Taming Wild Roosters
The Master Rooster Tamer
There are bee charmers, snake charmers, dog whisperers, and horse whisperers -- and then there are those who can tame a rooster. From the very moment I met the rooster tamer, I was both jealous and in awe.
Admittedly, I tend to be a know-it-all, when it comes to some subjects -- and the subject of poultry was one of my areas of expertise. Highly competitive, I was being upstaged, out-witted, and humbled. It's true, the older you get, the more you realize how little you really know.
This was a chance encounter, the woman was lost and had come to me for directions. She was scheduled to speak before a group of young people in the 4-H program, who were training to show their chickens in competition. She was so fascinating to talk to, that we ended up inviting ourselves to her lecture.
Before the day was over, this seemingly less educated woman, taught me to question everything I thought I knew, about both raising poultry and taming roosters. Before her lecture was done, I had to admit to myself, she was undoubtedly one of the smartest people I've ever met. I had met ultimate master rooster tamer, and having been pecked and flopped by many an angry rooster -- I am eternally grateful.
A Long Line of Rooster Trainers
In some of my previous hubs, I've given readers a peak into the lives of my grandparents and great-grandparents. My maternal grandmother, raised chickens (and rabbits) for the commercial market.
She also raised her three grandchildren, exotic animals, designed clothing, wrote horticultural books, self-published magazines, and ran a host of other successful "work from home" enterprises -- many of them simultaneously.
My grandfather in contrast, a lawman, and fun loving Cajun -- raised game cocks for the sole purpose of winning bets, gambling being one of his vices. Both of them came from an era, where the raising of poultry was common place and a necessity. Growing up with these two influences, as a child, I spent a lot of time in chicken coops.
As a result, I've met a lot of mean roosters. Roosters that would peck you, chase small children, terrorize dogs, and fight to the death. On our ranch, most of them ended up in the cook pot when they became too aggressive, or a nuisance.
Hold Tight and Close To Your Body
Lessons in Taming The Rooster
The day we met the master rooster tamer was an enlightening day. After several hours of basic chicken anatomy, discussions on the care and feeding of chicken, and even intensive instruction in how to bathe a chicken -- she concluded the lecture with two demonstrations.
The first, I was already accomplished in -- that was the techniques to hypnotize a chicken (also works for rabbits and other animals). Most old timers are well versed in this trick, and it is a homemade "entertainment" for small children going back generations.
For those of you who are not familiar with it, you can put a chicken in a stupor by:
- Holding its head down against the ground
- Then, constantly draw an imaginary line downward in front of the chicken on the ground, with a finger (beginning at the beak and ending at a point outwards in front of the chicken)
- After awhile, most chickens will essentially play dead, or seem to be in a trance, unwilling to move as they stare at the line
- Once you stop some chickens will lay there for a short time, some will lay there for much longer
Or (my preferred method):
- Simply hold the chicken face up on its back
- Stroke the chicken from wattles to vent repeatedly
Then, concluding her lecture, the master rooster tamer shared her secrets in how to deal with a mean rooster, as she took from a cage -- a big feisty rooster, who immediately began to act aggressive, puffing himself up, charging her and some of the children participating in the demonstration.
This was her method to taming the rooster:
- She grabbed him by his legs, simultaneously with tucking him closely to her body, holding his wings securely down.
- With one finger to his beak, she gently but firmly bent his head downward
- After a short period of time, she released his head
- Each time he attempted to look up, she held his head down again
- Minutes later the rooster would not raise his head and would allow her to do pretty much anything she wanted to
- Then, when she sat him down, he would not challenge her
This technique of domination was a major revelation to me, as someone who has spent over fifty years around chickens and mean roosters. Since then, I've tried it and it works magically. The rooster who once flopped and pecked at my feet, soon gave me a wide berth whenever I was in "his territory."
Considerations Before Deciding to Raise Poultry
Poultry are relatively easy animals to raise and inexpensive to raise. However, in today's world, there are some important considerations to contemplate before you dive into raising poultry.
- Make sure that you are not violating the local laws for keeping poultry.
- This is not a learn-as-you-go task, take the time to study what is involved in raising poultry.
- Determine your end reason for raising poultry to determine the best breed for your needs.
