My 3-year-old son was outside playing in the neighbors yard when Ash, the resident rooster, attacked him. Flying into his face, spurs raised, Ash terrified my boy as adults ran to chase Ash off.
Sadly, this is a common interaction between young children and roosters.
Are all roosters aggressive? Roosters have a fundamental instinct to protect the flock that often turns into aggression. Because chickens are prey animals and not predators, roosters are generally defensive of their territory and the hens. The degree of aggression depends on the breed, age, and temperament of the rooster.
In addition, how a rooster interacts with people can influence, but not determine, the rooster’s aggression levels.
This article will cover various aspects of rooster aggression and how to respond to an aggressive rooster without inciting future aggression. If you have aggressive hens, check out this article.
Why Are Roosters Aggressive to People?
The number one life goal of a rooster is to protect his flock and breed. Even before they were domesticated, chickens were near the bottom of the food chain. There is little they can do to protect themselves, even from other birds such as hawks.
A good rooster is an answer to protecting a flock. As a result, roosters have been protecting hens for thousands of years. This protective instinct can translate into them becoming aggressive toward people if they perceive people as a threat to the safety or happiness of the hens.
Here are some examples.
If you pick up a hen and she squeaks, your rooster may see you as a danger to the hens and choose to attack you. If not, he may start watching you more carefully and decide you are a threat when he sees other offenses.
Additionally, roosters are generally the top of the pecking order. Among a flock of hens, the rooster rules the roost. Even with multiple roosters in a flock, one single rooster will sit at the top with the other roosters just under him.
As the ruler of the roost, your rooster won’t generally acknowledge you as being above him in the pecking order. If he thinks that you are challenging his position, he may attack you to subordinate you to him. These attacks can continue, even if you win the top position temporarily.
Another reason roosters may become aggressive is that they grow into their hormones. A cock that gets to be about 4 or 5 months old suddenly gets a lot more hormonal. You can think of him as a teenage rooster. He’s going to test his boundaries. Applying a kind, but a firm response can help him to know what’s acceptable.
Plus, many roosters become more aggressive with age. Perhaps you can think of them as grumpy old men. Their tolerance decreases and their experience increases. As the rooster faces many real and imagined threats defending his flock, his aggression can ramp up. He perceived threats even when none existed.
Another cause of rooster aggression is human aggression. If a rooster is raised roughly, they are more likely to see humans as a threat. This can happen unintentionally. Children raising chickens may accidentally be too rough with the young chicks and introduce a perceived threat.
In the case of Ash, he was often carried around upside-down by youngsters for fun.
Sadly, this made Ash more aggressive toward kids because he saw them as a threat.
Additionally, certain breeds of roosters have been bred by humans to be more aggressive. We’ll cover that in a later section.
And don’t forget!
Even when all other factors are taken into account, each rooster has its own personality and temperament. This means you may find a mellow rooster in a more aggressive breed or quite the opposite.
Lastly, spring brings the mating season. During mating season, roosters tend to become more aggressive than during other times of the year. They are more protective and this results in greater aggression.
Roosters are usually aggressive toward humans for several reasons.
- Roosters that see humans as a threat will usually attack
- Roosters attack people to show them the rooster is the top of the pecking order.
- Hormonal changes and testing the boundaries
- Older roosters perceive more danger than younger roosters
- Human conditioning can affect rooster aggression
- Certain breeds are more aggressive than other breeds
- The individual temperament of the rooster.
- Mating Season often brings out aggression in roosters
Signs of Rooster Aggression
Before a rooster flies at you, there are several signs that he perceives you as a threat. Roosters will give several signs of aggression and try to intimidate you into a subordinate position to him. Here are the most common signs of rooster aggression:
Pecking: Pecking is one of the first signs of aggression and can happen when cockerels are young chicks. It’s may seem harmless, but will soon turn into a painful experience as your roo grows. Don’t allow pecking. Hold the head of offending chicks firmly but gently to establish dominance.
Puffing Up: When your rooster puffs his neck feathers, it’s a sure sign that he sees you as a threat. This usually happens when he feels that you are too close in proximity to him or the hens.
Bringing Treats: Although it seems sweet to have your roo bring you, its actually an act of dominance. Roosters don’t bring other roosters treats. They don’t pay servitude. They only bring treats to “their girls.” If your rooster starts bringing you worms, pine cones, or other trinkets, don’t take it as a compliment. He’s claiming you as one of his girls.
The Chicken Dance: A rooster that starts hopping around when you are near is actually dancing to intimidate you. You may also notice his wings are spread a little farther apart and he’s making full eye contact with you. All of this is aggressive behavior and is meant to intimidate you.
Chasing: People chasing can be demonstrated with outright chasing to scare you from the coop and the hens, or it can be found in a game of “chicken.” Your rooster may chase you but then stop as soon as you turn to face him and suddenly act disinterested in you. Either form of chasing, the overt or subtle, are signs of aggression and should be dealt with as soon as it happens. (keep reading to find out how).
