Do Chickens Attack Humans? or is it a Myth?

If you are thinking of keeping chickens on your homestead or in your backyard, you might be wondering if they pose any threat to you or your family. Chickens are generally docile and friendly animals that can provide you with a sustainable source of eggs and meat, but can they become aggressive and attack humans? 

Chickens can become aggressive and attack humans, but this does not mean all chickens are aggressive or dangerous. Most chicken attacks on humans are by roosters protecting their flock, but hens can also be aggressive. You can rectify the aggressive behavior in chickens with various methods.

One frequent question that arises among homesteaders, especially those with small children, is whether chickens can pose a threat to humans. Are there instances where these seemingly innocent birds may turn aggressive and attack humans? We will explore this topic and provide a comprehensive guide for homesteaders on understanding and managing chicken behavior to minimize potential risks.

Can Chickens Attack Humans?

In some cases, chickens can attack humans and cause injuries or distress. We will explore why chickens attack humans, how to understand their behavior, what factors influence their aggression, how to spot signs of aggression in chickens, how to prevent and deal with attacks, and how to choose the right chicken breeds for your situation.

Roosters cause most chicken attacks, but you can get certain individual hens that have an aggressive nature and will also attack humans.

Roosters can be very territorial and assertive, especially during the breeding season. They may see humans as potential threats or rivals and try to chase them away or peck at them. Roosters can also attack other roosters if they feel challenged or threatened.

Chickens, or hens, can also attack humans if they feel stressed, scared, threatened, or provoked. For example, if you try to pick up a chicken that is not used to being handled, it may try to scratch or peck you to escape.

If you approach a hen sitting on eggs or chicks, she may try to defend them from you. If you feed your chickens treats by hand, they may get too excited and peck at your fingers.

Chickens can also attack humans as a result of selective breeding or genetics. Some chicken breeds have been bred for fighting or aggression, such as gamefowl or fighting cocks.

These breeds have sharp spurs on their legs and strong instincts to attack anything that moves. They can cause serious injuries to humans and other animals with their spurs and beaks.

Understanding Chicken Behavior

It is important to understand why chickens behave the way they do to prevent and deal with chicken attacks.

Chickens are social animals that live in flocks with a hierarchy known as the pecking order. The pecking order determines who can access food, water, nesting space, and mates.

The most dominant chicken is at the top of the pecking order, and the most submissive one is at the bottom.

The pecking order is established through various behaviors such as pecking, chasing, fighting, and crowing. These behaviors are natural and normal for chickens and help them maintain order and harmony in the group.

However, sometimes these behaviors can escalate into aggression and violence if there is an imbalance or disruption in the flock.

Factors Influencing Chicken Aggression

Many factors can influence how aggressive your chickens are towards you or each other. Some of these factors include the following.

  • The chicken breed. Some breeds are more aggressive than others due to their genetics or selective breeding. For example, gamefowl breeds are more likely to attack than egg-laying breeds.
  • Gender of the chicken. Males birds tend to be more aggressive than females due to their hormones and mating instincts. Roosters can be especially aggressive during the breeding season when they compete for hens.
  • Age of the chicken. Younger chickens tend to be more aggressive than older ones as they try to establish their position in the pecking order. Older chickens may also become more aggressive if they feel threatened by younger ones.
  • Space available to your flock. Chickens need enough space to roam freely and comfortably without feeling crowded or stressed. They may become more aggressive towards each other or humans if they don’t have enough space.
  • Food availability. Chickens need enough food and water to meet their nutritional needs and avoid hunger or thirst. If the flock doesn’t have enough food or water, they may become more aggressive towards each other or humans.
  • The health of the chickens. Chickens that are sick or injured may become more aggressive due to pain or fear. They may also become more vulnerable to attacks from other chickens.
  • A stressful environment. Chickens exposed to stressors such as loud noises, predators, extreme weather, parasites, or unfamiliar objects may become more aggressive due to fear or anxiety.
  • Personality. Chickens have individual personalities that can affect how they interact with each other or humans. Some chickens may be more friendly, curious, timid, or dominant than others.

