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Do Chickens Attack Humans

Chicken Noises- How to Understand What They Mean

If you’ve ever mentioned that you have or want to have chickens in your backyard, someone is bound to mention the time they got attacked by a mean rooster as a kid.

But why do chickens attack humans? And is there anything you can do to prevent it?

We cover all of that and more in this post. So, let’s get to it!

Understanding Chicken Behavior (And Its Aggression)

Chickens exhibit unique social behaviors within their flocks.

Understanding these behaviors is crucial for anyone involved in poultry care.

Social hierarchies, communication patterns, and the influence of environmental factors all shape chicken behavior.

While chickens are generally peaceful animals, instances of aggression do occur.

Roosters, in particular, may display different levels of aggression compared to hens.

Protective instincts during breeding seasons and aggressive behavior triggered by fear or stress are key aspects to explore.

Pecking Order in Chickens

Social Hierarchy

Chickens establish a social hierarchy known as the pecking order.

This hierarchy determines the rank and status of each chicken within the flock.

The pecking order is not arbitrary; it is established through a series of interactions where chickens assert dominance or submit to others.

This order provides a sense of stability and structure within the group.

Within the pecking order, dominance and subordination are clearly defined.

Dominant chickens exhibit assertive behaviors, including pecking at subordinate members, controlling access to resources, and claiming preferred roosting spots.

Subordinate chickens, on the other hand, display submissive behaviors, such as avoiding direct eye contact, yielding space, and allowing the dominant chickens to assert their authority.

Aggression among chickens often stems from challenges within the established pecking order.

A chicken may become aggressive to assert dominance, defend its rank, or challenge the authority of others.

The disruption of the pecking order, whether due to the introduction of new members, changes in flock dynamics, or external stressors, can trigger aggressive behavior among chickens.

Some chicken breeds are naturally more aggressive than others, so keep this in mind when choosing the breeds for your backyard and what that will mean in terms of friendliness.

Do not mix friendly breeds with aggressive ones; they may fight to serious injury or even death.

If you want a kind flock, look for breeds labeled as docile, beginner-friendly, or child-friendly.

How Chickens Communicate

Knowing how chickens communicate can tell you a lot about what is going on in the flock, and it can help you avoid a chicken faux pas that could set you up for an attack.

Verbal Communication

Chickens, despite their seemingly simple demeanor, are surprisingly adept communicators.

Their repertoire of clucks, squawks, and body language is a sophisticated means of conveying information within the flock.

You are unlikely to accidentally “say” the wrong thing around a chicken to provoke an attack.

The most common form of communication, clucking, serves various functions.

It ranges from expressing contentment during foraging to signaling the discovery of food. Different tones and pitches convey different messages.

Loud and assertive, squawking is often a warning sign.

Chickens may squawk to alert the flock about potential danger, such as the presence of predators or an unwelcome intruder.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication is where people usually mess up and accidentally challenge or threaten their chickens, which may provoke an attack.

Chickens are adept at conveying messages through body language.

Observing their movements and gestures provides insights into their emotions and intentions.

Erect feathers indicate excitement or agitation, while flattened feathers suggest submission or fear.

People don’t have feathers, but we can puff ourselves up or make ourselves look smaller, which may give chickens the wrong message.

Wing flapping is a multi-purpose gesture used for both communication and balance.

It can signal excitement, alertness, or preparation for takeoff.

Mutual preening is a social bonding activity. Chickens groom each other as a sign of camaraderie and trust within the flock.

Raising the hackles is the most common “oopsie daisy” that may prompt a chicken to challenge you.

The hackles are the feathers around the neck of the chicken; raising these feathers and getting too close to the opposing chicken are indications that a chicken wants to fight.

Invading a chicken’s personal space, approaching too quickly, reaching to the chicken, or puffing yourself up around their eye level is seen as a threat and a challenge.

Don’t do this around your chickens; be sure your smaller kids don’t accidentally do this, either.

