Roosters come well equipped with spurs to spar with rival males or to defend their flock of hens from predators. Made from keratin, a rooster’s spurs are part of the leg or shank bone. They start from a spur bud that is just above the back claw. As the rooster ages, the spur will continue to harden and grow, eventually curling and forming a sharp tip.

So, at what age do roosters grow their spurs? This answer varies, as it depends on the growth rate of the individual bird and its breed. You may notice spur growth as soon as 2-3 months of age but it typically takes about 7-8 months of age to see a noticeable development. The spurs will continue to grow as the rooster matures.

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Do All Roosters Get Spurs?

All roosters should grow spurs, in fact, all chickens—whether roosters or hens—will have a spur bud on the back of the shank. While a hen’s spur bud typically remains unnoticeable and dormant throughout their lives, a rooster will continue to grow and develop until they are longer, begin to curl, and come to a sharp tip.

There may be certain individual roosters that do not end up growing noticeable spurs, but this is very unusual. Spurs don’t necessarily indicate the gender of a bird though, as there are hens that have developed full spurs as well. This is typically seen in Mediterranean breeds and older hens and is not nearly as common.

Roosters Have Spurs
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Can a Rooster’s Spurs Cause Harm?

It’s no secret that roosters can get aggressive. Their spurs are meant as a defense tactic and can cause injury to the rooster’s intended target. Roosters usually become aggressive with humans when they are asserting their dominance over their territory or feel their flock of hens is threatened.

Having a plan in place for handling an aggressive rooster is a necessity to avoid potential harm. It is especially important to ensure small children do not have access to any aggressive roosters.

Not only can spurs cause injury to a rooster’s human caretakers, but other birds as well. When rivaling other males, the spurs are used in battle, and they can severely injure themselves with their long, sharp spurs. Hens can also become victims to spur damage.

During mating, a rooster will use his feet and spurs to steady himself after mounting the hen and the spurs can be dug into their back and damage feathers and even result in deep wounds. It’s recommended to keep at least 10 hens to 1 rooster to prevent over-mating, which puts the hens at more risk.

Can the Spurs Fall Off Naturally?

A rooster’s spurs are like your fingernails, they are even made of the same substance, keratin. The spurs will not naturally fall off. The only reason a rooster would lose its spurs would be a result of trauma that caused them to be torn off. The most common cause of this is getting the spur stuck in a fence and it ultimately gets torn off in the struggle. This would be very painful for your rooster.

rooster standing outdoors
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Maintaining a Rooster’s Spurs

Generally, you won’t have to maintain your rooster’s spurs and if they are causing your rooster no problems, there is no reason to mess with them at all. Some special circumstances will result in the need for human intervention.

Occasionally, spurs can grow too long and affect the rooster’s ability to walk efficiently. Other times, a spur may curl too much as they progress in age and begin to dig into the back of their leg and cause pain and injury. In these cases, you will need to intervene and help the rooster out. There are a variety of ways you can help your rooster maintain their spurs.

  • Filing – Since spurs are composed of keratin, just like fingernails, they can be filed as such. The filing makes it easier to prevent encountering the actual bone. This is best done on tame roosters and a regular metal file will typically do the job just right. Rounding off the tip with the file can help prevent any damage from that usually sharp tip. A lot of chicken keepers will opt to clip and finish off with a file.
  • Clipping – Again, just as you would your fingernails or toenails, you can clip the rooster’s spurs. You need to ensure you are nowhere near the bone when clipping, as hitting the bone would be excruciatingly painful for your rooster. Think of it as avoiding the quick when cutting a dog’s nails. It is essential to use sharp clippers in good lighting to ensure you don’t come in contact with the inner bone that has the darker white coloration. Dremel’s and regular pet clippers can be used.
  • Removing the Outer Portion – The spur itself is bone-covered in keratin, in some cases you may choose to simply remove the keratin outer growth and leave the soft inner core exposed. This can be done by twisting the spur until it pops off the bone. Some chicken keeps will rub the spur with oil to soften or even heat a potato and apply it to the spur to help loosen it up.
  • Surgical Removal – Undoubtedly the most expensive option to solving your rooster’s spur problem is to have a veterinarian surgically remove it. This is a risky and costly procedure where the veterinarian will have to cut the cuticle from the rooster shank. You can opt to have the spur bud cauterized while your rooster is still a chick to prevent the growth of the spur. Not only is cauterization risky in the sense that it can cause damage or be misshaped but it may be ineffective, and the spur may grow anyway.
roosters fighting
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new chicken divider Conclusion

A rooster’s spurs will typically start visibly showing development by no later than 7 or 8 months of age. In some individuals, spurs can start to show as early as 2 or 3 months. These spurs are part of the leg bone and are covered in keratin. They will continue to grow as the rooster matures with age.

Spurs do serve the purpose of a defensive weapon against predators, rival males, and any intruders on a rooster’s territory. They can cause damage to humans and other birds so it’s best to keep these sharp-tipped forms of weaponry in mind when dealing with roosters, especially those with aggressive tendencies.

If the spurs are causing no issues for your rooster or others, there’s no need to maintain them. If the spurs start disrupting the rooster walk or begin to grow into their legs, there are some techniques you can use to keep them trimmed down.

Featured Image Credit: Kaichankava Larysa, Shutterstock