It’s no accident that a person who dominates those around him is often called the “cock of the walk.” The same aggressiveness that makes roosters the effective leaders and protectors of the henhouse can also make them a pain in the butt, often intimidating not just the flock but their poultry farmers as well.
“Fighting instinct and aggression is normal in roosters,” said Dr. Indu Upadhyaya, an assistant education educator at the UConn Extension Program, “due to hormones and their inherent protective nature. This behavior kicks in around 16 weeks of age when they develop mating instincts and start to defend their hens.”
Upadhyaya described aggression in roosters manifesting in certain behaviors, often spurring (attacking with claws and spur,) chasing and pecking.
It’s important for every poultry farmer to occasionally remind their rambunctious rooster who really rules the roost. Here are the 10 top tips for wrangling rowdy roosters.
- Watch what you wear – When you wear the right clothes, you’ll be able to handle an aggressive rooster with far less chance of injury. Between their beaks and sharp spurs, roosters can cause a lot of scratches and abrasions to any exposed skin. Fortunately, roosters’ talons don’t have a terribly tall reach. Protecting your lower legs will greatly address the problem. Don’t wear shorts – wear thick pants or jeans with some tall work boots.
- Spend some time on his turf – Forget the old maxim about familiarity breeding contempt. Spending some time in the coop will help your rooster become more relaxed in your presence. The more comfortable he is, the less likely he’ll be to see you as a threat.
- Keep your head on a swivel – Don’t make a habit of going about your business without keeping track of where your rooster is. They tend to attack when you’re not paying attention. Your farm is not a dark alley late at night, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to keep up a level of vigilance around a brash bantam.
- Sometimes we all just need to be held – This one is not so easy, because you have to be able to catch him! The goal of holding your rooster is to demonstrate that you’re not afraid of him, letting him know that you can pick him up on your terms. It can also build some trust so that they understand you’re not going to hurt them. Keep a firm grasp over the top of their wings, keeping one side of the rooster firmly cupped against your body and your hand over their outside wing. This will keep them from trying to take off while in your arms. Remember, gloves are your friend!
- Pet him – While holding him, you can gently pet him along his back. This can further establish that the rooster has nothing to fear from you. Be careful not to pet him too close to the back of his head, as roosters can turn their head pretty far. You don’t want to get pecked.
- Feed him treats – They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. You can give your rooster treats while you hold him and while he’s at your feet. Feeding your rooster can help him associate you with positive things.
- Get another rooster – While this is not a solution for every situation or every aggressive rooster, sometimes having a second rooster can help mellow out an overly contentious cockerel.
- Understand rooster behavior – As stated above, aggression is not always a bad thing. You should understand that a rooster’s aggression is not rooted in malice but in the drive to protect his flock and territory. If you have an overly aggressive rooster, try to figure out if there’s something environmental that could be prodding his natural instincts into overdrive.
- Walk boldly – Even if you’re nervous on the inside, try not to let it show on the outside. Just like with dogs, roosters can sense when you’re timid and can interpret that as an invitation to dominate you. If you project confidence instead of hesitation, your rooster is less likely to charge at you.
- Make him back down – While intimidating your rooster might sound mean, it’s important to establish that while a rooster’s job is to dominate a flock it’s not something that’s going to work on you. It’s best to establish early that you will not be bullied. If the rooster seems too aggressive with you, walk up to him with purpose and make him retreat. Don’t immediately turn around and give him a chance to chase you. Keep him retreated to one spot. It can be for a short while, but long enough to demonstrate that you will not scurry off should he seem strikingly saucy.
- Bonus tip – Be patient! You can’t expect perfection. Just like us, different roosters have different personalities. You may see mixed results, and not every tip will work with every rooster. If you take the time to see what yields the results you’re looking for, you can curb your cantankerous cockalorum.
by Enrico Villamaino