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In defense of a Rooster  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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Some Friday fun.  He's not Rex Harrison, but may be the next Dr. Doolittle.  In praise of defensive roosters:  
 
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Mark Tashjian wrote:    Thank you Marcus! I really enjoyed reading this.
Although I agree they will learn from the older roosters, they must also do all these things by instinct. I have 11 chickens. All are 12 weeks old. They have no older chickens around to learn from. My top, lead rooster comes out of the coop first, then signals to the others to come on out. At the end of the day, he will literally round them up if needed to get them all back inside. Then he will enter last, and I shut the door. And he definitely spends more time on the lookout.
Thanks again.



Part of their instinct is adapting/learning.  I have some chickens and I trained some of them to come when I call "Chickies!"  They learned to come to me when I call because I always have bugs or grubs that I have come across while doing permaculture stuff.  The naturally more social chickens were more easily trained than the others.  Also, I have found that having 3-4 bugs/grubs at a time is what keeps them coming when called.  When I went for a time calling them when I had just one bug/grub they weren't as eager to come running.  But then when I went back to always waiting until I had near a hand full before calling...wow, they came instantly running as fast as they could such a sense of urgency.
 
pollinator
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A lot of great points are given here about the virtues of roosters. I'm currently transitioning over to ducks, though, as I don't want to have a rooster crowing where I'm at. I'm curious, do drakes have these same qualities and do they play a similar role in the flock?
 
pollinator
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James Landreth wrote:A lot of great points are given here about the virtues of roosters. I'm currently transitioning over to ducks, though, as I don't want to have a rooster crowing where I'm at. I'm curious, do drakes have these same qualities and do they play a similar role in the flock?



I would suggest starting a new thread in the Ducks & Geese forum.
 
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I have to say that my family has had two problematic roosters in a row in their free range flock.
The first one was a white feed store rooster, and he did do some of the protective things people had mentioned.  Once he was full grown though, he started attacking - mostly my father.  It got so that we had to keep them penned in their tiny bad weather run whenever he was using power tools.
The second once came from a local breeder, and was a breed that is supposed to be gentle.  He was ok as a juvenile, then started attacking - any adult, even when being fed.  Then he tried to attack a 2-year old, and had to go.  And let me say, for a life long vegetarian to have to sharpen a hatchet and kill a rooster is a gut wrenching experience.
Once he was gone, all the hens, who had been skittish and standoffish, relaxed and became quite friendly, and now follow us around.
The local dairy farmer had a story of his wife having to shoot a rooster that was going after one of their kids - they have a multi rooster free range system, while we've only had one at a time. Quail Springs Permaculture in California, when I took a tour, said that they keep one rooster per 8-10 hens, but kill anyone that starts showing aggression toward humans.  They are butchering for meat anyhow, so it isn't hard for them.
So, while I'm not saying all roosters are bad, I will say that it is very possible to get one that turns dangerous, especially if they are free range.  Rooster spurs will cut through jeans, and they can fly to attack the head if they are so minded.  Just be prepared to deal with it if you get a mean one, even if you aren't intending to butcher your chickens.
 
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Lina Joana wrote:I have to say that my family has had two problematic roosters in a row in their free range flock.
The first one was a white feed store rooster, and he did do some of the protective things people had mentioned.  Once he was full grown though, he started attacking - mostly my father.  It got so that we had to keep them penned in their tiny bad weather run whenever he was using power tools.
The second once came from a local breeder, and was a breed that is supposed to be gentle.  He was ok as a juvenile, then started attacking - any adult, even when being fed.  Then he tried to attack a 2-year old, and had to go.  And let me say, for a life long vegetarian to have to sharpen a hatchet and kill a rooster is a gut wrenching experience.
Once he was gone, all the hens, who had been skittish and standoffish, relaxed and became quite friendly, and now follow us around.
The local dairy farmer had a story of his wife having to shoot a rooster that was going after one of their kids - they have a multi rooster free range system, while we've only had one at a time. Quail Springs Permaculture in California, when I took a tour, said that they keep one rooster per 8-10 hens, but kill anyone that starts showing aggression toward humans.  They are butchering for meat anyhow, so it isn't hard for them.
So, while I'm not saying all roosters are bad, I will say that it is very possible to get one that turns dangerous, especially if they are free range.  Rooster spurs will cut through jeans, and they can fly to attack the head if they are so minded.  Just be prepared to deal with it if you get a mean one, even if you aren't intending to butcher your chickens.



