Other Animals


Aggressive Rooster Behavior
Help for aggressive roosters that attack people, fight with others, or are rough when breeding hens--with photos & pictures.

Why shorten a rooster's spurs?

Trimming, removing outer shells or blunting roosters' spurs can help with several problems:

  • Being aggressive & attacking people: Trimming or removing a rooster's spurs
    can help make it less dangerous and cocky.
    • Trimming toenails & filing tip of beak can help, too.
  • Roosters fighting too much & aggression with each other: When roosters
    are persistently over-aggressive & fighting, trimming or blunting one or more roo's spurs can help reduce injuries.
    • Trimming toenails & filing tip of beak can help, too.
  • Hurting hens & giving them bare backs: If a rooster is causing hens to get bald backs from breeding, trimming spurs might help alleviate injury & damage to hens.
    Roosters spurs curved up
    • Trimming toenails & filing tip of beak help, too. "Chicken saddles" for the hens also help.
  • Less hurt when introducing new roosters: Rooster behavior will be aggressive when meeting new roosters.
  • Comfort / difficulty walking: Some roosters' spurs grow so long and at angles
    that make it difficult for a rooster to walk comfortably.
Reasons to NOT trim or remove roosters spurs
  • The rooster will be less able to protect the flock & himself from dogs, hawks, & other predators.
  • The rooster will be less able to protect the hens & himself from other overly-aggressive roosters.
  • The rooster will have a harder time running off cats or other birds that try to pester the chickens.

ANATOMY OF A SPUR

  • There is a sensitive "quick" center (similar to the "quick" in dogs' toenails) in the base section of a spur.
    • It extends through 1/3 to 2/3 of the length of the spur.
    • Inside light-colored spurs, the "quick" can be seen vaguely as a darker, reddish area.
  • The spur's base section where it connects to the rooster's leg IS also sensitive, and it is NOT designed to be flexible.
    • When working on a spur, BE CAREFUL TO NOT BEND IT too much toward or away from the leg--or you will create pain and possibly some damage.
  • The layers in the outer shell of the entire length of the spur are NOT sensitive.


How to remove or trim the spur with minimal pain and without seriously hurting the rooster.

"HOT POTATO" METHOD OF REMOVING THE OUTER SHELL OF A ROOSTER'S SPURS

Removing a spur's outer shell results in the spur being shorter and smaller than if the spurs end is simply cut or trimmed. The "Hot Potato" method helps minimize pain, and some believe it helps minimize bleeding & speed up healing. Almost no bleeding occurs during during shell removal, though the "quick" / core will bleed a little if bumped within a few days after removal. A new protective outer spur shell / "casing" will begin hardening over the "quick" within a couple weeks, but will take another few weeks to reach normal thickness.


How the spur's "quick" looks after the spur sheath/shell is removed. Original outer spur shell is held in pliers at right.
Note: The reason this rooster looks wet is he'd just had a bath.

HELPFUL TIP FOR HANDLING ROOSTERS

You can gently wrap a double-folded bath towel around a rooster's body during handling to lower stress for him and you.
  • Helps keep his breastbone skin from getting stretched painfully while being carried (especially if he is big).
  • Gives the rooster a comforting feeling similar to being snuggled under a "wing".
  • Gives you a protective shield to hold up if a rooster tries to bite.
    • Note of reassurance: Few roosters will try to bite while being actually held.
  • Can help you keep his wings close to his body so he can't struggle as vigorously.
    • Take care to not bend the quills of large feathers too much--These have some sensitivity & can be damaged.

STEPS IN SPUR REMOVAL

  1. Prepare a clean area with soft pine shavings a few inches deep that the rooster can live in a few days after spurs are removed.
    • If rooster normally lives with other roosters, it is best if he be protected from them at least a week after treatment (or a few days if he is the head rooster). He should be kept in a cage or pen inside the same coop. That way the roosters keep contact with each other and will be milder in re-establishing the pecking order when he's turned back loose.
    • The spurs will be extra sensitive to cold after removal. If removing spurs during cold weather, provide a heat lamp if possible.

  2. Soften the connecting skin at the base of the spurs.
    • Fill a pan or deep bowl with warm water. Hold the rooster in your arms with his legs and spurs in the water for a couple minutes. This will soften the skin and loosen any dirt on his legs. Use an old toothbrush and mild soap to do a basic cleaning of the rooster's legs and spurs. Rinse off.
      Soaking rooster's legs








      Note: Photo was taken on a chilly day.
      Gloves are not usually necessary.



    • Another alternative is to put an ointment such as Vaseline or Neosporin (the kind WITHOUT pain relief ingredients--Those can be harmful to chickens) on the skin around the base of the spur a few hours before removing it.

  3. Meanwhile, microwave a raw potato 6-8 minutes until it is cooked. Let cool off about a minute if it is extremely hot.

  4. Sit down and lay the rooster on his back in your lap, with his head slightly lower than the top of your knees. Hold him there by gently squeezing him with your thighs.
    • Wrapping with a bath towel can help reduce 2 difficulties:
        • While being turned over or held in this position, a rooster is at risk for the quills of his feathers getting painfully twisted or broken, particularly on his wings & tail.
        • Pressure is put on a bird's respiratory system in this position. Padding facilitates less stress on breathing, especially for heavier birds.
        Or you may try keeping the rooster upright instead, & holding him close against your body while you work on his spurs.

    Holding rooster to restrain
    Note: Unlike the photo, it is much better if a rooster can be cushioned in a bath towel before you lay him on your lap.

  5. Use a hand towel to pick up the hot potato and spear one of his spurs almost completely into the potato, or slice into the potato & wrap the halves around the rooster's spur. Wrap a washcloth or corner of the towel around his leg next to the potato to protect his leg from getting burned. After 1 minute, pull the potato off the spur.
    Spur being inserted into hot, cooked potato.

  6. Use a regular pair of pliers to gently grip the base of the spur. Gently twist the spur in back and forth (clockwise and counter-clockwise) movements. (Be careful to not bend the spur at an angle too much, because that would damage the base of the "quick" and hurt the roo.) The hard outer sheath of the spur will twist loose after 2 to 6 twists. Carefully lift the sheath straight off the sensitive inner "quick."

    Spur sheath being lifted off inner "quick" of spur after gently being twisted loose.

  7. Microwave the potato a couple minutes to thoroughly reheat it, or cook a new potato. Then repeat Steps 5-6 to remove the other spur sheath.

  8. Put the rooster in his recovery area.

  9. A shortened spur is more vulnerable. Over the next several weeks, if you have to pick up or handle the rooster, take extra care. If you push hard against a spur, or he hits one hard while struggling, the rooster will feel pain and possibly bleed out the end of the spur.
    • If the spur bleeds quite a bit, pat white flour or blood-stop powder on the tip. Then you will probably need to hold the rooster and gently pinch the end of the spur a couple minutes to stop bleeding. Then apply more flour or powder. Antiseptics are not usually needed. The spur will heal within a few days.
    Regrowth
    • After removing their outer shells, spurs will gradually grow long again. After several months, they will reach their original length.
    • If you remove spurs' sheaths regularly, they will develop a shorter normal length.