You don’t need to enter the chicken coop in fear anymore. Whether your meanest rooster is a diminutive bantam or a hulking Jersey Giant, there’s nothing laughable about a boss rooster who thinks he rules the roost.
I’m not afraid of roosters by any means, but I’ve suffered my fair share of injuries – from bruised shins to gashed arms, those roosters really aren’t messing around when it comes to defending their turf.
But rooster attacks aren’t just something you have to “put up with.” You can easily prevent and stop a rooster attack without harming your birds. After all, safety should come first on the homestead.
Here’s what you need to know.
Why Do Roosters Attack?
The first thing that you need to know is despite what some people may say, roosters can be retrained. You just need to be patient, gentle, and above all, knowledgeable about rooster behavior.
Roosters attack because they are programmed to do it. In their wild early days, chickens, of course, didn’t have people to protect them. They had their own intelligence and their (very limited) flight ability.
As you can imagine, they didn’t have a lot.
In order to avoid the entire flock being eaten by predators, roosters learned quickly to protect the hens by attacking whatever happened to invade the territory.
Roosters who were the most successful at doing this quickly rose to the top of the pecking order and had the most – ahem – success with the ladies later on.
Aggressive rooster behavior boils down to a natural defense mechanism. While all roosters have the capacity to be at least somewhat aggressive toward intruders, roosters who are the dominant creatures in the flock will likely be even more hostile toward you. When you enter the coop, you are considered the competition.
You might notice that this behavior worsens in the spring when the hens are laying or when there are new roosters or hens added to the flock. Young roosters tend to be more aggressive, too, as they’ve just begun to sow their wild oats.
Types of Rooster Attacks
Not all rooster attacks are built alike – it’s important that you know the many types of attacks so that you can be vigilant for the signs and prevent or halt an attack before it starts.
Flogging is one of the most common types of rooster attacks. It sounds just as unpleasant as it actually is – flogging is when a rooster flies at you and attempts to beat you with his wings and take you with his spurs.
Spurring, on the other hand, is when a rooster jumps at you and tries to take you. He might also chase you – a behavior that is more common with children, who are perceived as less of a threat.
Pecking is a behavior exhibited by roosters and hens alike but is more likely to be aggressive when it’s targeted at you by a rooster.
No matter what, there are some telltale signs that a rooster is going to “come at you.”
If your rooster starts to run up behind you, stopping every now and then to stare you down, watch out. A challenge has been issued. He might also begin to engage in the “rooster dance” – this is a good sign that an attack is coming, too.
How to Prevent a Rooster Attack
Gently Show Him Who is Boss
The first and most important thing you need to do in order to prevent a rooster attack is to show the rooster who the dominant member of the pecking order is – it’s you. You are the head of the flock and by reminding your rooster of this, you’ll likely give him a sense of complacency.
When you enter the coop, use a broom to gently push the rooster away. You don’t need to do this aggressively – know that hitting or attacking him in any way is only likely to worsen the aggressive behavior, as he will continue to view you as a threat.
Run Him Down
This sounds kind of violent, but really, it’s not. Running down a rooster simply involves walking through the rooster without stopping. You will get the rooster to move but keep in mind, he might view this as an attack and will act accordingly.
To do this, simply take one large step while staring him down. He will back up and might look towards the ground as he admits defeat. That’s all you need to do – walk away slowly.
In order for this to work, you need to exhibit zero fear. You can’t back off or run away at the last minute – you need to get him to move first. If he starts up at you, perhaps getting ready to engage in spurring or flogging, don’t back off. Spread your arms, stare at him, and continue moving toward him, trying to make yourself look as large as possible.
To really put the icing on top of the cake, you can even pick him up and walk around with him for a few minutes to secure your place at the top of the pecking order!
Some people don’t recommend confronting an aggressive rooster in this way, claiming that it only incites aggressive behavior. It does – but that’s kind of the point. The goal here is to desensitize your rooster so that eventually he gives up and accepts that you are king.
Don’t Turn Your Back
Don’t show fear and don’t turn your back on the rooster. Even if you aren’t running away, turning your back will signal to the rooster that you are running away – and don’t think that he won’t take advantage of the opportunity to attack you while your back is turned.
Carry a Shield
That’s not to say that you need to use the shield (aka weapon) against the rooster, but it is sometimes better to carry a defensive item with you rather than letting the chicken see you are nervous.
