How do I handle my aggressive cockerel?

We've had quite a few cockerels over the years and, in the main, they haven't been any problem at all. They have been good with people, good with hens and other cockerels in their flock and haven't required any "training"! But, sometimes you're unlucky and no amount of "training" will help - like my Chanticleer who was a great cockerel to the flock but he liked to attack me with his spurs which wasn't so nice - at the age of 12, I was terrified of him!


This topic often comes up in groups and forums and some people make all sorts of horrid suggestions, many of which are cruel and unnecessary. If you follow our advice below, this should hold you in good stead.


Gentle approach

Whether you have raised your own chicks or you have acquired a young or an adult cockerel, use the most gentle approach: hand feed him, spend time with him and handle him regularly so that he learns to trust you and understands that you are the alpha flock member. 


Behaviour training approach

If the gentle approach doesn't work, then you need to continue to spend time with your cockerel and also employ some new techniques to teach him that you are the alpha flock member, not him.


Please give him the respect that he deserves; remember, he is doing his job of protecting his flock. Give him his own space... just think of the bit in Dirty Dancing when Johnny says to Baby "This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don't go into yours, you don't go into mine." Anyway, I digress... Give him his own space and only enter his space if you think he looks like he's going to attack you. 


If you move quickly around your hens, they can feel unsettled. The cockerel will feel this even more so. When moving around your hens, make deliberate and slow movements. Watch him really carefully as he will often make his move when your back is turned.


If he gives off signals that he's going to attack (by lowering his body and spreading his wings out), spread your arms, stare him in the eye and step into his space. Hopefully he'll back off. If you can, catch him and carry him about for a bit every day while you do your chores. Stroke him, talk to him and touch his wattles and this will help reiterate your position as alpha in the flock. When you put him down, put your hand on his back and hold him down. This will help prove your dominance.


It's really important that you don't hurt him. Yes, it's tempting to kick him as he flies at you with his spurs out but if you hurt him he won't respect you and might attack harder next time.  The aim is to get him to respect you and your alpha position in the flock thus reducing the chance of attack.  


Stay calm, be brave and ensure everyone who tends to the flock sticks to the same rules - consistency is key.


Finally, please don't allow children to be near any cockerel without an adult present, just in case.

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