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.
Despite what some people may say, roosters can be retrained. You just need to be patient, gentle, and above all, knowledgeable about rooster behavior.
Here’s what you need to know.
Table of Contents
Why Do Roosters Attack People?
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.
Flogging might not sound like it will do any damage, and it generally doesn’t, but it is painful, scary, and disorienting. not for nothing, roosters are strong birds, and even though they are very lightweight getting whacked with those wing bones can still hurt you.
Generally, if you are getting flogged you are probably getting off lightly, but even if the rooster isn’t giving you the business it is still a transgression that warrants a response if you want to try and break him of his aggressive ways.
More on that later, but for now let’s look at what else they might try to do to you.
A rooster’s spurs are his primary weapons for fighting: fighting other roosters, fending off predators, dispatching prey, and also trying to run you off.
Spurs are long, sharp, bony protrusions located on the back of their legs, near the ankle. These sickle-like blades can easily inflict puncture wounds, making roosters a lot closer to little velociraptors than I would care to consider.
A powerful rooster with intact spurs can definitely hurt you, but they must be able to reach you with their legs in order to use them.
This is the primary reason why you want to keep your head and neck up and away from the ground whenever you are dealing with an aggressive rooster.
The idea of someone getting pecked relentlessly by a rooster might sound funny, but that is only because you aren’t imagining it happening to you!
A chicken’s beak is hard and tapers to a fairly acute point. Getting pecked on a sensitive part of your body or on any part where the bones are close to the surface is definitely going to leave a mark, and might result in bloodshed.
Notably, roosters typically resort to pecking when they are trying to finish off a downed opponent or just get them to submit, so if you notice your rooster making it a point to peck you you know that he thinks you are beneath him. Time to show him the error of his ways.
No matter what the attack method, 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.
A Note on Rooster Hierarchy
It is easy to imagine why roosters might fight you, and that is because they will first fight each other. For one, it just seems like these are birds of a decidedly bad temperament.
They definitely have the “hot blood,” no doubt about it, but roosters fight “peers” for a reason, and that reason is to establish hierarchy, literally the pecking order, within the flock.
Hierarchy is everything to roosters, and determines everything from when they are allowed to eat and how much they can eat to what, if any, hens they have access to.
It even determines where they sleep and where they are going to patrol during the day when watching the perimeter.
The top rooster gets the choicest hens, the most food, the best spot to roost and other perks.
Although hierarchy is sometimes flexible, it is usually more fixed than we might imagine, with subordinate roosters settling into their role and it usually refraining from challenging the reigning king from then on unless something dramatic happens that shakes up the balance of power.
This is important to understand because we can use this dominance psychology against aggressive roosters in order to disabuse them of the notion that it is okay to challenge us.
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 out of the blue, 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.
Sometimes, in cases of a rooster that is downright mean and will not be tamed, or a flock that has an imbalance of males to females, you might need to permanently separate your roosters, moving them to what is commonly called a rooster colony.
Roosters that are only around other roosters behave very differently, typically, then they do when integrated into a flock of mixed sexes.
You can think of a rooster colony as something of a monastery for chickens, allowing them to escape the pressures and the temptations of flock life in order to focus on bettering themselves. Okay, maybe a bit too poetic but the notion is the same.
However, for this to work the rooster colony must be completely away from all of the hands, definitely out of sight and preferably out of earshot. If the roosters can see the hens but cannot get to them, you’re only going to bring their stress to a boiling point.
However, assuming you can successfully and properly isolate them this might be just the ticket for calming down a perpetually angry rooster.
Don’t Bend Down
Roosters are not very tall, and as a rule, they usually don’t jump very high. This means that when they do decide to attack you the best they’ll be able to do, most of the time, is reach your waist.
Though this is doubtlessly frustrating for the rooster it is good news for you because it keeps the most sensitive and vulnerable areas of your body, namely your face and eyes, completely away from their flogging wings and slashing spurs.
A beak, spur, or claw could easily damage or totally put out your eye, and softer tissues like your lips, cheeks, ears, and neck will not fare well under their assault.
For these reasons, avoid bending down when dealing with an unruly rooster until you have him totally under control, and if forced to stoop or crouch with an aggressive rooster around be prepared to defend yourself with a shield.
