How to train a rooster to be nice (or at least to stop attacking you).

Hey there! Do you have trouble with your rooster trying to attack you? Me too. Today, let's talk about training a rooster to be nice, or at least civil, anyway.

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Meet Roo, our super-cool-dude rooster. Roo wasn't always Roo, you know. His name used to be Nutmeg, and he used to be a girl, or so we thought. (His name fit with all his siblings' pantry names: Cocao, Cracker, Peanut, Honey, Butterscotch, Pepper, and Olive). A girl? Yes, he had us fooled at first.  

For about six weeks we thought Roo was going to lay eggs like the rest of our flock. It's what the grumpy man at the feed-store had promised. He'd said that the eight birds we bought were 99.99% guaranteed to be female. So much for promises. I guess that makes Roo the .01%. The lowest probability. And yet, here he is. That makes him pretty special in my book! 

I'll admit, at first we didn't know if we wanted to keep Roo... 

The man at the feed store had said if we ended up with a rooter by mistake, we could bring him back. (They had a farm they banished un-wanted roosters to, I guess). But that just seemed so sad. Lucky for Roo, by the time we heard his first warbly attempt at crowing, we'd already come to love him. Besides, with our flock being allowed to free-range a fair amount of the time, he would be needed to protect the hens. So we kept him. 

But then Roo hit his teenage stage. Oh my! Suddenly, he was charging me with his newly grown spurs, and biting me with his very mean beak. Let me tell you, I grew leery of that bird in a hurry. (Why did he only pick on me? Why didn't he ever go after my husband or son)?

That's when we started talking about the stew pot. That's right, Roo came very close to being our first pot of home-grown chicken noodle soup. But no one really wanted it to end that way. What we wanted was to have a our nice well behaved rooster back. 

But it was going to be up me. In a rooster's world, it's all about dominance. Since I was his chosen target, somehow I needed to find a way to teach Roo who was top rooster around here--me. It was the only way we all could win. 

So the battle began...

But wait! Before I share with you how we trained our rooster to be a respectful little citizen on this farm, I want to talk about why we wanted to make things work with Roo. Sadly, roosters don't get a fair shake much of time. Most end up at the farm for un-wanted roosters or as dinner on the table. But here's all the things we dig about our big man-bird, and why we think he's worth his weight in chicken feed (and worth the struggle to train him)... 

Five reasons we kinda dig our rooster (and think he's worth training)...

1. He puts food on the table for his girls. Everyday, I'm amazed at how Roo faithfully scouts up treats for his girls. He never seems to tire of the job. From sun-up to sun-down, he leads his flock around our farm, looking for food. When he finds something juicy and nutritious, like sweet clover, a baby frog, or a big spider crawling over the dirt, he pecks at the ground and makes a special clucking sound to call the girls over. Then he picks up whatever he found in his beak (or he keeps pointing with his beak if it's a moving target). The girls always come running. What impresses me, is the selflessness of my big man-bird. I rarely see him eat. Once the girls scamper over, it's always ladies first. Roo stands guard with his head held high while he lets his girls eat their fill. What a gentleman! I feel such respect for him whenever I see this. 

2. He has a gentle side. Roosters aren't all mean and nasty. Don't get me wrong, I know that depending the breed, some roosters may not be as trainable as others. Some can be just plain mean and aggressive, no matter what you do. But many can be trained. Many, like our Roo, can actually be tamed to the point of liking to be held, pet and cuddled. (However, I can't get away with this, because of the mutual understanding needed between me and Roo. But for some reason, he lets my son cuddle him all the time! Roo will even fall asleep in Tim's lap).

Roo has a gentle side with his hens too. He can be very patient with them. (Now, I'm not talking about mating. Mating is a completely different thing. When Roo decides it's time, what follows looks entirely rude, abrupt and quite miserable for the hen, but this is totally normal among chickens). What I mean is how Roo just hangs out with his girls. Sometimes, maybe because they're bored (or maybe they're being flirty), the hens will walk up to Roo and sort of pick at his chest feathers, or the feathers on the back of his neck. He just stands there unruffled, or he gently nudges them away. It reminds of a teenage girl trying to get a guy's attention by tickling his side. 

