Thursday, November 8, 2012

Unruly Rooster? How to Train Your Rooster.



Written By: Bee

The problem with kids and roosters is that children are more their size and usually do not move with determination.  Some kids are born to it and don't run when a rooster confronts them but most will flail their arms, scream and run backwards~heck, even most adults give this reaction.  This is just encouragement for a rooster to continue the attack. 
 

 You really don't need to carry a stick to beat off potential attacks but a stick can be a great "guide" for livestock.  If you've ever seen children working beef and pigs in the show ring  they usually have a wand of some type that they use to signal that animal to turn or stand or set up for the judges.  It's just an extension of their arm and it used as training tool.  This can be done for sheep as well when wanting to move them...just a touch here or there on the flank or shoulder can turn them.  I've implemented it with chickens with good success. 

When working with children and livestock, one has to be quite clear about the objectives and you need to put in the time to help a child feel confident around the chicken.  That confident stride, stance and attitude goes a long way towards the training of many animals and also works on chickens.  When my own rooster Toby was little he was treated like the rest of the flock… only handled when necessary and in a calm manner.  Toby transitioned into sexual maturity without any display of power towards humans and can be taken off the roost and worked with no problems. This is important when dealing with big roosters and Toby is a large and heavy guy.

Any bird at any time can flap and claw when picked off the roost and the person's reaction to that demonstration goes a long way towards establishing mutual trust and respect.  My children were prone to getting excited when this happened and would almost drop the bird by trying to avoid the commotion, but it's important that you let the bird work it out while you hold them gently but firmly.  That bird needs to know that you aren't going to hurt him, drop him or otherwise disturb his equilibrium.  They soon calm down.  All movements around livestock should be deliberate and with some slowness...quick movements get them into high alert.  It's just instinctual for them to react to this type of movement in a defensive or flight action. 

There is only one time I advise quick movement around a rooster and that is immediately after an attempted or full attack happens...this needs to be confronted in a calm and assertive manner and then a very quick correction needs to happen.  If you've trained your rooster properly from a youngster, it's likely you won't get to this point.  But if you obtained a rooster from somewhere else that has not had sufficient training, you will need to know how to train him really quickly and in a hurry.  I've never had to use this method more than once. 


 This is where the rooster stick comes in handy.  I'll give you an actual example:  I was given a 6 month old rooster, a truly beautiful and extremely large specimen that was calm and fine when he first got here but was soon to start feeling his hormones... previously he had been in a bachelor's pen.  One day Iwas walking past him with an empty egg basket and he ran up and attacked the basket.  I shoved him off the basket and stepped over to the coop to get the roo stick and went in to feed.  When you feed once a day, everyone comes to the coop when it's feeding time!  I waited until the rooster came in the coop and was starting to eat and then I gave him a sharp but light tap on his butt… right on the fuzzies.  He jumped and looked around and I was already repeating the action.  He ran for the pop door.  I waited...he tried to re-enter the coop and I hit the door facing really hard with that stick so that a resounding "THWACK" happened right in front of his face.  He ran.  He came back and tried to get in the coop, I hit the door facing again.  He retreated.  Then I let him in but everywhere he went in the coop I was touching his back with that stick until he was dodging and ducking to avoid it.  Just when I had him frantically looking for a way OUT, I hit the floor of the coop hard with the stick and the sharp crack sent him streaking for the door and across the yard. 

End of first big lesson.

I went about my business but the rest of the day, as I went about chores, I tested his reaction to me... I'd deliberately walk near him to see his reaction.  If he didn't immediately try to avoid me, I'd lunge in his direction and stamp my foot on the ground.  He RAN like a scalded dog.  I only had to do this twice before he got the message.  After that I'd deliberately confront him when I walked amongst the chickens, move in his direction and focus on him.  He always kept himself about 10 feet away from me.  Wise rooster.

