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.
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.
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
21 thoughts on “How to Deal with a Mean Rooster”
My dad bought this mini rooster a while ago. He was extremely skittish at first but I’ve been trying to gain his trust recently. A couple days ago, he started doing this weird sidetep and he sweeps my legs with his wings and runs away. I’m a highschool senior, I don’t know anything about chickens but I’m trying to be attentive with the little guy. It there any way to tell what he wants?
It sounds like he’s testing you, he’s definitely trying to be the aggressor here. Don’t be aggressive back, but stand your ground. If you try to kick back or “shoo” him away he’ll see that as a sign of aggression. Follow the tricks in the blog post here and he should be more open and trusting of you.
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.
I have an aggressive rooster. My last hen died about3 months ago could his behaviour be tied to this?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
What do you do if you can’t pick them up?
My rooster is huge leg horn im pretty sure he’d rip my face off if I picked him up.
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 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 🙂
Bless your hearts.
Yes we have very aggressive and mean roosters.. They are attacking our hens and they wont stop!! We do not know what we should be doing with them. Any advice on what to do with them??