3. He's entertaining to watch. Roo makes keeping a flock of chickens interesting. His antics are some of the most fun to watch. The way he communicates with his girls is fascinating. He makes so many sounds different from the hens. Many of the sounds he makes are warnings of danger, but sometimes he's just saying, "Hey, did you hear that? What do you think it is?" And the girls will all stop, cock their heads and listen. Pretty soon, they're all having a quiet conversation about it together. Then there's the way Roo dupes the girls into doing what he wants. Like when he pretends to have found something yummy, but when a hen runs over, he promptly mounts her. (Sorry. It's just a fact of farm life). We never get bored watching our rooster with his hens.

4. He propagates his flock. I've already mentioned the unpleasantries of the mating-scene, but to a homesteader who strives for self-sufficiency, keeping a rooster for the purpose of creating baby chicks may make sense. (However, roosters aren't essential for this these days. As I understand it, you can get eggs already fertilized and use an incubator). But propagation isn't the only benefit to a rooster's perpetual mating drive. All that "chicken surfing" as we call it, actually helps promote more egg laying among the hens. 

5. He stands guard over his flock--All.Day.Long. A good rooster never ceases to guard his girls from harm. I watch Roo with amazement around here. He's tireless. He's always got his eye on the sky, or across the pasture looking for threats. If he sees a predator, even far off in the distance, he makes a warning sound and will lead the hens under a tree or shrub, or to some other shelter. Whether the hens are eating, taking a dust bath, or resting, Roo stands as a sentinel for their safety. If ever attacked, a rooster will quite often fight to the death if needed. 

What makes a rooster troublesome?

The fact that a rooster can protect his flock is exactly what can make him troublesome. He comes equipped with some very effective weapons. Take a look...

1. Roosters have big mean pinchy beaks. A rooster bite can break the skin and draw blood (ask me how I know).

2. Roosters also have long sharp talons and even bigger sharper spurs. When Roo fights, he'll jump at his enemy feet-first and can gouge some gnarly wounds even through clothing. 

As useful as these weapons are for protecting his flock, these are exactly the reason training is essential, if you want to feel safe among your flock. So now, let's talk about how to train that big brute, shall we?  

How to train a rooster to behave...

When I first tried to train Roo, I used every trick in the book. Take kindness, for example. I'd heard that roosters act aggressive when they're scared of you. So I'd kneel and try to feed Roo from my hand. Or pick him up and hold him if he tried to charge me. Or talk sweetly to him. But this actually made things worse and it usually ended with me getting a bruise from a rooster bite on my arm or hand. Clearly, kindness was not what my rooster needed for him to learn respect for me. 

What Roo needed, was for me to act like another rooster. (Yep. Cock-a-doodle me). In a rooster's world, it's all about dominance. It's not uncommon for two roosters to live within the same flock and get along nicely together. Did you know that? What it comes down to is the pecking order. Usually, peace can reign if one rooster can establish dominance over the other (if they don't kill each other first, which does happen). 

So I went to rooster school. I studied my chickens to see how they displayed dominance toward one another. (Even the hens will display dominance over each other). 

Here's what a show of dominance might look like:
  • Puffed up neck feathers
  • Wings spread wide at the sides, and possibly flapping toward the other (almost like clapping in the face the other)
  • Direct eye-contact
  • Stepping forward to make the other back away
  • Nipping with the beak
  • In the case of the rooster, mating can be viewed as dominance vs. submission. A rooster will drop a wing to the ground and dance a circle around a hen. Using his dropped wing to corral her, he'll then grab her neck feathers in his beak and mount her from behind. (The important observation being this: The chicken who can hold another down is dominant). 

Roo's wings are beginning to open at his sides and his neck feathers are puffed up.

What about submission? What does that look like in chicken language? Well, I'll tell you...
  • Head dropped low to the ground, tail high
  • Pecking at the ground to eat, or pretend to eat even when nothing's there
  • Walking or running away

These are all submissive actions. 

Running away is a sign of submission.

Becoming the top-dog rooster...

Armed with this knowledge, I set to work acting like the king of the pen while looking for submission from Roo. What began as an experiment, has now become my standby ritual. To begin with, here's how I interact with Roo on a daily basis...

  • I don't show fear of him at all, though I always remain on guard. 
  • If I go out to feed our chickens or give them water, I always keep an eye on Roo. (That's exactly what he does to me, so I do the same). 
  • I also try to always be aware of what I call his territorial circle. I give him space. And if I have to cross that invisible threshold, I do it with caution. 
  • If he starts to react, I'll stop and act like I'm doing something non-threatening until he moves away a bit. I basically give him the respect I expect in return.

But what about those times when Roo is itching to try out his new spurs on me? What do I do when he tries to charge me? Let me tell you...

What to do if your rooster charges you...

