reading time: 4 minutes
An aggressive rooster can harm you and your chickens. When do you choose to slaughter?
Story and photo by Bruce Ingram
Last summer, my wife, Elaine, and I had just one of our Rhode Island red hens, and that hen only hatched two chicks, which we named Augie and Angie. We were especially pleased with the arrival of Auggie as we had the only rooster in the run twice and were desperate for a second rooster to grow our general flock. This largely explains why I hesitated to send Auggie back in April when he charged and tried to flog me two separate times. Both times, in self-defense, I pushed him hard as he attacked my leg. This seemed to stop his aggressive behavior towards me for a while, though Elaine was understandably afraid of entering the Auggie race.
Meanwhile, I’ve tried several standard ways to modify rooster behavior with a rogue rooster. I picked him up and carried him hard (specifically his heart and both wings) on my side. Sometimes, I would lay him against my body with his head firmly held and pointing downward. The goal of these two actions was to show who is the alpha male and legislator in the backyard. I also visited the herd frequently and was given treats, again to reinforce my role as master and provider of food. Plus, whenever I got into the race, I roamed free and showed no fear of Auggie – again to show who the alpha was. For a while, the mod seemed to work.
However, one trait of some cockerels is that they are very sexually active in their first year of cockerel – and so it was with Augie. In fact, he was so aggressive towards the hens in his run that I had to send him to the next barn to give his former ladies a break. I moved his three-year-old father, Friday, to Augie’s former domain.
However, shortly after the cock exchange, I was walking off the run when Auggie came aggressively close to the edge of the fence, lowered his head, and performed a cock crowing at me—a sure sign of hostility. Augie also continued to be steadfast in his mating efforts, which is normal with roosters. But he also had a tendency to peck roughly at his hens when they weren’t submissive – again a concern, but part of rooster behavior…to a degree.
One morning, though, Auggie exceeds acceptable mating behavior even for a cockerel. One of the chickens refused to yield and he chased it around running for more than a minute. Finally, the hen stopped, put herself in the submissive mating position, and waited for Auggie to mount her. He charged the hen and instead of mating he started pounding her on the head with his beak. The chicken collapsed in fear. Horrified, she runs to the running door, snaps, and catches Auggie who was still attacking the helpless chicken. I immediately took him into the woods where I sent him.
I do not enjoy killing any stray roosters, but I strongly believe that the main motive of chicken keepers should be to keep their flocks healthy and safe. Quite simply, Auggie broke my 3-strike rule with his attacks on me, the fence incident, and finally, frankly, most importantly, his brutalization of the chicken. For the health and safety of his flock, Augie simply had to leave the scene.
I know that killing a bird is difficult, and understandably so, for many backyard enthusiasts. For example, earlier this year, a reader of this site emailed me about a problem with a rooster that was terrorizing and attacking her chickens as well. She added that her dick was “such a good boy”. My reply was that the bird’s actions were not the actions of a good boy, and that you should at least remove that cock from the flock before it actually kills one of his chickens–and don’t think that can’t happen.
When and how to send a cockerel humanely
The ideal time to send the rooster is about half an hour before sunrise. The bird will have outgrown everything it ate the day before and will be completely sober while perched in the coop. However, there will be enough light for you to see what you’re doing.
Having taken a rooster from the roost, I brought it to our firewood and cut its neck with a sharp butcher’s knife. Even the cockerel has very thick and thick necks, and this is the fastest and most merciful way to end things.
Why do we prefer to slow cook our chickens?
Rooster meat can be a bit tough, especially if the bird is older. This problem can be solved inside a slow cooker. Covering the bird with the chicken broth, Elaine cooks our bird for 4 to 5 hours on medium.
When Elaine and I first started raising chickens, we had a very aggressive rooster that would force chickens out of their nest when he wanted to mate with them. That Roo had a favorite chicken that he would attack several times each day in order to park and ride. One day, we found the one-year-old dead in the chicken coop, her back largely devoid of feathers from the constant mating. Yes, it is true that we did not see the rooster kill this hen, but the circumstantial evidence was overwhelming.
So, by all means, before you decide to kill an overly belligerent rooster, try some behavior modification methods. But also remember the rule of three strikes and our responsibilities to our flocks as a whole.
Bruce Ingram Freelance writer and photographer. He and his wife, Elaine, co-authored Live the locavore lifestyle, a book about living off the land. Reach out to them at BruceIngramOutdoors@gmail.com.