Chicken FAQ: Managing Your Roosters

My rooster is attacking people. What do I do?

Kid 0, Rooster 1The first thing to do is to ask yourself, “Am I smarter than a rooster?”

Most people aren’t. They let the rooster take charge. If the rooster decides it’s time to have a fight, you fight. You don’t question his decision, just his judgment: “He’s crazy: I’m the one who’s going to win!” But you’re not making the decisions—he is. You’re taking orders from a chicken!

Luckily, if you follow my program, you can become smarter than a rooster. Learn how, right now.

Are You Chicken?

Basically, a rooster will size you up and decide either:

  • You are another rooster (in which case you have to have a fight).
  • You’re not a rooster at all (no fight).

His decision is based on how you act. If you don’t act like a rooster, he’ll leave you alone. Roosters don’t  go around attacking ladders or cows or chicken coops or the moon. Just things they imagine are other roosters.

How Roosters (Sort of) Think

But if he decides that you’re a rooster, he will attack you. It’s a pecking-order thing. After a brief battle he will decide one of three things:

  1. He won, and therefore you are supposed to act submissive, or he’ll hold a rematch.
  2. You won, and therefore he will act submissive until he decides it’s time for a rematch.
  3. It was a tie, and therefore he’ll hold a rematch soon.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the important point: the rooster is in charge of deciding when it’s time for a rematch. Once again, the rooster is in charge. You’re not.

How to Not Be a Rooster

People who are smart know that roosters only want rematches with other roosters. They also remember remember they’re people, and not roosters at all! The rooster was mistaken, and it was all just a silly misunderstanding. So the goal is to prevent the rooster from forming the opinion that humans are fellow roosters. The way to achieve this is simple: don’t act like a rooster.

The way to achieve this is simple: don’t act like a rooster.

Basically, it comes down to this: Act like a caring human being. When crossing the chicken yard, don’t come roaring in like a freight train and don’t walk straight at them as if you’re going to trample them. It makes them feel threatened.

The chicken dance. Roosters have a warm-up dance that precedes an attack, in which they nervously shift from one foot to the other and generally look unhappy. Give them a break and edge away if they start acting like this. They’ll forget all about you.

Rooster Taming

Roosters who have already decided that you are one of them can be desensitized. Roosters can only keep track of one thought at a time. If you toss them a handful of grain while they’re winding up for an attack, they will forget all about you and call over a bunch of hens to share the bounty. After a few days of this, their aggression will be greatly diminished. This works best if the roosters are hungry or the feed you offer is at least different from what’s in the feeder 24/7.

I learned this trick after one of my kids got into a scrap with a rooster. The kid lost, to the point where he was no longer willing to go out on the chicken pasture. Fair enough, but the rooster walked away from the experience with the belief that all humans were roosters, not just the one kid.

So I tried the desensitization trick on the rooster, and that worked fine for me. He never attacked anyone again.

Word Gets Around

For anyone who is not convinced, let’s hold up the practice of “showing the rooster who’s boss” to the “front-page photo” test. Which would you rather have on the front page of your local newspaper: A picture of you kicking a rooster, or one of you feeding him a handful of grain? Your neighbors know that you’re not a rooster, and that means they won’t cut you any slack if you kick one around.

Sadly, a few people, even grown-ups, have trouble resisting a challenge. “The rooster made me do it.” You gotta wonder. Because if a chicken can tell you what to do, then imagine the kind of trouble that challenges from the dog, or a co-worker, or your spouse, or the wallpaper can get you into!

Uses for Incorrigible Roosters

Some roosters are incorrigible and will attack anybody, even if you follow these rules. I’ve only ever had one. These roosters should be made into chicken and dumplings.

On the other hand, some poultrykeepers are themselves incorrigible and can’t resist keeping vicious roosters, enjoying the sight of the attacks on neighbors, relatives, visitors, and children. The world would no doubt be a better place if these owners were made into people and dumplings.

When all else fails:

Look deeply into my eyes: When you leave this page, you will be convinced: You are not a chicken. You are not a chicken. You are not a chicken.

Do You Need a Rooster?

Hens lay just as many eggs if you don’t even have a rooster. Hens don’t really like roosters very much, anyway. Roosters will sometimes help defend the flock, especially by keeping a watch on the sky for hawks. But their presence in a flock is optional unless you plan on hatching some eggs.

Why Are They Called Roosters?

They weren’t always called “roosters.” They used to be called “cocks.” Apparently this sounded rude to some people. Though why they didn’t change the name of peacocks while they were at it, I can’t imagine.

How Can You Stop a Rooster From Crowing?

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In Poultry Breeding and Management (which I have republished under my Norton Creek Press label), Prof. Dryden has this to say about roosters and crowing on page 156:

Where the method of buying pullets is followed, the rooster is unnecessary. The hens will lay as well without him, and the objections of the neighbors to chickens on account of the early morning crowing will be overcome. If desired to keep a male, he may be discouraged from crowing by placing a board or hanging canvas over his perch at such a height as to prevent him from stretching his neck. A rooster in crowing raises his head at a considerable height, an if he cannot raise it to the desired height there will be little crowing.

In spite of being 100 years old, Poultry Breeding and Management is full of good ideas like this. Not only are they good ideas, but you won’t hear them anywhere else, because they’ve been forgotten. Highly recommended!

Note that this will discourage crowing while the rooster is on the perch, which of course he will be all night. Most people have far less objection to daytime crowing than nighttime crowing.

I Publish Books! Norton Creek Press

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this issue. Most of my posts are based on input from people like you, so leave a comment below!

Author: Robert Plamondon

Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, is an expert on free-range chickens, and is a semi-struggling novelist. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years. In addition, he holds down a day job doing technical writing at Workspot.

2 thoughts on “Chicken FAQ: Managing Your Roosters”

  1. I really enjoyed reading about aspects of chicks, hens, and the rooster. I was not aware of the antics the rooster displays, but after reading your article, I take away the thought that the human is likely to display rookie-influential actions that may drive the aggressiveness of the rooster. As a very naive-to-be backyard chicken keeper in a rural area, any information I can get reinforces the requirement, that I am a rookie, but, one that is willing to learn. I thank you for your post, I I look forward to many more.

  2. In defense of keeping roosters (we have 9 in our flock of 200), I have noticed that the one thing they are consistently very good about is breaking up fights between the hens. The moment two hens get aggressive those roos are right in there scolding and pushing them apart! It makes flock introductions a whole lot easier also. We have no bullies and I’ve never had to pull a hen for an injury.

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