Signs of Aggression in Chickens

It is crucial to identify and recognize the signs of aggression in chickens so that you can intervene before they escalate into attacks. Some of the signs of aggression in chickens include:

  • Pecking. Pecking is a common behavior in chickens that can be used for communication, grooming, exploration, or dominance. However, if the pecking is hard, frequent, or aimed at sensitive areas such as the eyes, comb, or wattles, it can be a sign of aggression.
  • Chasing. Chasing is another common behavior in chickens that can be used for play, exercise, or dominance. However, if the chasing is fast, relentless, or accompanied by pecking or crowing, it can be a sign of aggression.
  • Fighting. Fighting is a more serious form of aggression in chickens that involves physical contact such as biting, scratching, kicking, or spurring. Fighting can cause injuries or death to the chickens involved and should be stopped as soon as possible.
  • Crowing. Crowing is a vocalization roosters use to announce their presence, attract hens or warn of danger. However, if the crowing is loud, frequent, or directed at humans or other roosters, it can be a sign of aggression.
  • Posturing. Posturing is the body language that chickens use to display their mood, intention, or status. Some of the postures that indicate aggression include:
    • Fluffing. Fluffing is when a chicken raises its feathers to make itself look bigger, more imposing, and more intimidating. It can also be a sign of excitement or fear.
    • Dropping. Dropping is when a chicken lowers its head and body to the ground and spreads its wings and tail. It can be a signal of submission or readiness to fight.
    • Ruffling. Ruffling is when a chicken shakes its feathers to eliminate dust or parasites. It can also be a sign of irritation or annoyance.
    • Fixated staring. Staring is when a chicken fixes its eyes on another chicken or human. It can be a sign of curiosity or a challenge.

Understanding And Preventing Attacks

The best way to prevent chicken attacks is to understand why they happen and how to avoid them. Here are some key tips to help you prevent chicken attacks.

  • Choose the right breed. If you want to keep chickens and minimize aggression, choose docile and friendly breeds such as Orpingtons, Australorps, Silkies, or Cochins. Avoid breeds known to be aggressive or territorial, such as gamefowl, fighting cocks, or Asils.
  • Limit the number of roosters. If you want to keep roosters for breeding purposes, limit the number of roosters to one per flock or one per ten hens. This will reduce the competition and conflict among the roosters and prevent them from attacking you or each other.
  • Provide enough space. Ensure your chickens have enough space to roam freely and comfortably without feeling crowded or stressed. Provide them with at least 10 square feet of coop space and 4 square feet of run space per bird. Add more space if you have large breeds or roosters.
  • Provide enough food and water. Ensure your chickens have enough food and water to meet their nutritional needs and avoid hunger or thirst. Provide them with fresh, clean, and accessible food and water at all times. Use multiple feeders and waterers to prevent crowding and fighting.
  • Provide enough enrichment. Make sure your chickens have enough enrichment to keep them busy and happy. Provide them with perches, nesting boxes, dust baths, toys, treats, and fresh greens. Rotate the items regularly to prevent boredom and boredom-related aggression.
  • Maintain good health. Ensure your chickens are healthy and free from diseases, injuries, parasites, or stressors. Check your chickens regularly for any signs of illness or injury and treat them promptly. Keep their coop clean and dry, protecting them from predators and extreme weather.
  • Respect their boundaries: Respect your chickens’ boundaries and don’t approach them when they are sitting on eggs or chicks, eating or drinking, sleeping or resting, grooming or dust bathing, mating, or fighting. Don’t pick them up unless they are used to being handled or need medical attention. Don’t tease them with food or objects. Don’t make loud noises or sudden movements around them.

To help you to choose the right chicken breed for your homestead or backyard chicken-keeping operation, we have included a table with common chicken breeds with their relative aggression characteristic.

Chicken BreedAggression Rating
AustralorpLow to Moderate
WyandotteLow to Moderate
Rhode Island RedModerate
Easter EggerModerate
Plymouth RockModerate
BrahmaModerate to High

Dealing with Aggressive Chickens

If you have an aggressive chicken in your flock, you may be considering the options of how to deal with it in the best way possible.

Aggressive chickens can cause stress, injuries, and chaos in your flock, making your chicken-keeping experience unpleasant.

Fortunately, there are some ways to deal with aggressive chickens and reduce their hostility. Here are some great tips to help you deal with aggressive chickens.

