However, he sometimes challenges me for dominance. This seems silly since he is so overmatched, but it is what roosters do.
Since I don't want to make him into a delicious meal, I need to assert my rank when he gets feisty. His "about to attack" signals are:
- rush for the food
- crazy chicken eye
- stretch and flap wings
- fluff up his neck feathers
- crow at me
- move toward me quickly
- flog with wings
- kick with spurs
- mount a hen in front of me (another form of dominance display)
Most of the time I haze him using these techniques:
- point, call his name, and warn him not to try anything
- speed walk, following him around for a while
- step toward him
- wiggle my fingers
- raise my arms over my head
- stand between him and the food
- stand between him and the hens
- follow him around with a big green pole used for guiding the flock
- point and yell "Get a room"
Usually this puts him in his place. Once, he flogged and kicked so I isolated him in the tractor out of sight from the flock. They were briefly perturbed, but he was seriously distressed. The poor boy cried all night. Next morning I let him back with the flock, to everybody's relief. Especially mine.
Since then he only makes token challenges and backs down at any response. Even so, I never turn my back on him.
Update: Here is a link to Mother Earth News with another viewpoint & technique, posted by Sorin174 on BackYardChickens.com.
Update: Here is a post (#45) from BackYardChickens.com where member Beekissed quotes another member's summary of an animal imprinting study.
Update: BYC user KlaHaYa Gardens advocates stalking an aggressive bird at a quick pace. This idea came from observing how peacocks stalk aggressive birds in a mixed flock. Seems like a great idea, and may be why the "step toward him" mini-chases I did were fairly effective. I plan to add this to my bag of tricks.
Update: Since the deaths of two hens upset the pecking order the other day, he has been testing me. I maintain the status quo by calmly stepping toward him until he steps back, or pointing at him. When he crows by me I wave and say "I hear you Mr. Big" and he backs down.
Update: Many people suggest letting him attack my foot or letting him attack a broom as an alternative approach. The problem is that this is no solution at all, just a passive defense. Unless aggressive behavior is prevented, you risk getting hurt if you let your guard down and you risk getting other people or children hurt. It is much better, in my opinion, to train the rooster to be Beta rooster instead of Alpha rooster. Likewise, everybody that comes near the flock should behave as Alpha.
Update: Mr. Big attacked me yesterday after I let them out of the coop later than usual. I had just let them out and turned my back. Doh! I chased him into the coop and stuck him in chicken jail for a while. That only got the chickens riled up, so I took him out and held him under my arm, stroking his neck, and pushing his head down. I did this for 10 minutes in front of the hens, who clucked their disapproval. He looked so humiliated, I thought he was going to cry.
Update: Mr. Big did not approve of my carrying a broody hen off the nest and tried to jump me. One day of quickly stalking him followed by preemptive admonitions when handling the broody kept him in line. By the time a chick hatched he was more interested in breakfast than defending her virtue.