Hi Lina,

I can sympathize with your experiences!  My situation may be a little different than many people's.  Because my chickens range over a fairly large area, I prefer a little fight in them.  I have a host of wildlife and stray dogs to deal with on a routine basis.   I'd rather have one or two that think fight first and run second.  Roosters will test you because they see you as part of the flock and want to establish their dominance.  If I have a rooster that is making it difficult to work in and around the coop, I'll keep a broom with me as I feed and water, and if he attacks or starts to, I knock him down to the ground with the broom.  Usually after picking himself up two or three times, he steers clear and won't try it again for about two months.  If he's really aggressive and keep coming at me, I start knocking him down a little harder and chase him a little when he runs and give him a couple more whacks as he's trying to get away.  At this point he'll start giving the "I give up" cry. Not sure how to describe it, similar to a hen that's getting impatient waiting for her favorite nesting box, except a little more sad.  If you whack him till he makes that sound, he probably won't go near you for a year or more.  He won't lose his place in the pecking order, he'll just know that he shouldn't mess with you.  I know this might sound a little cruel, but I can assure you that they are tough animals and there is no such thing as "rooster whispering".  There is no positive feedback you can give him to not attack you if he feels you are a competitor.  They have very simplistic brains and only understand whose the boss through conflict.  If he is the dominant rooster, he will still run the flock and as I said, his standing with the other chickens will remain the same.  That's the paradox of their intelligence, they know individuals on sight, but don't know that you don't present a threat.  Give him the broom and he will know you are the one not to mess with.  

Granted, this is more work than many folks would like to do with a rooster, I know.  But killing him because he's really good at his job has always seemed counter intuitive to me. And I wholeheartedly believe that roosters help the flock in so many ways.

On a side note.  I really believe that chickens should be considered livestock just like sheep, cattle, etc., not pets.  You wouldn't let your two year old daughter run in the pen with the 1,800lb bull and his harem. I don't let kids chase my chickens, even though they all want to. It's bad for the hens in terms of egg production and stress.  By having a "mean" rooster, it keeps the random chasing down.     Chickens are basically dinosaurs with feathers, they are not nostalgic or sentimental.  The same loving hen that tends her eggs so carefully, will eat that same egg if it cracks, and not blink an eye.  Chickens live by certain rules.  And one of those rules is that roosters sometimes need to be shown who's boss.
 
Wes Hunter
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Marcus Billings wrote:Granted, this is more work than many folks would like to do with a rooster, I know.  But killing him because he's really good at his job has always seemed counter intuitive to me. And I wholeheartedly believe that roosters help the flock in so many ways.



You make some good points here.  I've never been too bothered by an aggressive rooster.  I can kick with the best of them.  But the one that I felt I had to end up killing was just way too consistently aggressive toward my kids.  I tried training him to respect them by getting behind them and pushing them toward him, causing him to associate them with me.  This worked temporarily.  

Finally my oldest got up the courage to start chasing him with sticks.  I had a pile of 1x4 slats that the kids started referring to as "rooster sticks," as they would grab one each time they walked by in case they had a run-in with The Meanie.  This was fine, and worked for a while really.  But when my youngest, then about 2, was starting to venture out further by himself, I realized, after seeing the rooster challenge him a couple times, how easily he could put out an eyeball.

He made good coq au vin.
 
Marcus Billings
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[quote=

He made good coq au vin.

I agree with this whole-heartedly Wes.  You can't take any chances with small children!  This guy had it coming.  I haven't had too many roos go after small kids, but I know they're out there.  
P.S. I have a "rooster stick" too!
 
pollinator
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I always keep too many roosters because I find their posturing entirely too entertaining. Plus, with my semi-feral flock, the roosters definitely cut down on the frequency of my hens being eaten by predators!
 