This is not my favorite part of rooster training. But it's the part that must be done if Roo is to stay off of our dinner table. So here goes... 

Roo's feather's are puffed at his neck, a show of aggression and dominance, but his head is turned to the side. He's about to run away.

If Roo charges me...

  • I Immediately turn to face him square on. I drop to a low crouch with fists on hips and arms bent at the elbows, so I look kind of like a big mad rooster with my wings out--just like Roo does. 
  • I look him square in the eye and say something in a low voice like, "Don't even think about it!" 
  • I hold that position and watch. If he takes a step toward me, I take a step toward him. I keep watching. I'm waiting for him to lower his head and start pecking at the ground (which is funny, because he always picks up a stick or a piece of straw and acts like he's eating it, which is silly, but it's a good sign--a show of submission). 
  • I wait for him to move away (as he pretends to eat pieces of straw) until he's far enough away that I'd have time to react if he tries to charge again. 
  • I keep my eyes on him as I resume a normal posture and move away (casually). Before I turn to walk away, I take my eyes off of Roo (but keep the ones in the back of my head still on him, if you know what I mean). Roo is smart. We both know how to play this game. Sometimes, he's bluffing, but then so am I.

Head down, tail high is a show of submission.

Now that we've been doing this a while, this is where it all usually ends. Roo tests the waters, finds I'm still in charge and goes his marry way. But sometimes, he's had a few too many sunflower seeds and is feeling his spurs. That's when I take things to the next level.

What to do if your rooster won't take a hint...

You may think I'm terribly mean for what I'm about to show you, but by now I hope you believe me when I say this is all for Roo's good. We really don't want to even think about hacking him off or giving him the boot to some rooster-reject farm. So I press on...

At first, I used to get a hold of Roo and hold him to the ground (being careful not to hurt him in any way). I'd roll him on his side and gently hold his neck and the rest of his body to the ground. I'd hold him there for like a minute or two. This move seems similar to what he does to the hens in the supreme act of dominance over them when he mates with them. (I read about this somewhere). The idea is to have a "final straw" move you can make on your rooster that puts him in his place. Only this move didn't seem to work. Roo would only hop up afterwards madder than a hornet and charge me again. 

So I moved on to another approach, but with the same idea. This has worked wonders.  

Basically, if the unpleasant encounter proceeds to the point of me being charged two or more times, or if Roo attempts to lunge at me, I make my "final straw" move. I catch his tail feathers until I can get a hold of his feet. Then I pick him up (his whole body, using two hands until I can safely turn him up-side-down) and I hold him there by his feet. 

This always takes the fight right out of him. For one thing, when a chicken is held up-side-down, blood rushes to his head and has a calming effect on him. I only hold him like this until he's calm (a short time). Then I carefully lay him on the ground and walk away. The result is a humbled rooster. He usually stands right up and walks away with his tail between his legs so to speak. I never enjoy doing this. But it has been the one thing to restore peace. 

The good news is that once a pecking order has been established in a flock, things tend to stay the same, unless something happens to change things, like a bird becoming ill, or dying. What this means for me and my Roo is this: I shouldn't ever revert to trying to cuddle or talk baby-talk to Roo (no I never really talked baby-talk to him, are you kidding?--ahem). If I did that, I'd blow my cover and he'd be all over me again! 

It's not like Roo has turned into a mouse after all this. Far from it. We both enjoy a mutual peace and respect that serves both sides well. Yet, from time to time, I do have to maintain the pecking order. This means I'm always ready to defend my top-dog position, which Roo sometimes feels the need to challenge. But we both know how this works, so when he gets the itch, more often than not, just one quick mean-rooster posture from me sends him packing. 

No animals were injured or killed in the making of this post...

I've hesitated to share this post with you, because I know some will think I'm a big meany. But my reason for sharing it anyway, is in hopes of empowering you if you struggle with a rooster. In today's world of factory farming where roosters are automatically disposed of almost the minute they're born, I think roosters should be given every chance to live. These big smart man-birds can be a true asset to a homestead. So if something I've shared makes you feel empowered, and if a rooster lives a happy life as a result, then it's worth the possible disapproval of some.  

One more thing. If you've ever needed to give up a rooster for any reason at all, whether they just aren't allowed where you live, or yours was just too mean, or you simply didn't want to deal with it, I totally understand. I'd be the last person to judge you. I didn't write this post to bash anyone. I wrote it only to inspire you if you've been searching for a remedy to deal with your naughty rooster. 

