Anyone who has spent any amount of time around chickens knows they can be very difficult to catch when they don’t want to be.
They are quick and agile, and can turn on a dime. Hens are bad enough, but roosters take it to a whole different level.
An agitated rooster can turn the tables and attack you, flogging, pecking, scratching and spurring.
People regularly incur injuries from angry roosters, and even become truly afraid of them!
Nonetheless, if you own a rooster you have to take care of him just like you take care of all the girls in your flock.
You can make this tiring and sometimes terrifying chore a little bit easier if you know how to catch a rooster safely. I’ll tell you how best to do it below…
What is So Dangerous About Catching a Rooster?
For the uninitiated, you might not think there’s anything particularly dangerous about trying to catch a rooster. It’s just a bird, not a pterodactyl, so what’s the big deal?
Well, it turns out that roosters are pretty well equipped to do damage, even to creatures that are much bigger than they are. Creatures like people, for instance!
Roosters are larger, stronger and faster than hens, and they have proportionally stronger beaks, longer and sharper claws, and substantial spurs on the backs of their legs.
Roosters will jump and flog, peck, and slash both on offense and defense.
Whether a rooster is just trying to protect the flock from you or he doesn’t want to be caught if you botched the operation, you’ll come out the other side looking like you just got into a fight with a paper shredder.
The largest and strongest breeds are actually capable of inflicting not insubstantial puncture wounds, so this is no joke!
Accordingly, you must know what you are doing if you want to keep yourself safe and catch the rooster without harming him. Otherwise, the rooster will be ruling you and not the other way around.
First Things First: Protect Yourself
This might seem elementary, but I’m constantly surprised at how many people overlook this simple step.
You need to wear protective clothing if you’re going after any rooster that has a tendency to be aggressive or act defensively prior to being restrained.
No, you don’t need to don a suit of medieval armor, but you definitely do need to wear clothing that will protect you from the rooster’s weapons.
This is straightforward: gloves, of course, are mandatory for handling any aggressive rooster.
You can wear whatever you want, but I prefer leather work gloves since they seem to offer the most protection against claws, spurs, and beaks.
I like the longer kind that has a gauntlet that covers most of my forearm in case things go wrong.
Sturdy jeans or trousers are also a good idea, as are boots or sturdy shoes. I’ve seen folks try to catch a rooster in shorts and flip-flops before, and when the tables turned on them, their legs and feet got hacked to pieces. I think they brought this on themselves…
And that’s pretty much all you need. This will give you adequate protection from being scratched and stabbed.
Once you are properly equipped, it’s time to learn how to actually lay hands on this troublesome bird.
Learn to Carry a Rooster Safely
Now, before we learn how to lay hands on the rooster we need to know how to carry him safely and securely once we have him. This is not something you want to figure out on the fly!
It sounds funny, but you carry a rooster kind of like you carry a football. Once you have hold of him, you want to secure his legs between the fingers of your hand on the arm you’re going to support his weight with.
This will keep him from kicking. The rooster should be facing you, with his keel bone or breast resting along your forearm.
From here, you can secure his head and neck with your opposite hand, or tuck it under your arm, and keep him held close to your body to prevent him from flapping. This is safe and secure for the rooster and for you.
Also, what I noticed is that roosters tend to settle down once they’ve been forced into a position like this where they are helpless.
At the same time, it will help him stay calm because he feels supported and isn’t being dangled or held in any way that makes him feel pain or at risk.
If the rooster absolutely will not settle down and be restrained, you can maintain your grip with your dominant hand and then flip him upside down briefly, holding him by the legs.
This will usually “drain the fight” out of the unruly bird.
Try to Get Him at Night
Okay, so we know how to carry the rooster once we’ve got him. When should we actually make an attempt to grab him?
If you have any choice in the matter, or if you are trying to collect a rooster that is on the run, try to do it at night.
This will greatly improve your chances of success because roosters, like all chickens, have terrible night vision and are far more vulnerable to predation at night.
If it can’t see as well as you, he’s less likely to get upset and put up a meaningful fight, though he will certainly still try.
If you are quiet, quick and clever it’s possible to lay hands on the rooster while he is roosting and actually asleep. This will save you a ton of grief and more than a few scratches!
Grab the Rooster Around the Legs as Soon as You Can
When you make a move on the rooster, you need to secure his legs as quickly as you can. Yes, getting pecked can be painful and they can even leave welts just by flogging you with their wings.