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, jeans 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.
It is definitely a funny meme on the internet, but there is a lot of evidence to back up the use of a spray bottle when it comes to animal behavior.
The sudden, startling blast of mist that comes out of a spray bottle might be enough to completely interrupt a rooster’s thought processes when he is on the attack.
If you can remember to bring a spray bottle full of water with you when dealing with an aggressive rooster, or one that is only periodically possessed of a bad attitude, it might be enough to deter him without much fuss.
However, you should not assume that this method is 100% successful or fail-proof, because it isn’t.
Some roosters will not be deterred in the slightest, and others might just be made angry because they are suddenly wet. Be prepared for follow-up action!
If you are dealing with a genuinely aggressive rooster, one of the devil’s own minions, you might take the previous method to its logical extreme and totally douse the bird with water, either from a bucket or from a garden hose.
Becoming instantly soaked and slightly chilled is likely to shake up even the most determined rooster, although this is not something you should do lightly: it takes time for a rooster’s feathers to dry out.
Furthermore they rely on their feathers for insulation, so definitely don’t resort to this method in cool or cold weather.
Something else to keep in mind is that you might have to dry off and warm up the rooster in the aftermath, and who’s to say he won’t hold a grudge after this little incident?
But, this method does allow you to stand off from the attacking bird and is highly likely to stop him without seriously hurting him.
Apply Submission Hold
No, I’m not talking about slapping a figure four leg lock on a rooster. I am talking about putting the rooster in the loser submission position.
Remember all that talk about roosters fighting for dominance up above? This is where that psychology comes into play.
Most of the time when roosters fight, they are not genuinely trying to kill each other, but they will fight each other to a standstill or until one rooster gives up after the other has gained a certain advantage.
Assuming the loser rooster does not withdraw, what usually winds up happening is that the winner pins them down on the ground, belly down, and it holds down their head by grasping the neck between their beak, basically stopping short of the coup de grace.
After this occurs, assuming the loser truly gives up and submits, the winner will let him go and the flock hierarchy will have been established. Remember: the losing rooster will typically accept his place in the hierarchy after this, with the winner being his superior.
You can use this trick on a rooster that is attacking you in order to prevent future attacks. remember to apply all the other advice we have given you above, meaning you shouldn’t show fear, give ground, unduly hurt the rooster, or anything like that.
But when you can, take hold of the rooster and pin him down gently but firmly on the ground. Hold him there, and then, taking your index and middle finger of one hand in a “V” posture, sort of stake his head down using those two fingers.
The rooster won’t like this, and will probably struggle, but hold him there firmly, not giving him an inch. Remember, we aren’t trying to hurt him! When the rooster stops struggling, stand up and then put him down. He’ll know he has been beaten.
It’s possible you might have to repeat this ritual a couple of times, but I will bet my bottom dollar you will notice a distinct change in the behavior of this rooster.
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!
Frequently Asked Questions
No. Some roosters grow up with seemingly very good and docile personalities, rarely if ever getting cross with their owners. This is fairly rare, however.
That being said, spending plenty of time interacting with your chickens, especially your roosters, in a positive way will dramatically reduce the frequency of attacks.
Quite a lot, but it isn’t everything. There are always outliers when it comes to the individual disposition of a rooster that is of any breed, but breed does matter. If you have a breed that is known for aggression or gameness, you might find it is a lot to deal with, especially if you are just a backyard chicken keeper.
However, it is also possible to get a rude awakening if you have a rooster from a breed that is known to be good-natured and gentle only for him to turn out to be a total hellion.
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 you have a rooster that is so aggressive, so violent, he is causing major problems for you, your family, your workers and the rest of the flock you have only a few choices. Sending him to a rooster colony might work. But if it doesn’t, or if that isn’t an option, you’re only real choices are to sell him or give him away, or to cull.
If you do decide to give him away, be honest, and make sure that your prospective buyer is entirely aware of the challenges he will present. If you do decide to kill him, dispatch him humanely.
Rebekah is a full-time homesteader. On her 22 acres, she raises chickens, sheep, and bees, not to mention she grows a wide variety of veggies. She has a huge greenhouse and does lots of DIY projects with her husband in her ever-growing homesteading endeavor. Learn more about Rebekah here.