Oh, and one last thing. The methods I shared in this post have worked for me. They may not work in every situation or on every breed. 

Have you ever had to deal with an aggressive rooster? I'd love to hear your story in the comments below.

Until next time...

Joy--Fearless Farm Girl,

"Farm girl: It's a verb, because it's what you do."

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Other related posts:
Beginning chicken keeping: Mistakes to avoid, and how we survived our first year! (Funny story with helpful advice).


  1. Nice job on the post Joy I have employed a lot of similar tactics with our roos. I love having them as part of the flock for all the reasons you noted. I hope a lot of people will be helped by your post

    1. Thank you, Janet :-) Glad to meet another person who appreciates the benefits of roosters on the homestead!

  2. My husband finally wore me down in getting a rooster and he is arriving later this week - thanks for the great post! Now I'm not so worried about having him around!

    1. Interesting! I hope he fits in well at your place. I'd love to be updated as things go along.

  3. This was super helpful! We just discovered a rooster in our new flock of hens....and the last one didn't make it 'cause he was SOOOOOOO mean. Hoping your advice helps me save this guy, because I would love to have a rooster around....just worry about the kiddos who are always playing with the hens.

    1. Hi Sarah, I hope this helps you too. You're right to be concerned where children are concerned, though. Hope this rooster is a good fit :-)

  4. When I was a kid Mom raised her own chicks so we always had seemed all mean roosters too. They were free range and my Mom sent us out to play armed with baseball bats. They literally jumped on our backs and attacked and those spurs really DO hurt. The bats gave us a fighting chance and made our lives bearable!

    1. Wow, what a story! It sound awful and hilarious all at once. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Wow. Good info here. I had a colorful roo(should have been a hen too) that was aggressive and I had to watch him VERY close when I was in the run with them. He was always spoiling my time with the hens as he would attack with those spurs -and they hurt bad. I always had to wear my boots(no sandals) and long pants around this guy and we always ended up fighting. I gave him away to a friend that needed a roo. He was a good guy with the hens though and we miss him for that.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story. I'm glad you found this post helpful. Maybe you'll have another rooster someday (but hopefully nicer :-)

  6. Thank you for this! We are hatching our first batch and want to keep a rooster but I am nervous this gives me some tools so if one is mean I can try something to help! Thanks!!

    1. Chicks are so fun to watch! Plenty of roosters are nice to get along with, so there's as much potential for things to work out great, as well as possible trouble. Good luck!

  7. Thanks so much for this post! As I read your article I kept saying YEAH! thats what he does! Yeah! Thats what I do!! But its been such a weird thing! Never, never, have I had to put up with being the target of an off-beat rooster. But when this dude started treating me the same way yours was treating you,....I was ready to "OFF" him!! But oddly, I tried to figure out a way to get dominance and it's been strained, but follows pretty closely what you have done. Has it worked for me? yes, uncomfortably..but after reading your article I feel like Ive done it right, and need to take confidence in that, which will probably result in even more good behavior! Thanks so much!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Joni! It's nice to find other people who share similar experiences. Things are going really well with my rooster now and have been for a while, since I wrote this post in the summer. So I guess this works. I'm really happy, because I didn't want to "OFF" my Roo any more than you wanted to yours. Glad this post gives you the confidence you need to keep going. Hope it all turns out well. Roosters are amazing creatures, yet so under-rated! Take care.

  8. I don't have a rooster but I have a very aggressive hen, doing everything you describe, charging at me, jumping, even inflicting bruises and drawing blood... I can't seem to find ANY information about that :( I'll try your techniques on her but I'm puzzled that no one else seems to have experienced that from a chick!

  9. Hi!!!!

    I have a rooster that I hatched, he is 8 months old right now and normally a sweetheart. He almost always lets me pick him up and walk around the yard in my arms. On a normal day, I can pick him up and feed him and everything's good. The past month though he has been on/off. He has attacked us (never anything serious) and when we stand back, he walks away. It's been somewhat random (at least to me) and we're not sure how to handle it. He doesn't have spurs yet so we want to try any remedies before he has a chance to inflict damage. What would you say? Try what you mentioned in the blog and see what happens? I would love to walk into the coop again without fear!!

  10. Hi!!!!

    I have a rooster that I hatched, he is 8 months old right now and normally a sweetheart. He almost always lets me pick him up and walk around the yard in my arms. On a normal day, I can pick him up and feed him and everything's good. The past month though he has been on/off. He has attacked us (never anything serious) and when we stand back, he walks away. It's been somewhat random (at least to me) and we're not sure how to handle it. He doesn't have spurs yet so we want to try any remedies before he has a chance to inflict damage. What would you say? Try what you mentioned in the blog and see what happens? I would love to walk into the coop again without fear!!

