I have also had them fall asleep while taking a bath. They dealt well with being blow dried on low too. Maybe you could try petting or bathing to make it more pleasant for them.

  7. I’m kind of curious about what breeds are less likely to have an ornery rooster with the given that all breeds have them. I’m wondering how Wyandottes, Orpingtons, Australorps, and Barred Rocks fit in or are they just about the same as the rest? I know all to well about ornery RIR’s! Which is why I am leery of Black Sex Links.

    • I wouldn’t go with the Barred Rock rooster…we’ve had luck with Orpington and Australorp roos. Possibly the Brahma and Sussex are good choices as well.

  8. I had an Australorp roo who was an obnoxious jerk. I also have a Silver Laced Wyandotte who got a little to big for his britches, and this is how I corrected that behavior:

    At one point I had four roosters (I’ll never buy straight run again) and I figured out how to deal with an overly jealous rooster by watching how they treated each other. It may or may not help with a rooster that terrorizes the hens or the grandchildren, but it will stop him from attacking you. It may sound a little mean to some people, but think if it this way: it’s speaking to the rooster in his own language.

    The technique is simple but requires a little nerve. I don’t have particularly fast reflexes, and I have done this with success.

    Challenge the rooster – or wait for him to challenge you. Dance around with him and make little feints at his head like you’re playing a little game of slaps with him. His hackles will go up and he’ll make feints at you. When you are comfortable going for it, reach in and grab him by the wattle – resist the temptation to grab him by the throat. That won’t do any good. You want to grab that wattle and hang on tight. He’ll scream like a little girl and try to pull away from you. If he gets away, you’ll have to do it again. You want to pinch the wattle tight and hang on to it UNTIL HE LOWERS HIMSELF IN SUBMISSION. When he lowers himself, that is his acknowledgement that you are dominant and he won’t challenge you any more.

    The skin on the wattle is a little thin and you may come away with a little bit of blood on your fingers. But don’t worry. You haven’t caused him any permanent damage, and it’s far less violent than kicking, throttling or throwing things at him – which as pointed out above only encourages him.

  9. I had to put down my favorite rooster recently. A gorgeous two year old Campine. Great protector of his hens (saw him fight off a big hawk), chicks and hatching eggs. Never made a move on me. One day I picked up an old Silkie rooster that lives with the group to remove some debris caught in his feet. The Campine came at me with a vengeance. Thank goodness I had a towel to keep him at bay. Next morning I wore long pants just in case but he was fine. Later that day as the group was going back in their area a hen squawked. I was at least ten feet away but he interpreted that as danger and started to attack me. I had a horse flag with me and was able to fight him off. I believe they can misinterprete a situation. Almost like a training error with any animal. They never completely forget. A mule, pit bull or rooster will fight you to the death.

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