You’ve probably seen that longer claw-like thing sticking out from the back of a rooster’s leg just above the ankle, right?
That’s called a spur. In this article, I’m answering some common questions regarding spurs; do all roosters have spurs? Why do roosters have spurs? What are spurs used for? And more…
At What Age Do Roosters Get Spurs?
The age in which a rooster starts to grow a spur and the age when it’s fully developed depends on the breed and individual bird.
As a general rule of thumb, you will likely start to see a growth where the spur is developing around 2-3 months of age. With most roosters having fully developed spurs around the age of 7-9 months.
I’ve heard of roosters having fully grown spurs as young as 3 months. This is useful if you have a young flock and you’re looking for ways to tell if they’re male or female, but you can’t rely on this in most instances.
Do All Roosters Have Spurs?
Nope, you can’t guarantee that a rooster will grow spurs.
It’s largely dependent on the breed of chicken, and also to a lesser extent, the individual rooster.
Almost all roosters will start to develop a bump where a spur will be if it grows. From there, you can never be too sure just how long it’s going to grow.
For some roosters, it won’t even get started. For some, their spur will grow to the point where it’s a hindrance to them walking and going about their day.
But most will fall somewhere in between.
If you’re buying from a breeder they will more than likely be able to tell you what to expect. Otherwise, it’s a case of waiting and seeing what grows.
More often than not you can expect a “normal” size spur to develop within the first year of their lives.
Related – Life expectancy of a rooster.
Why Do Roosters Have Spurs?
The main use of their spurs is as a weapon. If you touch one, it’s a very hard, sharp-tipped, spear-like weapon.
Even so, they look quite unassuming, don’t they? Plus, they’re on the back of their legs, how are they supposed to use them as weapons?
Well, if you’ve ever butted heads with an aggressive rooster you’ll know just how dangerous those spurs are.
When fighting with each other, a predator, or even with you, a rooster will flap their wings to get a little light on their feet and they’ll lead in with their spurs with a stabbing motion.
If they get a clean connection with their spur, it’s capable of stabbing the intended victim. As well as scratching, drawing blood, and acting as a warning that they’re willing to fight.
Another use of their spurs is when mating with hens. It’s not nice for hens, but roosters use their spurs to get a good hold of a hen while they mount and mate with them. Often leaving marks on a hen’s side.
Will a Rooster Attack You With Their Spurs?
Yes, roosters will attack humans. Even us, the ones who feed, raise, and look after them!
In fact, dealing with an aggressive rooster is an all too common problem. For most backyard flock owners, it’s a case of learning how to deal with their aggressive rooster.
This is because they are territorial animals and take their responsibility of looking after their flock of hens very seriously.
Most of their aggressive behavior is based around protecting their flock. Even if that means seeing you as a threat!
Related – What noises to roosters make?
Do Hens Have Spurs?
This is the interesting thing about spurs that most people are not aware of. Some breeds of hen can grow spurs too!
If you take a close look at the back of a hens leg where you’d expect a spur to be on a male chicken, you’ll almost always see a bump of some kind there.
For some breeds, this actually develops into a spur. The more common breeds that are known to have spurs are Anconas, Polish, and Sicilian Buttercups.
They rarely use them in the same way at roosters if they do have them though. At least in my experience, I’ve never come across an aggressive hen that tried to use her spurs to hurt me.
I have heard from other people that they’ve had aggressive hens though. So, it’s perfectly possible.
This is why it’s not always a reliable way to tell the gender of a chicken. If you have a mature male, there will be other ways you can tell they’re male for sure.
Here’s a video explaining more about spurs, why you might want to trim them, and what you can learn about a rooster by looking at its spurs.
In Summary – Do All Roosters Have Spurs?
Not all roosters have spurs, no. Just as all hens do not have spurs.
In a nutshell; both hens and roosters may or may not have spurs.
They are more common on roosters though. Plus, roosters are much more likely to use their spurs as defensive weapons when defending their flock from threats and fighting with other flock members.
If any of your flock’s spurs are getting out of control you may have to trim them. Or, in extreme cases, they may have to be removed.
I advise you to discuss your options with a vet if you think your roo’s spurs are causing you, or them a problem.
Header image by Dušan Smetana, in-body image by Peter Schad on Unsplash