#Savetheroosters: Lifesaving Protocol for Placing Former Fighting Roosters

By Kristen Hassen-Auerbach

Kristen Hassen-Auerbach | June 24th, 2019

Until recently, roosters confiscated in cockfighting busts were immediately euthanized when brought into the custody of animal services departments because of the misperception that they’re unadoptable. This is thankfully changing due to the groundbreaking sanctuary and rehabilitation efforts by places like Vine Sanctuary.

In 2016, Austin Animal Center decided to try to rehome 26 fighting roosters. They set out to save even just one rooster and asked the community for help. Within six hours of making these former fighting birds available, every single rooster was adopted as a pet. They went home with a microchip, rooster harness, crate, and perch to set their adopters up for success.

Since then, other communities have shown that fighting roosters can be safely adopted to loving homes. Not only can these vulnerable animals be adopted safely, but we’ve also learned that people want to adopt them. Former fighting roosters can be rehabilitated and can learn to live in flocks of hens. They can even live peacefully with other roosters if given ample space and time to relearn behaviors.

If you’re a shelter or rescue that has taken in a group of roosters (or are hoping to take action to #savetheroosters), follow this simple protocol to amplify your lifesaving. It’s safe, inexpensive, easy, and will build a whole new level of positive engagement with your community!

  1. Evaluate the roosters. Can they be easily handled by a knowledgeable handler? Can they be passive and calm within five feet of another rooster? Were their spurs removed? Most fighting roosters have had their spurs removed so small knives can be attached where the spurs used to be during the fighting. This means they can be easily handled by people and they are more vulnerable and likely to get hurt if they get in a fight with another rooster who does have spurs.
  2. Take pictures and get to know some of the roosters. Rooster harnesses are inexpensive and easy to find. Did you know that many roosters love to take walks and explore? Put a harness on one of your roosters and make a short video. Take photos of the roosters that show how beautiful they are and include people in the pictures. These will be your marketing materials. Give each rooster a name to provide that extra step to help individuals form a connection with them!
  3. Draft a press release and social media posts to ask the public for help. Ask for rescue partners, adopters, and fosters to help save a life. Seek one-rooster homes or homes where the rooster can have plenty of space and time for rehabilitation. Do not select homes where the roosters will have to immediately live with other roosters. Even fighting roosters can acclimate very quickly into a flock of hens. Here is an example of news coverage picked up from a shelter social media post.
  4. Know the states and local laws. Some local ordinances prohibit roosters within urban areas. If this is the case for your community, issue a media plea and/or social plea for rescue or placement outside of the urban area. Even if roosters are not legally allowed within the immediate area, it’s likely they can be placed in a nearby community where laws do not prohibit their ownership.
  5. Set a target date for placement and tell your community. Let the community know the target date for finding the roosters homes and specify HOW people can adopt them. A good way to place a large group is by planning a rooster-specific adoption event. You can do it on a weekend day and make it a celebratory occasion for staff, volunteers, and visitors. People love to visit roosters and you can even choose a rooster ‘ambassador’ to greet visitors.
  6. Make the roosters available for adoption, rescue, and foster. To help make adoptions successful, provide a supply kit and information. Some things that are helpful to give your adopters or fosters are a safe-to-use, anti-crowing collar (where noise may be an issue), a rooster harness, a large dog crate, a wooden perch for the bottom of the crate and starter food. Manage expectations and be very clear that roosters may demonstrate aggressive behavior towards other birds, particularly in the first few weeks to months after they’re rehomed. Make sure foster or adopters have a contact person at the organization if they experience challenges with their new pet rooster.
  7. Tell their stories! Most of what we think we know about fighting roosters isn’t true, at all. Teaching people about these roosters and showcasing your adoption successes will help destroy the myths that have previously led to virtually all fighting roosters being killed. Engage media and explain that fighting roosters are victims of a blood sport. Learn about roosters and how amazing they are and what awesome pets they can make.


Did you know? Roosters often bond closely with their owners and even like to cuddle with their favorite person. Ex-fighting roosters are easily savable. By following this simple, inexpensive, and fast protocol, any animal services organization can save the majority of roosters in their care!


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