- Be sure to take into consideration your nearest neighbors and how best to not annoy them with the sounds and sights of your flock.
Return of the Chickens
Today, it seems more and more people are contemplating raising chickens to both offset rising grocery prices, and to ensure that the chickens and eggs that they eat, are hormone free. This is no surprise when a whole (pathetic looking) chicken, now costs between $7.00 and $10.00 in our local grocery stores. The price of more popular chicken breasts has now skyrocketed to $3.99 a pound. The price of eggs has also become outrageous.
Moreover, it doesn't take a trip to the local chicken processing factory, to know the horrors of what is cut off the chicken, before it makes it's way to the meat department. Maybe, if we made it a prerequisite field trip for all, we wouldn't be eating chickens with tumors, etc. Just a thought!
Knowing that animal husbandry that was once commonly taught in the U.S. (even back in the 1950s) as part of the public school curriculum, and that subject and related subjects are now part of the past -- it occurs to me that the little that I know about raising poultry, might be a starting point for those wanting to raise chickens for the first time. This hub will concentrate on the rooster, but its companion hub will focus on raising chickens in general.
Training the Dog to Not Bother Poultry
A Word or So About Roosters and Other Pets
From the rooster's viewpoint, he is the guardian of the hens, and sometimes even the property. If you are introducing chickens and perhaps a rooster to your home for the first time, there may be concerns about how well your dog will do with this new addition to his territory. Many roosters will attack a dog and some can injure more timid or small pets.
Instinctively dogs, will sometimes kill chickens. Usually, it starts out as play, and in an unguarded instant you may have a chicken killer on your hands. A technique that has worked for me, is to force my pet to "understand" that bothering the chickens in any way, is a big "No." The first lesson is understanding the perspective of the new family addition from both the dog and poultry points of view.
Remember above all, your dog wants to please you, the leader of the pack. You need to let your "pack" know that chickens are not threats and that they are other (albeit strange) members of the pack. The first time your pet(s) meet the chickens they may be overly excited, much like a toddler when he/she first discovers a new toy. The chickens are going to feel the same way, they are going to get excited because instinctively they fear getting eaten by your dog (no matter how small). Eventually, if you handle the situation right, your dog will hopefully protect your poultry investment.
I've successfully accomplished that fusion of dog/chicken "family love" by bringing a chicken into a close quarters with my dog and placing the chicken on the dog, around the dog, etc. for a number of hours -- always maintaining command of the dog -- always firmly stating "no" if the dog showed any real interest in the chicken.
After that initial exposure training, it comes down to a matter of close supervision for a number of weeks, with remedial lessons (if necessary) and some gentle reminders, if the dog shows any excessive interest in the poultry. Never let a dog, especially a pup -- play with a chicken, chase poultry, or charge at poultry. Sooner or later, you'll end up with a chicken killer if you do.
Otherwise, some dogs and some chickens can bond very nicely, as strange as it may seem. I've had that happen, to the point of the dog only wanting to sleep with the chicken and vice versa.
Also, it's important to know that some breeds of dogs will be egg suckers, and that is harder to break a dog of than any other bad dog habit. Our Great Danes weren't interested in the poultry, and our Beagle was trainable in not chasing and killing them -- but to this day, she will sneak off and poach an egg from a nest if left unsupervised. A lot of that has to do with the dog's food aggression temperament. Food rules with Beagles, and our Beauty will even eat the chicken feed (which she clearly doesn't like by the grimaces) solely because she doesn't want the chickens to eat it.