If you'll notice, roosters are the kings of the surprise attack… one minute you are walking along and minding your own business and suddenly you have this feather duster raging at you from out of nowhere.  I simply turn the tables on them and give them surprise "attacks".  Never had to repeat this simple lesson for any rooster in my care.  The ones I raised from chicks never had to be taught the lesson at all.

For children raising cockerels for showing, working with an adult that has a calm assertive attitude towards the birds will teach them the same manner.  Have them wear protective clothing, show them how to hold and handle the bird, particularly if the bird is struggling.  Teach them to respect the pointy parts... very important for them to be aware and wary, but not scared.  If a rooster advances towards their position, they need to advance also and stand their ground.  If the rooster continues the attack, the training stick can be utilized on the ground in front of him.  The stick can be a real tool and an extension of the arm, not a defensive weapon.  It can give a youngster added confidence to have one with him when he first starts training the roosters.  Placing the stick between him and the rooster can give him time to sidestep the point of attack and then retaliate with an instructive touch on the rooster.  A good sharp tap on the fuzzies can send the rooster boot scootin' in the opposite direction. 

To simply train a young cockerel with the stick, you just wait until feeding time and he is relaxed and eating...and just touch him lightly but firmly… like a tap… on the back… enough to get him moving.  Keep doing it until you have him going in the direction you want.  When he starts in that direction, ease up.  He has learned that he won't be bothered if he moves in a certain way in response to the stick.  For a kid, this can be a fun thing to do without causing too much tension between the bird and the child.  Just a simple guiding touch with the child in control.  A confidence booster for the kid and a lesson for the rooster.  When he is finally responding to the stick, then let him be and reward him with letting him eat.  It can all be real fun if it's done as a planned session instead of a knee-jerk response after an attack.  Don't wait until they are sexually mature to start this training. 

Calm, quiet and assertive are what the child needs to learn and the animals will soon recognize someone they can trust and respect.  Toby hasn't forgotten his training from his younger days when I used the stick to move him around or out of the coop.  Now I don't even need to use the stick, I merely point towards the door and take a step towards him and he leaves.  It's fun to reinforce the training now and again to refresh their memory.    




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20 comments:

  1. This would have been better information if I had had it when I still had the rooster I bought with my second flock. I bought two roosters, but lost one at week three. The second was so savage that he actually chased ALL my chickens out of the yard and into neighbors yards two days in a row. I just didn't know what to do with him, so I re-homed him with a neighbor that now has just this one roo, and no mates for him.

    Someone from work had two roosters and they just didn't get along, they are both about two years old, and they 'gifted' me with one of them. He is now in a "bachelors Pad" for 30 days while I determine that he is healthy and fit, then I plan on introducing him to the 'girls.' I go out there and sit with him outside his cage for half an hour or so every day, but the only time I have actually reached in and caught him, he struggled so much that I had blood all over my arm and still have scabs growing over the cuts. Next time I will be wearing long sleeves and gloves.

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  2. UPDATE: I went out last night to sit with the Roo, and I finally tried (second try) to reach in and slowly catch him, trying to not upset him. It was a lot easier this time than last, but that may have been because I was moving slower. Anyway, I caught him and pulled him out of the cage, and had him on my lap, talking to him and I noticed something that I hadn't looked at before, a lot of black spots on his comb. I'm not sure where or how frost bite will look on a rooster, but his comb also seemed to be more a pink color rather than a deep red, so, holding him under my arm I went in the house and found the petroleum jelly and slowly put masses of it all over his comb, and on his waddles. At first he seemed to object, but calmed down. I had him on my lap for maybe half an hour during all this.

    When I put him back in the cage I held him just a tad longer than I needed too, not trying to force him into anything, but he seemed to want to run away as quickly as possible, so I just held him, around the wings, as I talked to him and then finally let go. It took about ten seconds for him to realize that I HAD let go, and he almost ran to the back of the cage.

    I hope I am going in the right direction with this. And as a side note, several of the 'girls' kept walking by and 'talking' to either him or me, and my dog was sitting by my side during most of this. So it just MAY be an easy transition for him to be accepted, let's hope so at least.