  1. Identify the cause. The first step to dealing with aggressive chickens is to identify the cause of their behavior. Is it due to breed, gender, age, space, food, health, stress, boredom, or personality? Some factors can be changed or improved to reduce aggression, while others may require more patience and tolerance.
  2. Establish dominance. The second step to dealing with aggressive chickens is establishing dominance over them and making them respect you as the flock leader. This does not mean you have to hurt or abuse them but rather use techniques to show them who the boss is. Some of these techniques include the following:
    1. Pick up the aggressive chickens. Picking up an aggressive chicken and carrying it around the rest of the flock can make it feel vulnerable and humiliated, as it will lose its status and authority in front of the hens. You can also hold it under your arm or on your lap and talk to it calmly and gently. This will help it associate you with safety and comfort rather than fear and threat. You should pick it up whenever it shows aggression towards you or others and hold it for at least 15 minutes for the lesson to be effective.
    1. Stare down the aggressive chicken. Staring down an aggressive chicken when it challenges you or tries to attack you can make it back off and submit to you. Chickens use eye contact as a way of communication and intimidation. If you stare back at them without blinking or backing away, they will eventually lower their head and look away, which means they have given up. You can also make a loud noise or clap your hands to startle the aggressive bird and make it retreat.
    1. Chase the aggressive birds. Chasing back an aggressive chicken when it chases you or other humans can make it run away from you and learn that you are not afraid of it and can defend yourself. You can also use a spray bottle, a broom, or a stick to keep it at a distance and deter it from attacking you. However, do not hit or injure it, as this will only make it more aggressive and fearful of you.
    1. Feeding the chickens by hand. Feeding an aggressive chicken by hand can help you build trust and bond with it. It can also show the chicken that you provide food and water essential for survival. You can offer treats such as mealworms, sunflower seeds, or grapes from your hand and let it gently eat them. Pull it away and say “no” firmly if it pecks at your hand too hard. Repeat this until it learns to take the food gently.
    1. Spend more time with an aggressive chicken. Spending time with an aggressive chicken can help you better understand its personality and behavior. It can also help you socialize the bird and make it more comfortable around humans. You can pet it, talk to it, groom it, or play with it. You can gradually introduce it to other people or animals and supervise their interactions. The more positive experiences it has with humans, the less likely it will be aggressive towards them.
  3. Provide enough resources. The third step to dealing with aggressive chickens is to provide them with enough resources to meet their needs and avoid competition and conflict. As mentioned, ensure the flock has enough space, food, water, and enrichment to prevent aggressive behavior.
  4. Remove or isolate them: The last resort to dealing with aggressive chickens is to remove or isolate them from the flock. This may be necessary if the aggression is too severe or persistent and poses a risk to you or other chickens. Some of the options to remove or isolate an aggressive chicken include the following:
    1. Rehoming the aggressive bird. You can try to find a new home for your aggressive chicken, preferably with someone experienced and willing to deal with its behavior. You can also contact a local animal shelter or rescue group and see if they can take it in.
    1. Culling the bird. You can decide to cull your aggressive chicken, which means killing it humanely and using it for meat or compost. This may be a hard decision, but sometimes it may be the best choice for the welfare of your flock and yourself.
    1. Separating the aggressive chicken. You can separate your aggressive chicken from the rest of the flock by putting it in a separate pen or cage. This will prevent it from harming or harassing other chickens or humans. However, you should still provide it with enough space, food, water, and enrichment and monitor its health and behavior. After some time, you can also try reintroducing it to the flock and see if the aggression has subsided.

Aggressive chickens can be a challenge to deal with, but they are not impossible to manage. By understanding their behavior, providing them with enough resources, establishing your dominance over them, and removing or isolating them if necessary, you can reduce their hostility and enjoy keeping chickens without fear of being attacked by them.


Understanding and managing chicken aggression is crucial for homesteaders who raise chickens. While aggression can be a natural behavior, it is essential to prevent and address it to maintain a safe, harmonious environment for both humans and birds.

It is important to remember that each chicken is unique, and there can be individual variations in behavior within a breed. Patience, observation, and a proactive approach are key to successfully managing aggression. Raising chickens on a homestead can be a rewarding experience, and with proper knowledge and management, the potential for aggression can be minimized, allowing these birds to contribute to your self-sufficient lifestyle.



Alice is a writer who grew up on a beautiful homestead in rural Old England. She now lives in New England with her fur babies and is on a mission to return to the land for a simpler, greener, and all-round kinder existence.

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