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I like roosters, and usually have three or four (I think I'm down to two now, but we are moving across country in a couple of months so they will all be going to new homes soon anyway).  I even like their middle-of-the-night crowing.  Unfortunately, my youngest daughter, who still lives with me and always will until I can't take care of her, is autistic and a light sleeper, and very often I'm awakened to her shrieking at the crowing roosters to "BE QUIET!!!"  I can sleep through the crowing, but not through her shrieking, LOL!  The chickens have been free-range here for the last couple of years, but I think I'm going to have to keep them at least semi-confined and farther from the house after we move and replace this flock.

Kathleen
 
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I can sleep through the crowing, but not through her shrieking, LOL


Isn't that the truth! I can sleep thru' roosters crowing, coyotes howling , high winds and trains hooting but the sound of a voice, even my husband's walkman (and he uses the earbuds) will keep me awake. (Actually, I like the outdoor sounds at night.)
 
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Cd Greier wrote:
When I was confining my chicks before I got a fence up, I put a makeshift chicken wire door inside of their shed. Every morning I'd  go in to sit on the feed can and watch the chooks crowd the "big screen" to see what was happening outside. For me, it was better than TV!



I used to watch the chickens graze for about an hour after work every day. Best de-stress strategy I've ever found.

With our last flock we got rid of the roosters due to noise. We had a few turkeys though, and they provided top-notch flock security. They are a noisy bunch too, but not at 4 AM, nor from a 1/4 mile away. The neighbors (and kids walking to school, and every visitor, ...) loved to mimic the gobble - trying to get the turkeys to answer back. Perhaps not the most natural of solutions, but all parties seemed satisfied.
 
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christine shepherd wrote:Ah, if only they were not illegal in my city.  I got several "extra males for warmth" with my order from the hatchery this year, and I'm dreading the day the neighbors complain about the crowing, as I know they will.



If you have extra eggs, and not too many noisy neighbors, I'd suggest giving a dozen eggs every once in a while as an olive branch to the neighbors that might squawk [] the loudest. Funny how self interest works in some folks.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Totally agree with the value of a rooster from Marcus Billing. I have heard my roo make an electrifying screech call when he saw a hawk. I came from around the coop and saw all my hens rushing to the coop in 3 seconds flat. He was the last one in. The hawk went away.
Another time, silly me, I closed the door to the coop and forgot one hen outside. How did he know? Must have been the call from the hen when she realized she was locked out. I could not hear it at first. The others were already roosting, and he was preparing his spot on the perch. He jumped off the perch sounding quite alarmed and walked to the door in distress, calling to her. He pecked at the door, and that is when I realized that one hen was still out. I opened the door and there was the hen, looking pitiful.
She was escorted to the perch by a scolding roo.

But today I'm writing because I've got a problem: My roo has become so aggressive with me that I'm wondering what I can do. I think he is objecting to my taking their eggs. I did notice that the hens are following me whenever I walk from nest to nest. They don't peck, but they make like a mournful noise.
If the hen is in, I usually will not disturb her but a couple of times, I had to lift one gently while she was sitting on a nest full. She was not brooding, just preparing to make her daily egg. This morning, as I was looking in the nests, he deliberately attacked me from behind, unprovoked, in a big raucous of wings flapping and pecking at my calves. I pushed him away. He came at me again and again. He became so intolerable that I placed my shoe on his neck, preventing him any movement for a whole minute. I then let him go and he moved to the other end of the coop, still sounding outraged, but he did not come at me.
I'm not sure what to expect this afternoon when I go again to pick up the rest of the eggs. If I had 2 roos, this one might have an early end in the pot. But after losing my best roo, this one is the only one left and I will soon have brooding hens. This one is the only one who could become a proud father so it is too early to sign off on his demise. I'm thinking of entering with a butterfly net and at the first sign of aggressiveness, catch him and suspend him in the net until I'm done taking the eggs.
Do you have any solutions?
 
Wes Hunter
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Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:Do you have any solutions?



The long and short of it is he needs to be put in his place.  You need to establish that you're at the top of the pecking order.  If he attacks, you ought to be able to get in a good kick and send him on his way.  You need to do it hard enough to send a message, but gentle enough not to hurt him, which is really quite easy in practice.  You might also carry a long-ish stick, say four to six feet, and give him a healthy whack each and every time you're close enough to do so.  He'll learn soon enough to keep his distance, though you should be prepared for his periodic retesting of the pecking order.
 
