Rooster Training Case Study
I would like to introduce you to a young fellow named Vinny. He lives with his new family and all was going well…until… Vinny discovered he had some hidden skills.
All cockerels spar with their buddies, and with un-amused hens. This play behavior teaches the birds how to relate to others, what is acceptable in society and what gets you in trouble.
Some cockerels try out these new skills in cross-species sparring tests. The other species can be the barn cat, the dog, or you! Some roosters, like Vinny, feel uncomfortable as flock leader and work from a lack of confidence. For these cockerels, we want to build their confidence while we show them that “attacks” are not OK.
Animals are very rational, and they try behaviors to see what happens. They are like little scientists! Sometimes their “experiments” are not so endearing. Cockerels sometimes get confused and anxious, because they are not quite sure how they are supposed to behave. In a natural setting, their behavior would be swiftly and clearly shaped by older hens and dominant, older roosters. Mature roosters teach the cockerels how to act with clear signals and unwavering consistency.
It’s this confusion that turns some young males that have lived in loving and wonderful relationships with humans to “suddenly” become kung fu fighters. Just like kids, we want to keep loving on them…but, we NEED to train them. But, unlike with kids, teaching cockerels to grow up into perfect citizens is pretty easy!
Vinny’s friend, Anne, tells his story:
Vinny was given to me by a friend at work that had too many roosters for the amount of hens that he had. He purchased a straight run of Asian Blues and had four roosters in the group. Vinny was the lowest in the pecking order and he gave him to me because he wanted him to have a good home.I always wanted a rooster because I like the crowing, but didn’t know anything else about them. Vinny was 4 months old when we got him last August, and he’s almost a year now. John brought him over in a cat carrier one evening after our hens had gone to roost. We let him out in the coop and he immediately jumped up with the older hens, on top of the nesting boxes. He was huge – I was expecting something much smaller. He began bossing the girls around immediately, giving them little pecks and making noises.We watched for a while and then when things seemed to settle down, closed the door of the coop. I think I was intimidated by his size right from the beginning [Anne’s body language inadvertently told Vinny that she was not capable of being a leader. Vinny took over that role – because someone had too. Someone has to make decisions, because animals still live in a “life or death” world].
He would just walk right over, attack, and then walk away with the girls. In the morning, after cleaning the coop, I wouldn’t exit if he was standing in front of, or near the door. This was always a sign that he was contemplating a move. I used treats as a way to distract him and then would make my escape fast. I will say that he never bothered me when I was throwing scratch out in the morning, it was only after I was finished the chore of cleaning up the coop, giving them more treats, and then leaving to go back inside. I loved watching him from a distance and liked how he interacted with the girls, but I wished that I could get over my fear of him.