“Mean” Roosters – Why We Keep Them Anyway

Our experience with aggressive roosters started just two years into our great chicken adventure. We ordered all pullets from a hatchery for our first chickens, but we quickly got the chicken bug and increased our numbers the very next spring with the purchase of our own incubator & fertile eggs. Of course, there is no way to sway the outcome of the sexes that hatch, and we were blessed with multiple roosters. Our Buff Orpington was a sweetheart, and a few FBC Marans were just fine. But, our two splash Ameraucana were feisty boys (aka little feathered turdballs). splash rooster

We began researching how to deal with aggressive roosters. The most common two solutions? (1) show him who’s boss or (2) get rid of him (mostly commonly by eating but rehoming was mentioned). We needed these two boys to breed BBS Ameraucana as we had planned, meaning (2) was not an option. We tried the “show him who’s boss” method which only resulted in making things worse. The dominant rooster drew blood when he flogged Little Mo in the shin, and regularly attacked Papa Mo. He also began to fight with the other rooster, and we ended up having to separate them. At this point, both were misbehaving. Luckily, Mama Mo was usually spared the worst attack attempts – boiling down to mostly just a stand-off with a few block/punts. Finally, we returned to the research of how to handle an aggressive rooster.

After much researching, we found more solid opinions when we began studying rooster behaviors, particularly in relation to a rooster’s position in a flock. A rooster’s job is to steadfastly defend his flock of hens from anything HE perceives as a threat. This can be anything that he thinks will harm him or his flock, but it can also be anything that he feels will challenge his dominance. We also found a wonderful tip from an ole’ timer who pointed out: Act like a rooster (challenging him) and expect to be treated like another rooster. So we set out with a new method…

We began picking him up and carrying him around whenever he challenged us – talking to him gently but firmly and petting him on the back of head to show we meant no harm. This got us to a point where he at least didn’t attack as soon as we opened the gate. We also found that our big clunky rubber boots were a big “No. No.” Even dark-colored pants received a different reaction. Remember, it’s whatever he perceives as a threat. We changed those things, along with always moving slowly and vocally announcing, “It’s just me,” while offering scratch treats. If he seemed to be readying to challenge/flog, Mama Mo always faced him, pointed her finger on his level and said “Behave” in a low, firm voice. Waving things around in the air above them and being loud only serves to agitate and provoke a defense response. It did take a little bit of time, during which time they also matured, but we ended up having two well-behaved roosters in the end.

On the maturing subject, it should also be noted that roosters have hormones just like people, and during their “teen years” as we call it (6 months to 1 year +/-), they are particularly gung-ho to pick a fight. They are young and trying to cement their position in a flock. Keep in mind that, with proper handling, they typically mellow when they feel settled in with their flock and understand your role as caretaker. However, as should be expected, each year when spring gets close and laying & breeding ramps up, we notice even our senior roosters being slightly less laid back toward us. After all, LOVE is in the air. We anticipate this and just give them a little extra room to deal with their short-lived spring fever, but really you should never completely take your eye off a rooster. It is a rooster.

Of course, even though we have not personally had this problem, there are always some that will just never learn to be nice. Those are the ones that you should dispatch to the stock pot (or whatever you prefer). Please don’t sell those types to anyone – even with full disclosure – because they don’t need to be bred, which is sure to happen at least once, even if not planned.

Lastly, our personal opinion on feisty roosters is that, within reason, that is what you want. A rooster’s main job is to protect his flock, and an overly laid-back rooster is not as likely to defend a hen being attacked or even keep his hens in order amongst themselves. We appreciate the role of roosters in our flocks – not only for producing cute little fuzzballs, but also for maintaining a proper balance within the flock. A good rooster will both tidbit (what is “tidbitting”?) and step in to stop hen squabbles and bring harmony to his little flock.

We see posts regularly about what to do with aggressive or mean roosters. We hope sharing our experience will help you learn how to best deal with your roosters productively for a great outcome for all involved.

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