It will help you be calmer and more relaxed when you enter the chicken yard. Something as simple as a shovel or a large stick will do the trick.
If your rooster is young and just testing things or has just started attacking for some inexplicable reason, it might be a good idea to separate him from the rest of the flock for a while. He might just be feeling out the waters, and he needs a break in order to be reminded who is boss.
Wear Protective Clothing
Now, obviously wearing protective clothing isn’t going to prevent a rooster attack from occurring. But it will make you less jittery and more comfortable while you’re working with your aggressive birds! Put on some long pants and a long-sleeve shirt, and perhaps a pair of gloves, to make sure your skin is protected against the sharp spurs of your roosters.
Lay the Groundwork Young
Obviously, this tip won’t work if you are dealing with a rooster who has become aggressive at an older age. However, if you find that you are constantly having to deal with aggressive chickens in your flock, it might be time to consider the origins of the behavior.
Interacting with your roosters when they are young is a great way to prevent aggressive behavior later on. By frequently handling your birds when they are still chicks, you will show your rooster that you – not him – are boss.
“Rooster hormones” don’t kick in until about 16 weeks of age – sometimes a bit later. Your rooster won’t truly know he is a rooster until his testosterone kicks in and he feels the need to defend his territory. Like human teenagers, roosters won’t start testing the waters until then.
Avoid Injury to the Rooster
Safety is important for you, of course, but it’s also important when it comes to the rooster. Even if you’re angry, you need to avoid hurting him. It will not make him respect you nor will it secure your position as the alpha. Plus, you risk losing a valuable member of your flock.
There are some people who swear by turning the rooster upside down and walking around like that. If you need to temporarily flip a chicken in order to calm them, that’s one thing – but carrying a chicken upside down for a long period of time is not recommended. The unique anatomy of the bird can cause suffocation and air sac collapse.
Keep Small Children Away
If you have young children, it’s important that you keep them away from the chicken coop if there’s also an aggressive rooster on guard. Children won’t be able to defend themselves against a rooster attack, and it’s easy for them to get hurt.
Make Sure You Have the Right Rooster to Hen Ratio
Often, a chicken attack can be prevented by maintaining the right rooster to hen ratio. Too many roosters and they’re going to fight each other and be aggressive as they try to sort out who’s boss. Not enough roosters and there are going to be too many ladies to go around!
For best results, try to keep one rooster for every ten hens. If you have a large flock, you may be able to get away with a larger ratio (more roosters for fewer hens) but it’s not advised in small backyard flocks.
Check for Breed
You can sometimes prevent a rooster attack by considering the breed of chickens that you have. Certain breeds are known to be more aggressive, including Oriental Game, American Game, Aseel, Sumatra, Malay, Shamo, and Old English Game.
Many of these chickens are very close descendants of jungle jowl and retain some of their primitive tendencies. They aren’t tamed birds, so it’s harder to convince them that you’re top of the pecking order.
How to Stop a Rooster Attack – In His Tracks
Ply Him With Treats
If you need to go into the coop and aren’t able to prevent an attack, there are several ways you can stop one once it begins. One of the easiest ways is to ply him with treats. Roosters are simple creatures – and a snack here or there may convince him you aren’t so bad after all. Yes, even midway through an attack!
Toss a bit of feed at your rooster as you enter the chicken yard. It will not only show your rooster that you are not another rooster, but it will also help him recognize that you are a good guy. Plus, his stomach will distract him from his aggression.
Avoid or Limit Antagonizing Behaviors
There are some things you can do that just really tick a rooster off. For example, roosters really don’t like floppy boots! Avoid wearing these into the coop.
Another common mistake that people make is swinging a bucket as they walk into the coop. This incites a rooster’s aggression as it signals that you are aggressive. You also need to avoid chasing the hens, as he’ll think you’re threatening them or worse, flirting!
What to Do if You Can’t Stop a Rooster From Attacking
In some cases, you are just going to have some downright ornery roosters. There’s no way around that. If that’s the case, trying again and again to retrain your birds isn’t going to work, and it’s just going to be aggravating.
If that’s the case, it’s time to explore other options. You might have to rehome your rooster, whether that’s on another farm or in the stockpot. Just make sure you disclose his fighting side if you bequeath him to another owner!
Rebekah is a part-time homesteader. On her 22 acres, she raises chickens and bees, not to mention she grows a wide variety of veggies.