Chicken Coop Chatter©
We get a lot of questions about how to deal with aggressive roosters. Our first suggestion is always do NOT allow a rooster to continue being aggressive. At first sign of any aggression you must deal with it immediately. The longer you wait to deal with his aggression, the harder it will be to break him of that behavior. Aggression should never be tolerated and it is up to you to alter this behavior or get rid of the rooster.
As we've said many times, Roosters have a job to do, they are valuable to their flock in protecting them, directing them and overseeing them and contributing to reproduction. Hens rely on the leader of the flock as they go about their business of scratching and foraging for food. When there is no rooster present, the flock will depend on a dominant, lead hen to assume the duties of a rooster. A dominant hen can become as aggressive as any rooster and for the very same reasons, and what we advise here for roosters will be the same advice for an aggressive hen.
We have people say that their rooster was never aggressive and suddenly they can no longer get near him without him challenging them or becoming aggressive with them and they want to know what changed this behavior. Several things can cause that change of behavior. One may be that he was a young rooster and had not come of age yet. Another reason may be that he was low on the pecking order if other roosters were present and has moved up in that pecking order either from the lead rooster being injured, killed or re-homed. Yet another reason may be that he challenged a head rooster and won the challenge. We've seen this happen, though it is rare.
At first sign of aggression, a firm nudge with a foot to push him away will give him a warning that his behavior is not acceptable. Doing this each time you enter the chicken run or the rooster comes at you from free-range, will give him the idea. If your efforts are met with more aggression, take a broom with you when you are near the flock. A firm nudge with the broom gives a larger impression, again, doing this each time you are near the rooster, should be enough to alter his behavior and teach him that he is not the boss of you. It is not the intention to hurt the rooster or other aggressive birds, the intention is to show him with firmness and discipline that he must adhere to proper behavior.
Some recommend firmly picking the rooster up and carrying him upside down or carrying him around while you do your chores, which may sound feasible, but in reality rarely works and the rooster can become injured from the wing flapping and struggling he will do until he is worn down or becomes submissive and through our own experience find that it has little affect for all the effort. In addition some roosters weigh as much as ten pounds and this will not be an easy effort on your part. Besides, catching him may not be the easiest effort, and by the time you do catch him the whole purpose of teaching him who's boss has been lost and will not teach him anything.
If a rooster senses any fear in you or others , he will continue to be more and more aggressive and is every reason you need to nip his behavior in the bud early on. As with most animals, fowl sense fear and will take advantage of that fear. It is best not to allow strangers around your flock, as they will all go into a *danger* mode and the rooster may sense the stranger as a threat to his flock and go into protective mode. The rooster at this time is doing exactly as he is intended to do. Strange dogs, strange people, strange vehicles or objects can alert the rooster to challenge and show signs of aggression. Though you may not want the rooster to be aggressive around strangers, it may be very difficult to convince him that they are not a threat. Chickens have very good eye-sight, and can distinguish a number of different shapes, colors and distinguish one from another. So a stranger that is wearing an unfamiliar color, or is of an unfamiliar size can set the rooster off and into his protective stance. Some roosters may merely warn their flock to seek cover, as he stands guard, while others will challenge the interloper. Always use caution when there are small children present. Very often a child can seem threatening, because of their quick movements or squeals and screams. We would give this same advice no matter what livestock you own or whatever domestic pet you may own. Even when I visit with our sis, I do not go into her chicken runs. When a stranger enters, the entire flock becomes upset and all go into a danger mode. Though her roosters are not aggressive, they could show aggression toward a stranger, purely to protect the flock.
Some people may suggest removing the roosters spurs. We discourage doing this because it basically leaves the rooster defenseless if a real predator would appear, which will put your entire flock at risk. If you insist on removing the spurs, there are several instructionals for doing that and a variety of methods for doing it, however we do not provide that information nor direct you to sources. We have over 50 roosters, none have their spurs removed and none are allowed to be aggressive. Out of all those roosters, there is currently only one that tries to challenge now and again, but he is young, and is dealt with as needed. Any roosters that do not learn, are not allowed in our flocks or breeding program, and are removed. We do not handle or coddle our birds except as necessary, though we do have some that enjoy being picked up or interacting, which I mention only because handling may or may not remedy aggressive behavior. In addition we do not have all docile breeds. What we do have is control of the roosters and other birds that may show unacceptable behaviors.
A rooster that is dancing around you, flapping his wings at you, flying into the fence at you, running after you or darting at you is challenging you, it is at this time you must begin his behavioral training. If you ignore these first signs, you will have a harder job ahead for gaining the Alpha position that you will need to keep control. Most roosters will learn from one or two lessons, others may continue to challenge and yet others may not learn and have to be removed.
By gaining early control of behaviors, the greater advantage you will have. Never show fear; show dominance. Aggression in your flocks should never be tolerated, nor ever allowed to get out of hand. If you are afraid of the rooster or dominant hens, or do not make an effort to stop the aggressive behavior, then do them and yourself a favor and re-home them.
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