Cock-A-Doodle Do’s and Don’ts

What animal is notorious for its use in illegal fighting, is domesticated yet widely deemed dangerous to children, and is outlawed in some cities and towns? We’re not talking about pit bulls. We’re talking about roosters. It’s true—cockerels get a bad rap for their aggressive tendencies. But Andrea Martin, owner of Black Thistle Farm in Massachusetts, is working to salvage the reputations of these feathered fellas. Martin, who is also a professor of writing and sustainability at Worcester State University, is the brains behind ‘Backyard Chicken Talk,’ an enlightening and entertaining blog on the cock-a-doodle do’s and don’ts of chicken and rooster keeping.

Raising chickens can be tough, especially if you add roosters to your flock. Often, fowl foster parents give up on their belligerent birds and surrender them to other farms, or even the broiler.

Luckily for frustrated keepers and their feathered dependents, Martin’s ‘Backyard Chicken Talk’ blog provides plenty of guidance on how to avoid bird burn-out.

For example, if your rooster attacks every time you approach, Martin suggests trying to become ‘one of the flock’ by learning to understand your rooster’s verbal and body language. Being able to distinguish a loving nudge from a forceful shove and knowing how to praise good behavior can go a long way toward improving your rooster-human dynamic, explains Martin. Chickens are descendants of the wily junglefowl and hard-wired to ensure the survival of their species by protecting egg-laying hens, so your rooster is more likely to behave aggressively if he perceives you as a threat to his girls. That’s one reason why the poultry pro advises against trying to temper your bird’s bad attitude by castrating or de-spurring him, which she calls “a waste of money, and cruel.”

Martin also points out that creating a peaceful environment for your birds isn’t just good for your chickens—it’s in your best interest, too. According to the expert keeper, hens are very susceptible to stress, which is known to weaken the immune system and affect the nutritional quality of their eggs.

But the main takeaway from ‘Backyard Chicken Talk’ is that chickens are sentient animals that, with the right care, have the ability to be loving, sweet, and intelligent. “Breed does not play a role in determining a rooster’s behavior.” explains Martin. “It’s all personality.”

So if you want fresh eggs and a happy flock, don’t go blaming your chicken-keeping challenges on the roo. Instead, check out Martin’s blog for more advice on how you can change your own behavior to keep your birds healthy and carefree.

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