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I have had a couple roosters like that.  I culled them and hatched new ones.  I have 4 now and all of them and fine with me making my way around the coop and yard.

I've never had luck "teaching one who's boss" or anything of that sort.  You can make a rooster afraid of you but he will still attack from behind or attack other people, and I'm not willing to actually hurt one to try to make my point.  I managed to turn one around somewhat by carrying him around.  At first he fought and tried to get away, but then he gave up.  I carried him every day for a few weeks and he got better, but he would still occasionally attack when you weren't looking.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Cecile, I agree that he needs to be put in his place.  He sounds like a good rooster, watching out for not only the hens, but their eggs.  This is something you want to keep.  What you don't want is to have him attacking you.  The last time I had a rooster who would go after me, I started catching him as he came at me, and I'd tuck him under my arm and carry him around while I did what I needed to do (it actually wasn't that hard to get things done with him under my arm, but I did have quite a bit of practice carrying things around with my three babies!).  It took a little while, but eventually he got the idea and -- while he would watch me -- he stopped attacking me.  He did attack a guy who was helping at my place, but I wasn't going to fault him for that as he was protecting the flock from a stranger.

 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:Cecile, I agree that he needs to be put in his place.  He sounds like a good rooster, watching out for not only the hens, but their eggs.  This is something you want to keep.  What you don't want is to have him attacking you.  The last time I had a rooster who would go after me, I started catching him as he came at me, and I'd tuck him under my arm and carry him around while I did what I needed to do (it actually wasn't that hard to get things done with him under my arm, but I did have quite a bit of practice carrying things around with my three babies!).  It took a little while, but eventually he got the idea and -- while he would watch me -- he stopped attacking me.  He did attack a guy who was helping at my place, but I wasn't going to fault him for that as he was protecting the flock from a stranger.



He was the more puny of the two. With the big roo gone, he slowly took ascendancy. He was really bad at it at first and was rarely successful at mounting the hens. Now he stops any quarreling among the hens at the feed trough with an angry call and gets between the hens.
I am grateful for all he does for the hens and I agree that he needs to be put in his place. Folks who have had an aggressive rooster , even if they found a trick to stop them still seem to report that every once in a while, they can still get an attack. Which leads me to the next question: dogs can be trained. Can chickens? I feel that all I could teach him is to fear me, which may work as long as I don't turn my back on him.
I don't want to risk breaking a wing or leg by kicking him or whacking him with a stick. This afternoon, he stayed out while I picked up the eggs and this evening, they were already roosting when I closed the coop. At 70, I'm not sure I could grab him easily when he comes at me but I have this baggy, loose fishing net that I've used once in a while to catch a hen that had flown the coop. It was a problem to try and catch her, but with the net, it gave me an extension. I also have a number of hooks that I could hang the net from, with the rooster still in it. Getting him suspended in the net would not hurt him and would give me 2 hands to do my work.
I think I'll bring the net to the coop and hang it so that if he gives me trouble, in the net he goes until I have harvested the eggs!
It seems like the most humane and practical solution. I'll let you know if it works.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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The net sounds like it might work!  At 61 I'm not all that much younger than you -- we have to figure out ways to make things work for us!
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:The net sounds like it might work!  At 61 I'm not all that much younger than you -- we have to figure out ways to make things work for us!



Yep. To boot, I've had a motorcycle accident in 2007 that fixed my ankle [lots of hardware in it] and left me unable to run. [I can shuffle pretty fast but my life would have to be on the line (;-)
Pursuing a hen outside, I can usually push her towards a 'chute' of sorts [a narrow angle], where she is cornered. I place the fishing net in her way and she ends up rushing into it head first. I figured I could use that even more easily on an aggressive rooster as it lunges at me. I thought the advantage of the net is that it will not crush or injure the bird and it will save me a lot of time pursuing the critter. I'm not sure I can train this one if he feels he is doing this in defense of his hens. If and when I get another rooster, the old one will be culled if he has not calmed down.
 
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