    1. Hi Kritika. How cool that you've had your rooster since he hatched! Roosters are funny. They can be so nice, and then they hit puberty and get all testy. Ours is still pretty gentle with the guys (my husband and grown son). In fact, my grown son can pick him and cuddle him any time he wants, and Roo doesn't seem to mind. His issues have been mostly with me, however, he has learned to respect me. I can enter the coop and go about my business and he leaves me alone. But I pretty much try to ignore him and not make eye contact with him. With last summer's training (the content of this post), we seem to have established a relationship of mutual respect. I hope you'll be able to find what works with your Mr. too. Good luck!

  11. Our rooster has just started showing dominance to guests and children. Never to me (mom, but I bring out the compost he enjoys). We talked of getting rid of him, but are unsure about that decision. For now, we arm the kids with tiny water guns, a spritz or two and he goes on his way.

  12. Do you remember how old your rooster was when his aggressive behavior began? I have a rooster, who was also supposed to be a hen, who started crowing two weeks ago, just to give you an idea of where he is developmentally. He's a pretty sweet guy so far. We suspected pretty early on that he was a boy so we have tried to hold him some everyday in the hope that it would make him nicer. Is he too young to know if he is going to be mean? He seems to be able to put the girls in their place if two of them get into it. He definitely doesn't have his spurs yet though. Also, we got our chickens so that we would have eggs, not intending on having a rooster. Now that we have one, I really want to keep him but wonder if you've had any trouble eating fertilized eggs? I just have anxiety about cracking one open in a pan with my daughter looking on and having more than expected in the pan. We completely new to chicken keeping, as I'm sure is obvious. Any info you have would be greatly appreciated!!

    1. Hey there, thanks for the great questions. Our rooster was getting his spurs when he started acting like a dominant roo. He was mating with the hens and had a mature crow. He was about 9 months to a year old. As to eating fertilized eggs, we have not had any surprises. They all look like normal eggs. Occasionally, there is a red fleck in the yoke, but no big deal. Best of luck with your roo!

  13. We have a Silkie chicken! I snuggle him several times a day (on my lap, petting him until he is practically sleeping), and I carry him often as well. Hand feed him...diaper him, and let him run around the house all day...

    BUT!! On occasion, but not daily...He does his feet stamp, and fluff up towards me. Usually when I've squatted down, to give him some food (in his "area" in the kitchen.)...and he'll sometimes do this foot stamping/fluff-up when I approach his indoor coop in the AM, to get him out for the day...

    What are your thoughts? He's 6 months old...bought as a pet (and turned out to be a boy).

    I just went to push him gentle to the ground, out in the backyard, when he started his stamping (again, 1st this in the morning, after getting him out of his coop)...I said, "Don't you think about it Mister!!", and my hand landed on his back...startled him (and me, as I did react out of anger...but I would never be too rough with him)...but he sure didn't expect me to do that!

    I was thinking, should I take him by the neck, and put him down on the ground??

    I saw him do this w his brother (who died as a result of an accident last month...we're still recovering from his loss!!)...

    Anyway, long post... I feel like I'm the dominant for the most part, since I snuggle him all the time, and he only "challenges" me . 2x per week, or so...

    I love him so! Our other Roo (again, accidental. But you can't sex Silkies)...was a lover! Ebony isn't quite, but I'm converting him...I don't want his aggression to continue, let alone get worse. I don't want to rehome him...

    I'd love any thoughts/opinions you'd have!

    1. Hi there. Thanks for your comment. Keeping a rooster as a snuggle pet may be a challenge. Since he is only 6 months, he may grow into more of his instinctive rooster behaviors before you'll know for sure how things will go. I do hope it works out for you. Based on your comments, I would avoid squatting down to his level. This is a show of submission. When you pick him up, do so from a standing position. If he fluffs at you, bend over and put your arms out a bit to mimic the way he makes himself look bigger to other birds. If he learns to trust you and never see you a dangerous threat, he may remain snuggly. My son has been able to maintain this kind of relationship with our Roo to this day. Best of luck!

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  15. Thank you. I will try to hold my mean Hershey down by his legs, and hopefully it works. Because I really don't need a rooster soup, he is way too handsome to end up naked in a hot water.