If you’ve been following the story of Pat, my free–range rooster, then you may remember that he recently started getting a bit aggressive. The little turd bit my sister–which was funny. Kind of. But then he bit me. Which was not at all funny.
His behavior escalated from there. He used to greet me each time I went outside by running toward me as fast as his little rooster feet could carry him, like a tiny, feathered velociraptor. It was adorable and giggle-inducing. He would stop less than a foot away, sometimes way up in my personal space, and cock his head to look up at me with his orange button eye.
I never knew what he wanted, really. He made it clear he didn’t want me to pet him. Food? Sometimes I’d give him a handful of cat food or a cookie. And he’d peck at it, but then he’d leave the rest of it so he could follow me around. I guess maybe he just craved conversation.
Chickens are surprisingly easy to talk to.
But then Pat began to change. Instead of his usual greeting, he would run up to me and peck the heck out of my work boots. It didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t exactly heartwarming either. After several days of this, he added a new move. First, he’d peck the boots. Then he’d grab my pant leg and shake it–vigorously.
I didn’t know what I had done. Was he mad at me? Was he trying to challenge me for dominance? Did he want to break up with me?
To find the answer, I turned to Google. The internet’s advice for dealing with an aggressive rooster largely centered around making chicken soup. A few other experts suggested I pick him up and hold him when he got aggressive. Um…no, thank you. I prefer to keep my face intact.
One site suggested I back away–and offer him food. According to this author, he was treating me like I was another rooster. Since roosters don’t feed each other, giving him food would dispel his illusion. This advice seemed to work, at least for the moment.
On the final morning of Pat’s freedom, I opened his shed door and out hurled a pugnacious velociraptor, running full speed on ridiculous bird legs. He lunged for my pant leg. I took two steps back. He paused. We looked at each other. “Come along, Pat,” I said, leading him to the coop. He followed dutifully, as if nothing had happened. I pushed open the door and led him inside. And, just like that, Pat rejoined his flock.
I think maybe that’s all he wanted. He seems happy in there. One of the other roosters died recently, so there’s a little less competition now. The others seem to have made a place for Pat in the pecking order, albeit near the bottom.
He still greets me when I step inside the coop–sometimes.