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    Replies
    1. Skip - the black spots on your rooster's comb could be fowl pox, so please keep him away from your girls until he clears up. Frostbite will generally only affect the tips of the comb, working its way down as it progresses. Spots are often pox, and highly contagious.

      Healthy chickens will usually get over fowl pox in a couple weeks. This could account for the pale comb/wattles too, but keep an eye on him. If he gets over the fowl pox but still has a pale comb after a couple weeks, look for other issues like lice, mites or poor diet.
      Good luck and let us know what happens!
      Leigh

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  3. I am certainly no expert, but I can comment on a few of your points. I have looked VERY close to see if I can spot anything on his skin, or legs, nothing there that I could see, and the diet seems to be good, he is getting almost everything the girls are getting without the ability to free range. I'll take my camera out tonight and get a picture of his comb and waddles, but as I recall, when I got home today it looked much better than yesterday when I first noticed this. I have kept him separate, but HOW separate must I keep him? By that I mean, just physical contact? Or should I be moving his cage where the girls can't see him? That would almost be an impossibility. The girls free range all over the yard, but occasionally I will see one or two just inches from his cage, seemingly talking to him (or maybe teasing would be a better term). Or, and this is a very drastic move, should he be culled?

    Skip

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  4. Skip - if he is just showing little, blackish spots, it would likely indicate he is already in the last stages of fowl pox - provided that's what it is. (Hard to say without seeing him.) It is contagious, but only through direct contact, though can be carried by mosquitoes. If you have a lot of mosquitoes right now, then watch your girls closely and perhaps move him into a confined garage or something similar. If not, just don't let them mingle until all your boy's symptoms are cleared up. No need to cull in my opinion - once a bird is symptom free, they are do not carry the virus to others.
    Leigh

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  5. Well, my question now would HAVE to be, how do I send you a picture of him, and his comb?

    A garage? What's THAT? Oh, you mean a free standing building where you park all the goodies that have been collected through the years, something a car was once parked in for the first couple of months or years after you move into a new house? Well, here in the desert there are no mosquitoes and there is NO garage. But he IS in a separate cage, though the girls can get rather close to him if he gets against the wire. If you give me an address or something to send pictures, I will go out this afternoon after I get home from work and get pictures of the cage and his comb. Would that help? As it is now I have no idea how long these spots have been on his comb, I just got him on the 1st and he still has a few weeks of isolation yet.

    Or you can email me, phottoman at gmail (dot) com and I can send you pictures that way.

    I have no affection for this rooster (yet) so if it comes to culling, that will NOT be a problem, and I would imagine that we would NOT eat that meat either, right?

    Skip

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  6. Leigh, I took pictures and answered your email and included pictures.

    Thank you

    Skip

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  7. Skip - judging by the pictures it may well be the last stage of fowl pox.

    This is Bee's input: "I don't know what that last pic is but the others look like what I always thought of as mold or fungus. I've seen it a time or two on my own chickens here and there down through the years, though not as many as is showing on this bird. It shows up about this time of year, very briefly, and then just goes away on it's own. I've never seen any of the pale blisters that are supposed to indicate fowl pox previous to the black specks on the combs of my chickens, so I can't say this is fowl pox left overs with any assurance.

    "I'd advise some NuStock on it just for kicks and giggles and just a wait and see attitude. - Bee"

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  8. talking about Roosters, mine attacked me a number of times. I covered him with a fishing net a couple of times, he was a little better. we didn't know at the time but ended up with 4 roosters, the one got
    older and fought with my mean rooster, I found the poor guy outside, sitting in a corner! so now I don't
    want to get rid of my birds, but maybe I will have to. help

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    Replies
    1. All chickens have to find their place in the flock. It is the head rooster's job to establish himself over the other roosters. Fighting is natural for them, but normally the standoff stops when one rooster submits to the other. A little blood is normal. As long as your flock has plenty of room and the younger roosters can get away from the dominant rooster, they should be OK. Free ranging the flock is the best for this scenario, but understandably not everybody can free range their flock. Having a single rooster is best if the flock has to stay in a run with limited space.

