Wednesday, October 29, 2014


My grandparents had a farm. My grandmother liked chickens and kept all sorts of breeds. I think I was three or four when she showed me a broody hen for the first time. She told me, "When you come again, there will be chicks!" And, there were! I was amazed! I was also amazed at how gentle and patient she was with the broody hen she was gathering eggs from underneath. The hen pecked a big hole in my grandmother's hand. She was bleeding! Grandma just said, "It's OK. She just protecting her eggs." 

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I think it was my long hair, but I was constantly getting chased by the roosters. I became so terrified of them; I'd have nightmares of them coming after me and would wake up screaming! It was my Grandfather who taught me to stand my ground and kick a flogging rooster. He told me to face the rooster with my whole body and kick in the middle of its chest hard enough to send it backwards but not hard enough to seriously injure it. You stay facing the rooster with your entire body until he backs down and walks away. I was hesitant and doubtful, but soon enough I had the opportunity to try it. It worked! I have not been afraid of a rooster since I was given that knowledge.

Fast forward 40+ years: We met a man who was having issues with a very aggressive rooster. It was constantly chasing him and his neighbors and their pets, and he did not know how to stop it. He was either going to eat the rooster or give it away. He ended up giving two roosters to us. The second one wasn't a problem bird, but he didn't want the first to go alone.

Roosters have three important functions in a flock: protection, reproduction, and food foraging. A good rooster will alert his hens and protect them from predators and will lead them to good food sources. I figured we'd try to keep them since I needed a mature bird to watch over my younger birds. Before their feet ever touched our soil, I removed both roosters' spurs and had a talk with my children.

The first few days, I did all of the poultry chores to see if we were going to have dinner or a winner. It finally happened. I fed the birds and turned to walk away. I felt something hit the back of my bare leg. I turned around but could not tell who had done it. I turned away again and bam! This time, I saw the culprit. It was the aggressive roo. I faced him and waited. I missed him the first two times he flew at me but connected on the third. The kick wasn't very hard. I expected him to challenge me again. He didn't. Looking forward to the football season, I named him "Touchdown." I named the other rooster "Dallas" and my team was winning until the dog killed Dallas. The next game, my team lost to the Redskins! I think the dog is a 'skins fan! :-)

When I "feed up" (as Grandpa called it), if I see Touchdown looking at me at all, I face him with my entire body and tell him, "Don't mess with me!" Sometimes I will stretch my arms out to make myself look bigger. It's not the words but the dominant tone and stance that keeps him from challenging me again.

I have had dozens of roosters here with my older children over the years, so they already knew how to defend themselves. As soon as we acquired the new roosters, I passed down my grandfather's advice to my youngest two. For a long time, the rooster left the girls alone. Then, mid-September, Touchdown ran across three acres to go after Hannah. Hannah forgot what I had told her and ran behind Yid-dee. Emily stepped between the bird and her baby sister and kicked. The rooster ran at her again, so she kicked it again. She faced him until Touchdown ran the other way. Grandpa's advice helped the great grandchildren he never met.

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If you carry an aggressive roo, it tells him you are dominant.
This can also stop the flogging behavior. I don't expect little children to put themselves in harm's way to chase down an aggressive rooster and carry the big bird around. So, I gave mine same advice as I received as a tyke. It was fast, effective, and does not injure the bird.

If it wouldn't have backed down or been quick to learn, the roo would have went to Freezer Camp. But, it seems we have a "winner-winner not a chicken dinner" who is quick to learn! He's doing a good job leading our hens around in search of food. He stands at attention watching the yard and sky while they eat. I feel better knowing he's out there and toss him some corn now and then. He hasn't attacked the little girls since. If they stop and face him, he goes the other way.

In my 40+ years of doing this, it has worked every time except one. After we defend our legs from the roo, we continue to show dominance over it by facing him, walking in his direction until he gives ground, or by speaking to him with a dominant tone. When the rooster is behaving, we throw some grain to him to reinforce good behavior. I think the follow up is part of the reason we have been successful at keeping aggressive roosters alive where others have had to put them down for safety. 

That one rooster was a Dominique. He attacked two year old Amanda and left about 20 deep scratches up and down her small back. He never crowed again.