Rooster and Chihuahua
Things to Know About Roosters Before You Buy One
- Only buy a rooster who looks very alert and isn't sleepy or lethargic
- Only buy a rooster whose feathers are shiny and mostly intact
- Only buy a rooster with a straight keel bone
- Only buy a rooster with clear and bright eyes
- Never buy a rooster or any poultry that have dull eyes or runny discharges
- Roosters with small combs are most likely a mixed breed if standard sized
- You don't need a cockerel if your goal is to raise chickens solely for eggs
- Roosters will crow way before dawn so if noise and neighbors being offended are likely to be an issue -- you may not want a rooster
- Raising chickens is a 365 days a year responsibility and you need to consider how or who will care for them should you need to be away
- Buy one rooster for every eight to twelve hens if meat is part of your reason for growing chickens or having more chicks is part of your reasoning
- Roosters who grow up together will usually not fight, and if they do -- they will most likely settle the dispute permanently with no human interference, with one being the dominate or alpha rooster
- Sometimes you will have to separate two roosters or pen one up while the other is out with the hens (usually it's just easier to get rid of one)
- Banty or Bantam roosters will peacefully cohabit with larger size roosters
Where to Buy Your Rooster
- Typically most people buy chickens and roosters from local feed stores, and co-ops. There are some hazards in doing this, as often they are not the healthiest chicks, and you are severely limited in breed selection. You are also at the mercy of chicks, who aren't sexed, meaning you might be buying more roosters than you want, or all hens.
- Some feed stores and co-ops will however, have older pullets and even roosters. Generally, you are paying far too much by purchasing them here.
- Another method to buy chickens is to have them shipped directly to you from a supplier in your state. I've done this with success, however, it's best to order them in the spring and summer, as you will have less issues with keeping them warm before they have fully developed feathers.
- Check around to see what local farms and poultry hatcheries have to offer in selections. As with anything, prices can greatly vary.
- Probably, the most overlooked place to buy chickens and other poultry is your local farm and livestock auction. Surprisingly, these auctions are held weekly even in quite urban areas, you just have to look closer to notice them. While they are primarily auctioning off cattle, sheep, etc. -- almost always they will either begin the auction or end the auction, with a secondary farm animal, farm product, and farm produce auction.
- This is my favorite way to buy poultry and in my opinion the least expensive way to either add to, or start raising poultry. Here, you will have an opportunity to actually talk to the original owner of the chickens or roosters and be able to know what it has been fed, if it has been free ranged, or cage raised, etc.
Anatomy of A Rooster
Knowing the basic anatomy of a rooster will help you care for your bird.
Body Parts of A Rooster (Cockerel)
Bird Comb Identification
The combs of roosters are breed specific, just like the eyes and beaks. There are six different types of rooster combs to understand for identification:
- Single Comb
- Rose Comb
- Pea Comb
- Strawberry Comb
- Cushion Comb
- Buttercup Comb
Parts of a Chicken Wing
There are eight parts to a chicken wing that are important to know, partly because sometimes it becomes necessary to clip the wings of a rooster. There are sometimes mixed reasons to clip the wings of a rooster, usually to keep them from flying off.
This involves using very sharp scissors to cut off the first ten flight feathers of one wing only. These are the primary coverts. There are ten of them and with the bird's wing spread out, they are easy to distinguish. Usually they are a different color than the other feathers. The rooster is going to grow the feathers back in a couple of months (younger roosters), or it may take about a year (for older roosters).
There are some precautions with doing this, as if you are free ranging your rooster and hens, you may make him more vulnerable to predators. Also, his feathers that were clipped -- may be less likely to fall out, during normal molt periods. This will necessitate you to giving a hand in this natural endeavor.
Large Breed Chickens and Roosters (Standard Chickens)
Standard roosters or large breed chickens (and roosters) are the best pick for those who was primarily interested in having both eggs and for meat. There are six types of Standard Roosters, also known as Large Breed:
- Plymouth Rock
- Rhode Islands
- Jersey Giant
- New Hampshires
- Sicilian Buttercups
- Polish (Bearded & Non-Bearded)
All Other Standard Breeds
- Old English
- Naked Neck
Small Breed Chickens and Roosters (Bantams)
A Bantam or small breed chicken is from one fourth to one half the size of a regular chicken. If your goal is primarily to have lots of eggs, bantams are better providers of more eggs. They also make better pets and do well around children. There are five types of small purebred chickens, or otherwise known as purebred bantams:
- Old English
Single Comb Clean Legged
- Jersey Giants
- Naked Neck
- New Hampshire
- Plymouth Rock
- Rhode Island
Rose Comb Clean Legged
- antwerp Belgians
- Red Caps
- Rhode Island
All Other Comb Clean Legged
- Sicilian Buttercups
- Booted Bantams (when bearded called D'Uccle)