But it is those sharp, nasty spurs and their claws which will do the most damage and do it the most quickly.
So, naturally, you need to go for those legs and secure them to stop the rooster from kicking and spurring.
But to the untrained this feels sort of like lunging for the knife that is bound to cut you! If you have your gloves on it really won’t be that bad, and following your instincts to avoid the rooster’s feet is only going to allow him to prolong the attack.
Get a grip on those feet as quickly as possible and then secure them in your grip according to my instructions above.
You Might Need to Pin the Rooster to Secure Your Grip
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Maybe you’re dealing with a particularly large and strong rooster and just having a hard time getting a grip on him.
Maybe he twisted out of your grasp and is still flashing fit to kill. Or, maybe, you just botched the attempt and now have him around the midsection or the neck instead.
If this happens, you need to pin the rooster to secure your grip and get him under control. Need to do this without harming him, and that’s pretty easy to do if you are flustered.
To pin the rooster safely, firmly but carefully force his breast to the ground by holding him around the back with one hand between his wings, and then use your thumb and index finger, or your index finger and middle finger to pin his head to the ground kind of like a fork.
This is a submission position that another rooster will try to force a defeated adversary into during a flock squabble.
If you can get the rooster into this position, it’s likely he will not struggle quite so much and you’ll also have a much easier time getting a grip on his legs as described above.
This video shows the process:
And remember, you don’t need to crush the guy: just hold him down firmly enough to prevent him from escaping. Do it too hard, and you will hurt him!
Use a Poultry Hook for Ornery Roosters
Let us say you’ve got a rooster that runs as soon as you get close to it or is just too ornery and nasty to try and grab by hand.
Or, maybe, you are just too skittish to try and grab him by hand. Nothing wrong with that and there’s no shame in it!
What you need is a poultry hook, sometimes called a poultry rod or a rooster hook. This is a long, thin, and light tool that has a specially shaped tapering bend on the far end that you can use to snag a chicken by its leg and then pull it to you.
Used with a little practice and a deft hand, it’s highly effective and will not hurt the chicken.
For many folks, these tools are well worth the investment if you’re dealing with a known tyrannical rooster.
Consider a Net if You’re Really Struggling
If you don’t have a poultry hook or your rooster is on to that particular game and it just doesn’t work, you might have to use a net.
A large net mounted on a pole will provide you with plenty of reach and an easy way to catch a rooster that is out of reach or just too hard to handle.
Of course, nets are not without their drawbacks, and it’s easy for a chicken to get tangled up in one.
This will greatly increase the stress on the animal and there is a non-zero chance of it injuring itself during capture.
However, if you use a good net with fine mesh and can it bring the rooster to the ground quickly so you can then secure him by hand and pull him out of the net the risks are minimal.
Put the Rooster in a Carrier if You’re Going Any Distance with Him
Depending on your purpose for catching the rooster in the first place, it’s definitely in your best interest to have a pet carrier nearby that you can put the rooster into immediately.
At least, you should do this if you are taking him any distance, such as to the vet or returning him to his home.
Sure, you can hold on to a rooster for a long time using the grip that I taught you above, but if you need both hands free or just need to relax, if the rooster is in a carrier, both he and you will be safe, and there’s no chance whatsoever of him getting away again.
If All Else Fails, Lure the Rooster Home with Food or Hens
If you’re unlucky and have a rooster that can fly or just an accomplished jumper, he might take up residence on your roof, up in a tree or some other out-of-the-way place that makes capturing him safely (for you and him) virtually impossible.
In such a case, your best bet might be to try and lure him back to the coop with food or his favorite hen if you know he has one.
You might set up a temporary run that’s covered on all sides and has a gate or closure that you can quickly throw after the rooster has entered.
It might take longer, but this is much safer and ultimately more convenient than risking life and limb to snag this recalcitrant bird!
Remember: A Tame Rooster is Always Easier and Safer to Catch
It’s the advice that everyone already knows, but no one likes to hear: it’s better to prevent than to fix.
Assuming you’re not trying to catch a feral rooster or an escaped one that belongs to someone else, remember that you can save yourself a ton of grief simply by working with and handling your roosters and trying to get them to like you.
Even a standoffish rooster will usually soften with time when given treats, care, and affection. This works especially well if you can raise the rooster from a chick.
It might not be pleasant and it might not be easy at first, but the more time you spend getting your rooster to like and trust you, the less effort you’ll have to expend when you need to catch him – and the last scratches and other injuries you’ll accumulate!
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.