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Both roosters and hens have spurs, though you might only see a nub on the latter. And both the breed of bird you have and their level of growth will determine the size of the rooster’s spurs. So in this post I’m going to discuss how to remove a rooster’s spurs. You’ll find a few “easy” methods out there for doing this. And if you have a backyard flock, you might even have tried them. But the technique I’ll cover, for removing a rooster’s spurs, is both gentle and safe.
A rooster’s spurs are kind of like small appendages on each leg. They’re made up of soft tissue and covered in the same hard substance as his claws and beak.
And when a rooster is a young cockerel, his spurs begin as small bony protuberances. But some are so small, you might not even notice them. Some cockerels may have fully developed spurs as young as 3 months old, while others will take as long as 9 months. However, as he gets bigger and fully develops, the spurs get bigger, start to curve, and form pointy tips. And as long as the spurs are untouched and remain intact, they’ll continue to grow.
Why Remove a Rooster’s Spurs
Roosters have spurs as a defense for themselves (and their harem of hens) from predators. They also have and use their spurs for protection against the competition, aka other roosters. So, if you remove their spurs, they’ll no longer have that natural defense. Therefore, why would you want to remove them?
There’s a few reasons that might cause you to de-spur your rooster, such as
- if he’s aggressive with family members and other pets
- he’s aggressive and/or hurting the hens
- or the spurs are getting so long that the rooster is in danger of hurting himself
In the first two options, the roo could be aggressive. There are many sites that claim if you remove a rooster’s spurs, he’ll actually become tame. That makes me want to laugh. Because, I haven’t personally witnessed this. And we removed the sheaths (the hard keratinous material that covers the spurs) on our first rooster’s spurs. Twice. Though, he continued to attack us as soon as the sheaths grew back.
The only reason Casanova avoided attacking us during that time-frame was because his spurs were unprotected and thus sensitive. It had nothing to do with him being tame all of a sudden. Some people endorse cauterizing a cockerel’s spur nubs so they don’t develop. But I have no experience with this. However, I will suggest that the hormones aren’t located in the actual spurs. An aggressive rooster will attack regardless. But if he has no weapon at his disposal, it will just be hot air.
If you have an aggressive rooster and hope to tame him by de-spurring him, you’ll be disappointed. Whether a rooster is aggressive or not is not based on his spurs. However, if he has an aggressive streak, he will most likely utilize them to attack.
So, if you have a belligerent roo, you’ll have to decide whether or not it’s worth it to remove his spurs. This decision should be based on where you live, whether or not you have predators, weighing both the pros and the cons.
The last option where the rooster is in danger of hurting himself can also be combined with him hurting the hens, if he isn’t doing it intentionally. This can be when he’s mating if his spurs are exceptionally long. In this case the hens will reject him more times than not. But it isn’t his fault. He just needs some assistance.
Our rooster Megatron has never attacked us. And until Baby Nay, our 1 year old concurrent rooster, he didn’t fight other roosters. In addition, living where we do particularly, the biggest predator threats our birds face are from the sky. Consequently, Megatron’s spurs were getting extremely long, I noticed, a couple of years ago. They were curling inward, and eventually they would pierce his legs. Thus, he was starting to walk funny. And I observed that he was failing more times than succeeding in the love department. Therefore, I concluded that his spurs needed attention.
With our first roo we used the hot potato method. It’s where you basically cook a baked potato. Then, you put the hot potato on the spur. Furthermore, wait a few minutes. And then the sheath will come off after some manipulation. I don’t recommend this method on a rooster with long spurs. Casanova’s spurs, at their longest, were half the size of Megatron’s. And that’s because he frequently used them. As always, we were his targets.
Since Megatron’s were so long, I didn’t want to do that. I knew that he would most likely bleed due to their size. And I didn’t want that to happen. So I recalled that we were given a battery powered pet nail file by a neighbor. Which is very similar to a Dremel. We used it to trim our roo’s spurs. And it did the job without hurting him. Or scaring him.
Now I’m going to go over how to remove a rooster’s spurs by trimming them.
How to Remove a Rooster’s Spurs by Trimming Them
First, you need to gather your supplies. Because, once you get started, you don’t want to have to stop. Since it could add more stress to the bird.
Supplies for Removing a Rooster’s Spurs Via Trimming
This is a 2 person job; 1 person needs to hold the rooster. And someone else does the actual trimming. So, make sure you have help.
This is to wrap around the rooster to help him feel secure.
- PPE gear, ie, gloves and masks
You definitely want to wear a mask when the dust from the rooster spurs starts blowing.
- Battery powered pet nail file or Dremel
You can get these online at any home improvement store. Or on Amazon.com or a pet store.
- Hydrogen Peroxide
This is to clean the wound just in case you trim too far and cause your rooster to bleed.
- Styptic Powder
Styptic powder stops bleeding. But, if you don’t have any, you can use alum. It’s found in the spice aisle at the grocery store. However, it doesn’t contain any benzocaine to prevent pain. So, if your rooster is bleeding and you use alum, just know that your rooster will probably, at the very least, flinch.
Instructions for Removing a Rooster’s Spurs by Trimming
Once you have your supplies, you’re almost ready to remove your rooster’s spurs. The best time to accomplish this is at night. Some people even wait till their birds are already in the coop for the evening. However, you know your birds’ temperaments better. If you think you can trim his spurs when the sun is down, with just a headlamp, then do that.
We wait until the end of the day at our house. But not when it’s completely dark. So, that means we have to catch the rooster. Although, that’s ok, because he’s pretty calm.
So, once you have your rooster,
- You or your partner wrap the roo in the towel
Cover his head, but ensure he can breathe.
- While he’s firmly held by one person, someone else uses the battery powered nail file, beginning on one spur
The person who’s trimming needs to hold the roo’s foot. And start away at the tip of the spur like you’re sharpening a pencil.
- Avoid trimming down to the quick
Rooster spurs have a ‘quick’ just like nails that can be seen as a darker area within the spurs. That said, if you happen to hit the quick, that’s what the peroxide and styptic powder or alum are for. Clean the spot gently. And either dip the spur in the styptic powder or alum, whichever you have.
- Round off the spurs
Don’t make the spurs pointy, so he doesn’t inadvertently hurt the hens or anyone else.
- Give your rooster a treat
This last part is entirely up to you. But if it’s not completely dark, and you happen to like your roo, then give him a treat for enduring his pedicure.