      So - if you are able to free range your flock, things will likely settle down soon with your boys as they find their place in the flock.

      If they are not able to free range, look into rehoming or eating any extra roos.
      Good luck and hope everything works out -
      Leigh

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  9. Sorry to comment on an older post, but I need some advice on this subject. I recently bought my 2 year old daughter a pony and the farm where he is boarded has a free range flock. Today my daughter and I were in the pony's paddock grooming him. My daughter was standing nearby and the rooster came under the gate and attacked her, he was scratching with his back legs and pecking at her chest while beating her with his wings. She just froze and I was able to scoop her up and pull her into my chest to protect her face. He kept coming pecking at her legs and she started screaming. I was moving towards the rooster because I have always heard not to back up and he just kept coming, I tried to kick him away, but it was hard while trying to hold her off to the side. Thankfully her pony came running and ran the rooster out with his head down and feet stomping. Obviously my daughter was sufficiently traumatized, but had been wearing denim jeans so she was not hurt by all the clawing, just some small red peck marks were visible under her shirt. The owner apologized and said he is like this to new people, but I am concerned since he didn't back down. How should I have responded? Obviously I will not let her more than an arms length away anymore, but she was only three steps away today. I don't think this lady will take too kindly to me having a stick for her rooster. If I have a sprayer filled with water will that deter him at all? I know nothing about roosters and every other site has people telling me that chicken soup is the only solution. Well, it isn't my rooster so that isn't an option and I really like the farm, but I want my daughter to be safe. Is it likely to happen again? And if so what can I do to avoid it? Thank you in advance.

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    1. Well - that one is a toughie. Until the rooster proves he is no longer a threat to you or your daughter, I think you are well within your rights to carry a stick to simply ward off an attack should one happen again. You won't be using it to beat or hurt the rooster - just to place between the rooster and your daughter to prevent her from being hurt. Because the rooster has attacked your daughter already, the owner *should* understand.

      Other people arm themselves with a high-powered water gun, like a Super Soaker and have reported success with using water as a deterrent. Heck - give it a try.

      And for the record, the fact that your new pony charged in to chase the rooster off suggests you have a pretty awesome pony!
      :-)

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  10. Thank you so much. I think we will use the water gun idea so that we have something that we can use from a distance to maybe teach him not to come close. I didn't want to be spraying him with water if it wouldn't deter him or if it would hurt him in some way. I will make sure she has a stick handy so maybe she won't look like such an easy target.
    I was pretty surprised the pony came to our rescue as well since the chickens hang out in his little paddock all the time. He got plenty of cuddles and treats after that for sure. I am hoping if I can teach him not to come near us then it will be safer for her. She is the only small child that comes out there so he may just be trying to investigate how much of a threat she is to his ladies and you can't blame him for that.
    I really appreciate your advice. The last thing I wanted to do was try something that would harm him or cause him any stress.

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    1. You're very welcome! Best of luck and enjoy that pony!

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  11. Hi do you know how to teach a rooster recall (to come when called )
    I have a Japanese black tail rooster who is very gentle, never pecks on hands and never lunges I later brought a german bantam and what I expected was a fight but nothing they met with each other like long lost brothers.

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    1. To teach your rooster to come when called, all you have to do is find his favorite treat. Perhaps scratch or meal worms. As you toss the treats down, make what ever call you want to use to call him to you. Do this every day for a few days - it does not take long for them to learn to associate a call with getting treats.
      It's wonderful that your roosters get along so well! I have a group that lives together happily, too.
      =)

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  12. The black spots on the rooster's comb could be scabs from the hens pecking him through the fence when they are separated. The solution is fine mesh fencing. The fence is an unnatural thing and they get frustrated. The rooster wants to be close to the hens but they feel threatened and he can't assert himself properly so they peck him and he takes it, wanting to be close to them.