Spurring: When a rooster jumps and claws you with their spurs, it is very painful. It can cause deep gashes and result in scarring from the wounds. Spurring is one of the more aggressive behaviors that roosters demonstrate. If your rooster spurs and reconditioning him doesn’t make a difference, it may be time to find other solutions like relocating him.
Flogging: Flogging is referred to a rooster attack that includes him flying at you with his wings and whipping you. Batting his wings against you is meant to make him look larger and as a threat.
No Training Guarantees A Calm Rooster
You may think that with the right training, a cockerel can be trained to be mellow. This is not true.
No amount of training will prevent all roosters from being aggressive. Some breeds will produce aggressive roosters regardless of how they are handled. Further, each rooster has their own temperament.
No amount of training will completely overcome a rooster’s instinct, hormones, and individual temperament.
But, some roosters will respond to specific training by certain people. It helps to have a mellow rooster from a more mellow breed.
How To Train An Aggressive Rooster
Roosters that are raised well from a young age are a lot less likely to be as aggressive as roosters that are raised to see humans as a threat. The younger your rooster is, the more likely it is that you can train him to see you as a friend.
But that isn’t always guaranteed.
If you acquire a fully grown rooster, it’s usually harder to retrain them to overcome the conditioning of their youth. Of course, an aggressive rooster doesn’t mean that they were raised roughly. Some roosters will be aggressive regardless of how they are raised.
However, here are some steps you can take to try and curb rooster aggressiveness.
1. Start Early To Curb Aggressive Behavior
Watch from an early age for chicks that peck at your hand. It may seem harmless at the beginning, but it will turn into hurtful behavior. Chicks that are confrontational are likely to be adults with bigger attitudes.
Although these chicks may actually be cockerels, some hens can also be more aggressive.
Make sure that you always use kindness with the chicks and are not rough with them. Watch children to ensure that chicks are handled gently. Do not hurt chicks when pecked.
2. Watch For Signs of Aggressive Behavior
Roosters generally give signs that they see you as a threat. When a rooster lowers his head and starts moving around “dancing,” that is a sign of aggression. He may also spread his wings.
This helps him to look bigger and more menacing. Another sign is when a rooster runs toward you. He may run toward you when your back is turned or when you are looking directly at him.
Ash loved to wait until his owner had his backs turned and then would run in a full attack toward him. When he turned toward Ash, Ash would skid to a stop and pretend to peck at the ground until he had an opportunity to attack the back again.
Spread your arms and take a step toward him. Hopefully, he will back down. If not, take other steps to establish dominance.
3. Protect Yourself
While training your rooster, make sure that you protect yourself. Wear long sleeves and pants. Ditch the shorts.
Put on long knee-high rubber boots. The back of your calves are often a favorite place for roosters to slice a deep cut.
Don’t forget the gloves.
Being better protected will make you less likely to react in fear and will make handling your unruly Mr. easier.
4. Do Not Get Scared or Back Away
It’s important not to be intimidated by an aggressive rooster. It’s even harder if your rooster has 2-3 inch spurs and is fully grown. Some of the most colorful breeds are also very aggressive.
Even if you are nervous or fearful, act like you aren’t. Don’t back away from the rooster.
Don’t show your fear. The rooster will see your fear as a sign of weakness and it will strengthen his aggression and desire to submit you to him.
He must back away first.
5. Establish Your Dominance In the Pecking Order
It is possible and simple to establish your dominance above your rooster in the pecking order without harming or aggravating your rooster. In nature, a dominant rooster will climb on top and force the subordinate one’s head into the ground.
This doesn’t hurt the rooster but does teach them they are lower than you on the pecking order.
You can mimic this behavior by holding your rooster around their body and pushing them firmly into the ground.
Gently force their heads to the ground. When they stop struggling, they have submitted to you. If your rooster attacks again, repeat the process. It usually doesn’t take many times to establish dominance.
If you have kids or others who care for the chickens, involve them in this process. Show them how to submit the rooster and have them hold the rooster to the ground. This teaches the rooster that each individual is dominant.
Hopefully, this is the last step you’ll have to take.
6. Disarm Your Rooster Temporarily
Roosters usually attack with the spurs on the back of their legs. They jump and fly at the person they are attacking. You can disarm him by wearing tall boots to protect your legs.
Gently, but firmly, use your foot to roll him over onto his back.
This disarms him and makes it impossible for him to attack you. Roosters also don’t like being forced onto their backs. When he attacks again, repeat.
This teaches him that you are at the top of the pecking order. Many roosters will stop attacking and respect you.
7. Become “Buddies” For A While
Another way to show dominance as the top rooster is to become buddies. When your rooster attacks, pick him up and carry him snuggly against your side. Hold onto his legs with a snug grip so he doesn’t claw at you.
Hold him to you for 20+ minutes while you continue around the yard. You can also stroke his throat and wattles. Talk to him in a soothing voice.
He won’t like this “snuggling” and will initially squawk and move to get away. Be firm, but not hurtful in your grip. When he calms down for 10 minutes, place him down and continue with your activities.
If he attacks, repeat the snuggle activity until he learns that he loses control when he attacks you. You may need to repeat this exercise for many days or multiple times a day.
