Have you ever been chased by an angry rooster? If so, then you’ve most likely seen those dangerous-looking spurs on the back of their feet and tried your best to avoid them. Then again, you could be under the impression that a rooster’s spurs aren’t dangerous since they are on the back of their legs. Unfortunately, you’re wrong. Very wrong. A rooster’s spurs are sharp and quite dangerous, there’s no doubt about that. The real question you should be asking yourself is, do all roosters have spurs?

The quick answer to that question is yes and no. If you visit a farmyard, you may see a rooster making his rounds without the menacing spurs you’re used to seeing on the back of his legs. Still, he will have spur studs. While most roosters will form the protective, lengthy spurs you’re used to seeing as they grow, some simply don’t. Read on below if you want to learn more about roosters, their spurs, and why some don’t have noticeable ones. You may get a better understanding of these little warriors and why their spurs are so important.

new chicken divider What Are Rooster Spurs?

The spurs on the back of a rooster’s leg are actually part of its leg bone. As roosters grow, a spur bud will appear. By the time they are 7 or 8 months of age, a full spur should be seen. While these spurs can be quite long, or shorter in some cases, their makeup is the same. These pieces of bone are covered in keratin, the hard material chicken beaks are made of, to keep them protected.

Over time, a rooster’s spurs may grow quite long or even curl. Each rooster is different. While, as we discussed above, every rooster will have spur buds, that doesn’t mean those buds will form into the long, sinister claws used to protect a flock of hens. But just because the spur doesn’t elongate, doesn’t mean the rooster doesn’t have one. It’s just not that noticeable, or dangerous.

Roosters Have Spurs
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Why Do Roosters Have Spurs?

The job of a rooster is to protect his flock of hens. While hens peck and graze, the rooster will watch the sky and the surrounding areas for signs of danger. When he sees something, he’ll let his hens know by calling to them. If the danger gets too close, that’s when his spurs come into play.

If a rooster goes on the defensive, he’ll flap his wings to give himself a bit of a boost off the ground. Once he is airborne, he will attack the predator, spurs first. These sharpened claws, similar to human fingernails, can easily gash or tear into an attacker. In many instances, just the act of spurring an enemy is enough to make the attacker flee.

Do Spurs Indicate Sex?

While most of us are used to seeing spurs on roosters, hens can develop them as well. Certain chicken breeds, such as the Leghorn, have hens who sport spurs just like the roosters. You may also notice that some hens develop spurs as they age. In a typical flock, roosters show spur studs early on. This is the normal way owners tell whether a chick is a male or female, but it isn’t always foolproof. If you have a breed of chicken that isn’t known for hens having spurs, most likely, when spur studs develop you’re dealing with a rooster.

rooster and hen
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Are Spurs Difficult to Maintain?

Most roosters won’t need help caring for their spurs. If they stay at a modest length, they can simply continue with their daily activities with no issues. Unfortunately, there are a few instances where a rooster’s spurs grow too long or become too sharp. This can be dangerous to hens during mating, the humans who tend the flock, and the rooster itself.

If you plan on clipping a rooster’s spurs, the proper tool is important. A sharp nail clipper or a Dremel tool are your best options. Like with other pets, you mustn’t cut or damage the inner bone. You’ll see this bone when in good light due to its darker appearance.

For many, simply filing the rooster’s spur is their preferred method of maintaining a large, unruly growth. While the spur eventually grows back, this method allows you to round the spur which makes it less dangerous. It is also safer for the rooster as it’s less likely that the inner bone will be damaged which causes excessive bleeding.

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In Conclusion

As you can see, every rooster has spur studs. Whether or not those studs form into full-grown spurs depends on the individual rooster. If you have hens and roosters in your care, always be vigilant. Even the tamest rooster struts around the henhouse with weapons drawn at all times. Always proceed with caution since he’s simply doing his job of protecting his female cohort.

Featured Image Credit: Ann Ananya, Shutterstock