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Thursday, November 12, 2009

What I Have Learned About Roosters

When we started having problems with our rooster being aggressive, I thought we might be able to curb his bad behavior. Well, I hoped. When it kept going and got worse, I started researching.

You know what? Mainstream sources of farm-related information are not interested in roosters. If you search extension-service information and animal science departments of universities, you will find almost nothing. Really, all I ever found was that veterinarians can surgically remove the spurs from a rooster. That's it. Maybe I missed something. But it appears that conventional, official, mainstream advice now is "Don't keep a rooster." But yet I know of many people who keep (or have tried to keep) a rooster. There are two others we can hear from our house. My parents had one for a while. My co-worker has one. A former classmate has one. People do this. Apparently we are way out there, man. Totally alternative. Crunchy.

So, without the university/extension sources I wanted, my best sources of "published" information were Internet discussion groups for people who raise chickens. Read enough on those and you get the general wisdom. (Um, yeah, I suppose there are books. I do work in a library. But there again, I figured I'd be getting one person's opinion rather than study-based information from an organization. But, no, I didn't really look.)

So, from my experience and that of other regular folks who've shared theirs, here's what I've learned about roosters:

1. They can be sweet as anything when they're young. Once testosterone starts up, all bets are off.

2. Some roosters are nice and gentle. Some are mean and aggressive. They just are the way they are. You're not going to change that.

3. To increase your odds of a mild-tempered rooster, you need to get one from a line of mild-tempered roosters. Don't be surprised if your accidental rooster in a group of supposedly female chicks is aggressive. He wasn't bred for gentleness.

4. You cannot make an aggressive rooster stop being aggressive. You can make him see you, individually, as higher up in the pecking order and stop attacking you. But just because he respects you -- that doesn't stop him from attacking your wife, your children, your visitors, your puppy....

5. To stop a rooster from attacking you, you can pick him up and hold him firmly until he stops fighting. Or you can hold him down on the ground. (Uh, wear leather gloves and other protective gear. We did not try these methods ourselves, so I cannot tell you exactly what happens.) Or you can kick him or hit him with a stick. Yes, I know that sounds cruel. It feels cruel (well, if you're a wuss like me). But when you are literally under attack by a male bird who is protecting his hens or who is hoping to dominate you through violence (hey, this is nature), you will do what you have to to protect yourself or your kids. (And maybe you'll cry later. Or maybe that's just me.)

6. Once you have proven to the rooster that you are the boss with the above methods, he probably will leave you alone. But each person who wants him to stop attacking them has to take him on individually. Do you want your 5-year-old giving that a try?

7. Sometimes you have to throw in the towel. A farm animal is a farm animal, and you don't want chicks from an aggressive rooster, anyway. Those males will likely be the same. So if the benefit of the rooster isn't worth the trouble he gives your family, you've got to make a hard decision. Some of us believe in giving an animal a good life and a quick death, and then, as a friend of mine said, "repurposing" a resource.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post. Mark and I both appreciated all this information!

    We got really, really lucky, then, with Goldie, our rooster. He's so gentle. Almost more so than some of the hens. And, we've bread him twice. We still have two roosters from the first batch. (Keith & Joan took two of them when they were really young.)

    So far, our two have been real good with everyone including the kids. (We had four, but the other two were more aggressive and Mark 'disposed' of them.) That all makes sense though, about getting gentle roosters from a gentle rooster.

    I'm hoping we'll get as lucky with the new batch we hatched at the end of summer. But I'm still worried about having too many roosters!

    ~ Jennifer