    Great read in the original post. Confidence seems to be crucial in my experience too. That point rung very true.

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  13. I'm in dire need of help. I have a rooster named Ducky who was once a total sweetheart but has become a full blown savage. I got Ducky sometime late April when he was just a few days old and raised him by hand in the house until he was big enough to get by without a heat lamp. He was given to us through a friend who's cat caught him and he managed to escape with his life, but we don't know what kind of bird he is—we suspect he has a good amount of Rhode Island Red in him, since he's a beautiful ginger color and is fairly big and stocky at about 7 months old. Now, for a long while we didn't actually know Ducky was a rooster, and we were praying that he wasn't, but he was so friendly and affectionate towards us that we didn't mind and thus kept him around. But by the time summer was ending, he was starting to act a little out of line.
    It wasn't much at first; it started out as him making a fuss over a pair of black boots that I would wear a lot. I figured that because they were about his size, black, and shiny, maybe they freaked him out. So I stopped wearing them around him and he was fine for a while. Then he started to go after the feed bucket. Again, it was bigger than him, very close to him, and vibrantly white, so maybe it just scared him. But it's gotten so much worse since then. Now he goes after the dogs, no matter how far away they are or if they're minding their business, he goes after my family, and he goes after me. It's gotten to the point where my mother is so afraid of him that she has me accompany her while she feeds our horses JUST so I can watch Ducky and keep him away from her. He has no hens to keep him company or distract him, either, and nothing that needs protecting.
    What upsets me so much is the fact that I literally raised this bird—carried him everywhere with me, always had him with me when I did things around the house, let him sleep in my hair, and would even coax him back to sleep if he woke up to find that I wasn't there and would begin to peep loudly during the night. I love him with all my being. And it breaks my heart that such a sweet little bird, who once followed me everywhere and insisted to sit in my lap, now charges after me and attempts to spur me and my family. He didn't used to be this way and now I don't know what to do. My father is threatening to get rid of him, or possibly even kill him, if we can't fix his attitude. He's currently shut inside his coop all day to keep things less stressful, but I know that's not a way to live. Very rarely can I pick him up now, compared to being able to just scoop him up with ease when he was just a month younger. He doesn't fuss when I do hold him, but it's a hassle to catch him if he's running away from me and not vice versa. I'm hoping that maybe he's just experiencing a hormonal surge and that things will settle down, but part of me is convinced that he'll stay aggressive forever with no chance of fixing it. I also feel that's it's maybe too late to fix anything, since we've often had to kick him, whack him, or scare him away from us by running at him—thus making us a challenge or an enemy to him. So, I'm asking, is there anything I can do? Will anything help? Can I fix my vicious rooster and get my lovable pet and companion back? Or will he be finding a new home or end up on the dinner table? I'm very, VERY desperate. I'm not sure if you'll see this in such an old post, but if you do, thank you for taking the time to help me out!

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    1. I'm very sorry to hear you are having trouble with your rooster. It is very common for cock birds to start behaving badly when they reach sexual maturity. I can't promise you can fix your rooster, but I can give you some things to try.

      First, carry him around with you as much as you can, and as often as you can. Show him that you are the "head rooster" and don't let him down if he gets mad about you holding him.

      Next, bring a rooster stick and his favorite treat with you when ever you go in the yard - same for anyone going out in the yard where he is. Reward him when he DOESN'T attack. If he does attack, whack him or pick him up and don't let him have any of the treats.

      Think of it as training a dog. Reward his good behavior EVERY time (at first) and punish bad behavior EVERY time, always. The hope is that he will stop attacking once he realizes he will get rewarded for being nice. If he learns that, his behavior *should* change for good after a few weeks and you won't have to reward him every time.

      But... remember... not all roosters can be broken of their bad habits.
      Best of luck! I hope he DOES learn!

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