A common question I get from chicken owners is how to stop or retrain a rooster from attacking them or a family member.
Now, I’m not going to lie. This isn’t the easiest thing to do in the world.
When a rooster attacks, it’s called “flogging” (how’s that for a wonderfully descriptive, not-very-much-fun term).
Roosters CAN be retrained (we’ve had to do it a few times) but it takes some time and, dare I say it, gumption on your part. You need to be vigilant and consistent (while also being compassionate – he IS doing his job after all).
Here’s a video where I explain why roosters attack their people and the best way I’ve found to retrain them:
So, why do roosters attack anyway?
In a nutshell, it boils down to “they’re programmed to do it.”
What does this mean? Well, once upon a time, roosters didn’t have people and coops to protect them. They had their wiles and their limited ability to fly. Meaning, they didn’t have many defenses against hungry carnivores.
So to avoid being dinner for some predator, roosters learned they protected their ladies by attacking whatever invades their territory.
Similarly, they learned that if they wanted to be top dog (and reproduce the most), they needed to ward off potential rivals.
In other words, flogging amounts to a rooster’s version of a bar fight.
Your floggin’ rooster is programmed to think of himself as “cock of the walk,” if you will, and you’re competition for top of the flock.
He might get worse if he’s been he only rooster and suddenly there are other, new, faces added to his flock. You might also notice he turns into a jerk when it’s spring and the hens start laying again. In these cases, it might just be a temporary behavior.
And there’s also the possibility that he’s a young rooster just feeling his oats, and when he gets knocked down a peg (figuratively speaking), he’ll realize he’s not at the top of the flock.
Ok, so how to I stop this negative behavior?
I explain it best in the video, but you need to convince Mr. Rooster that you’re the head of the flock. This isn’t a bad thing – animals like to be lead, and by leading them, you’re giving them a sense of security.
With a long stick or broom (one reader says she uses a broom), gently sweep the rooster away as you enter the coop area. You’re entering his domain, but he needs to understand there should be space between you and he, and that you control that space.
Never hit or hurt the rooster – he’s just doing his job. YOUR job is to just make sure he understands he has his space and you have yours.
Don’t be afraid (you are MANY times his size after all), don’t show fear, and definitely never turn your back (he’ll think you’re running away or take a prime opportunity to peck you while you’re not paying attention), which could undo any work you’ve done with him previously).
It’s important to remember that while it’s unnerving having a rooster come at you, he’s not likely to do very much damage (compared to a dog, for example), so even if he makes contact, you won’t be harmed very much.
Understanding this gives you the confidence to help him realize his place.
If your rooster has just started attacking, or he’s young and testing out his place in the flock on you, you can try separating him from the flock for a few hours to see if that helps settle him. He might just need to be put in “the naughty chair” for a time out.
If he’s been attacking for a while or definitely is old enough to know better, then separating him might not be the best solution or work long term.
Can you ALWAYS retrain a rooster?
Honestly, in some cases, it won’t work out. I’m not going to sugar coat it or try to convince you that you should try again and again and again.
I do believe these cases are rare, however, and given enough time, most roosters will come around.
If you don’t have the time, or the rooster is really attacking your family and you feel it’s not a good situation for you or the rooster, you can always rehome the bird. There’s no shame in making that decision, and you have to do what’s best for your unique situation.
We had one rooster on our farm that was just a real pain. He constantly fought with the other roosters, picked fights, and distracted the roosters from eating their food. He was just plain miserable to be around. If this is your situation, then you need to make the best decision for yourself and your flock.
By and large, however, we’ve had roosters who were the attacking kind but with the right training, stopped being such pains in the butt.
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.