Black Star Chicken in Flock

Differences in Behavior Between Chicken Breeds

Some chicken breeds are more aggressive than others.

Chickens closer to their wild heritage are more likely to have the urge to fight or protect themselves.

Human Socialization and Interactions

Chickens who are well-socialized with humans and consistently have good interactions are likelier to be kind to people and not attack.

Building trust is crucial in any relationship with animals, including chickens.

If chickens are not allowed to develop trust in their human caretakers, they may perceive interactions as potential threats.

Spending time with chickens, offering treats, and using positive reinforcement techniques can help build trust and reduce the likelihood of defensive reactions.

Hens vs. Roosters

Roosters are far more likely to show aggression towards people because they are instinctive to protect their flock and territory.

While hens can flog or attack people, it happens less often and with much less severity due to their lack of sharp spurs.


Much like people, overcrowded chickens are prone to getting cranky and picking fights with one another or people.

Chickens need at least three square feet of space per individual in their coop and at least ten inches of space on the bars to roost.

Outside, they each need fifteen to twenty-five square feet of space per bird.

If your chickens don’t have ample space, they will soon become stressed and irritated, which can lead to attacks.

Introducing new chickens to an existing flock without proper integration measures can lead to territorial disputes and aggressive behavior, even if the chickens should have enough personal space.

The unfamiliarity and disruption of the established pecking order may result in hackle-raising and aggressive interactions.

Gradual introductions, providing separate spaces initially, and monitoring the dynamics are essential for a smooth integration process.

Fear or Stress

A fearful animal is dangerous, and that logic still applies to chickens.

Chickens are naturally wary of sudden movements and loud noises.

They are nervous creatures, always paying attention to the world around them.

Abrupt gestures or loud sounds can startle them, causing stress and anxiety.

When chickens feel threatened or frightened, they may raise their hackles as a sign of agitation.

Consistently exposing chickens to such stimuli can contribute to heightened stress levels and, in extreme cases, lead to defensive aggression.

Competition for resources, such as food and water, can lead to aggressive behavior among chickens.

Ensuring an adequate and evenly distributed supply of resources within the flock helps reduce stress and potential conflicts.

Protection of Chicks or Nest

Mother hens protect their chicks, and disturbing nesting hens or mishandling their offspring can lead to defensive aggression.

It’s crucial to approach nesting areas carefully and avoid unnecessary interference to maintain peace within the flock.

What Causes Chickens to Attack?

Chickens are generally docile animals, but several factors can lead to aggressive behavior towards humans.

Threat Perception

Chickens are territorial animals, and they may become aggressive when they feel their territory is threatened.

This can happen when humans invade their space, especially if the chickens perceive a person as a potential threat or intruder.

Chickens are more likely to attack strangers than they are their everyday caretakers.

Protective Behaviors

Roosters feel compelled to protect their space and their flock, while hens are naturally inclined to keep their nests, eggs, and chicks safe from predators.

If you infringe on any of these things, then you are more likely to invoke an attack.

Negative Experiences with People

Chickens not adequately socialized with humans during their early stages may view humans as threats.

Proper socialization, including gentle handling and positive interactions, is essential to build trust and prevent aggressive behavior.

Certain human actions can be perceived as provocative by chickens. This includes chasing, cornering, or attempting to grab them.

Such actions can cause fear and anxiety, prompting defensive reactions from the chickens.

Establishing The Pecking Order

Legal and Ethical Considerations of Having Aggressive Chickens

While rare, chicken attacks can be fatal for humans.

Chickens can also kill other chickens and small pets, especially cats and small breeds of dogs.

If you have frequent visitors, small children, small pets, or fragile guests, it might be wise to remove aggressive chickens, especially if you are free-ranging your birds.

Aggressive chickens pose a potential risk to public safety.

If a chicken attacks a person, the owner may be liable for any injuries caused. Laws regarding liability may vary depending on the jurisdiction.