8. Bribe Him With Treats
Many people prefer to bribe their aggressive rooster with treats. If your rooster sees you as someone who brings treats, he may be less likely to perceive you as a threat.
It also works because a rooster usually brings subordinate hens treats. It’s one of the ways he takes care of the flock.
So, you bringing him treats helps to reinforce to him that he’s subordinate to you on the pecking order.
You may need to wear long sleeves and gloves to protect yourself when you feed him treats. Let him eat out of your hand. If you throw treats on the ground, don’t throw them directly at him.
He may interpret the movement of your arm as being aggressive. Instead, toss the treats toward him, but to the side, so he can enjoy them.
9. Reinforce Boundaries in a Non-Aggressive Way
Another way to dissuade your rooster from attacking you is to set clear boundaries. Carry a spray bottle around with you and when he attacks you, spray him with water in the face.
Roosters don’t like to be hit with water, but it doesn’t harm them or cause them physical pain.
Getting sprayed with water clearly teaches your rooster of the consequences of an attack. He’ll think twice about attacking when he sees the spray bottle near. This can also help kids to control roosters as some of the other ways are difficult for them to implement.
10. Be Aware of Other People
Even if you succeed in subordinating your rooster to you on the pecking order, this doesn’t automatically train him to be nice to all people. Every person he comes in contact with will be perceived as a new threat.
This includes visitors, children, and neighbors. Each person would need to train him to be subordinate to them.
If you have children, this training can be dangerous for the kids if your rooster is especially aggressive. Kids are shorter, can easily get hurt, and have a harder time covering their fear.
Additionally, they are usually less strong, and may not know how to react to an aggressive rooster.
11. Consider Culling or Rehoming Your Aggressive Rooster
If none of the tricks above work, or if you have other little people that you are worried about, you may need to take more drastic measures toward an aggressive rooster.
Culling is a term that refers to killing an animal. If you choose to cull your rooster, please do it humanely and don’t cause unnecessary suffering.
Another option is to rehome the rooster. Give it to someone who has a lot of land and space for the rooster to freely roam or who is willing to care for him.
In the case of Ash, he eventually submitted to other predators in the area. With our beautiful English rooster we acquired as an adult, he ran away. We heard him for several days crowing in the morning and evenings, each day the crowing became fainter. We were never able to find him, even though we could hear him until he traveled far enough for us to no longer track his progress.
12. The Don’ts of Aggressive Roosters
When you have an aggressive rooster, there are a few things that you should not do. These reactions trigger a fight response in your rooster and will only exacerbate the situation.
Don’t attack or fight your rooster. He may suck you into thinking you are a chicken also, but you are a person. You are bigger, taller, and smarter than he is. Fighting him will only continue to battle for dominance.
He will come back for more fights and will continue to see you as a threat.
Don’t run toward your rooster. This is an act of aggression. While taking a step toward him allows him to back up, running toward him will trigger his fight instincts.
Don’t physically hurt your rooster to teach him who’s boss. This is cruel to him and only reinforces that you are actually a true threat.
Also, don’t throw rocks, sticks or other things at your rooster. This aggressive behavior will only bring out the worst in him.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Roosters Dangerous? Roosters can be dangerous, especially if they are a more aggressive breed that has larger spurs and grows taller. Roosters are usually dangerous to young children because of how easy it is for them to fly into a child’s face and attack with their spurs.
Are Roosters Good Pets? Although many breeds of roosters are more mellow and calm than other breeds, roosters rarely make good lap pets. Roosters don’t like to be held and will usually object to petting and cuddling. Their natural instinct is to watch for danger and protect the ladies. While hens can be trained to be great lap pets, it is harder to do the same with roosters, even when they are the same breed.
But, roosters can make great farm animals and can usually be taught to respect their caregivers.
Do roosters always fight to the death? Roosters fight other roosters to establish dominance. If both roosters are introduced to each other in a flock as adults, it is more likely that the battle for top rooster will continue indefinitely until one of the roosters submits or dies. Fighting to the death is much more likely with adult roosters and more aggressive breeds.
But, roosters can learn to get along under some circumstances. Roosters that are raised together and have more space to roam and claim their own territory are much more likely to get along. It also helps if they were able to adjust and establish who is more dominant before all of their hormones kick in. This happens at about 5 months.
You can also introduce a younger rooster to an established flock and usually, the younger rooster will submit to the establish lead rooster without a lot of issues. However, this can change at any point if the leader becomes hurt, or if age makes him less capable. Then the younger rooster will start to challenge his authority and may try to take over as lead rooster of the flock.
Remember that you are human and don’t let your rooster reduce you to a chicken! By staying calm and taking a firm, but gentle hand of the situation, you can teach your rooster to respect you and others.
But, a few roosters simply won’t be tamed. This happens from specific genetics, temperament, or early chick conditioning. When that happens, you may need to find him a happy home away from your family and flock.
Don’t forget to check out our related articles to learn more about aggressive roosters and hens and steps you can take.
Chicken Breeds That Produce Aggressive Roosters? Which are tamer?