Some areas have regulations regarding the keeping and control of animals.

Aggressive behavior in chickens may be subject to these regulations, and owners may be required to take measures to ensure public safety.

Aggressive behavior, especially if it leads to noise disturbances or complaints from neighbors, may be subject to nuisance laws.

Owners may need to address such issues to comply with local ordinances.

Ethical ownership involves proactive measures to prevent and address aggressive behavior in chickens.

This may include providing adequate space, proper nutrition, and opportunities for natural behaviors.

Allowing chickens to live in conditions that contribute to aggression, such as overcrowded or unsanitary environments, may violate animal cruelty laws.

Providing proper care and living conditions is essential to comply with these laws.

Ethical considerations extend to breeding practices.

Breeding for temperament and selecting chickens that exhibit less aggressive behavior contributes to the overall welfare of the animals.

What To Do With Chickens That Attack Humans

I usually don’t see the value in keeping and feeding a chicken who threatens people.

I would rather use the space and resources to keep a docile, loving chicken that will continue to produce more sweet chicks that are not a threat to humans.

Every operation is different, though, and you may find a solution that makes sense for you to keep more aggressive birds.

You May Be Able to Train Them

Usually, you will not succeed in training a chicken not to attack people.

Once a chicken has learned to chase or flog a person, it will not stop.

You will find a lot of advice to hurt the chicken back, but this rarely stops the behavior.

It just hurts the animal, which is not okay, and sets you up for the legal ramifications of animal abuse.

With that said, some people have successfully trained a chicken not to attack, and that is worth the effort if you are attached to that bird and are determined to keep them.

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Keep Them Penned Up

If you know that a bird is mean, keep them in the coop and run, and do not let them free-range where they could interact with visitors or guests.

Ensure you have enough space in their chicken run, and consider adding chicken tunnels for extra enrichment time.

Humanely Remove the Spurs

Roosters have spurs that hurt if you get flogged and struck by the spurs.

You can trim the spurs much like a fingernail.

Use clippers or sharp trimmers to clip off small pieces of the spurs until they reach the bluntness you desire.

You can also use a nail file, which is even safer, albeit a slower method.

Always have blood-stop powder or cornstarch on hand when you do this, just in case you trim too far.

Never rip or twist the rooster’s spurs off; that is incredibly painful and inhumane.


If you have a mean rooster, I believe it is best to call the rooster.

There’s always the option of giving the bird away to someone willing to keep it, but the best option is usually to euthanize or eat the chicken.

Not only will that prevent a bad accident or injury, but it will also prevent more generations of this nasty behavior.

We have several guides on how to kill and process a chicken, which is a helpful skill to know if you intend to raise chickens.

Keep Them If They Are Exceptional

Suppose you have an extraordinary chicken with great genetics who is protective of the flock, smart, and an asset to your backyard or breeding program but is prone to occasional aggression.

In that case, it might be worth it to you to keep the chicken.

For these instances, set up your property so the chicken cannot hurt small pets, children, or visitors.

This keeps people and animals safe and protects you from legal issues.

Typically, if a rooster is aggressive towards people, they are even more so with actual predators.

This can be an asset if your area has smaller predators, such as stray cats or dogs who like to chase chickens.

Your mean rooster may do a good job of keeping the flock safe and be willing to sacrifice himself if needed.

Do Chickens Attack Humans: Before You Go…

In conclusion, while chickens are generally gentle creatures, certain circumstances may lead to defensive behaviors.

Understanding chicken behavior, respecting their space, and providing proper care are crucial for fostering a harmonious relationship.

Sometimes, making an exception for a mean animal might make sense.

Many times, though, responsible ownership means removing or culling that bird to protect yourself, friends, family, visitors, and the rest of your flock.

Ultimately, the decision is yours, and strong arguments exist for your choice.

Ultimately, you know what is best for your chickens and home.


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