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The cockatrice, c, is one of the more complex creatures in Nethack, and is generally considered to be a real nuisance, as it is often the source of many YASDs. It can turn you to stone instantaneously if you touch it (or even its corpse) with your bare hands (or any other part of your body). However, if you are wearing gloves, you can pick its corpse up and wield it as a weapon, turning enemies to stone instantaneously; the cockatrice corpse has been nicknamed the rubber chicken by the players who like to use it in this way. This is still extremely dangerous, as falling in any manner will cause you to touch it. Monsters with gloves or stoning resistance (such as skeletons) can also wield cockatrice corpses against you.

The baby version of a cockatrice is a chickatrice, c, and is similarly dangerous; while they may appear earlier than cockatrices, chickatrices are much weaker, rarer, and less likely to leave a corpse. Chickatrices and cockatrices are often collectively referred to as footrices, particularly in reference to the stoning abilities they and their corpses possess.

In addition to normal monster generation, floors below DL 17 may rarely generate a nest full of cockatrices as a special room.

Hissing attack

If you hear the cockatrice's hissing, there is a chance that you may begin turning to stone. If you immediately act to counter this process, you can save your life, but any intrinsic speed will be lost. The hissing attack always succeeds during a new moon unless you are carrying a lizard corpse.

For a cockatrice to start turning you to stone, the following must all happen:

  1. The cockatrice must touch you with its petrifying touch attack. ("The cockatrice touches you.")
  2. Then, there is a 13 chance the cockatrice will hiss at you if it has not been cancelled. ("You hear the cockatrice's hissing!")
  3. Finally, there is a 10% chance (or 100% if today is a new moon and you are not carrying a lizard corpse) that you will begin turning to stone. ("You are slowing down." at the end of the current game turn)

Magic cancellation will not protect you against the hiss, although cancelling the cockatrice will prevent it from hissing ("You hear a cough from the cockatrice!"). Good AC can prevent a cockatrice from touching you. Note that cancellation's only effect on cockatrices is to block their hissing attack; it does not protect you against petrification due to contact with the cockatrice, living or dead. To prepare for the loss of intrinsic speed, you may tin the corpse of a quantum mechanic and eat the tin after stopping the stoning process, or zap yourself with a wand of speed monster.

Ways to be petrified by a cockatrice

The following list gives the ways a cockatrice or chickatrice can kill you, and what there is to be done about it. (Except where otherwise stated, "cockatrice" will refer to both cockatrices and chickatrices.) This list may not be exhaustive. All methods are instantly fatal and assume you are not stoning-resistant, unless noted. Wearing an amulet of life saving will save you if you are petrified.

Petrification by a corpse

Always petrifies

  • Get hit by a monster wielding it (delayed death).[1][2] If you've killed a cockatrice near an enemy that can wield weapons, there is a high chance that one wearing gloves will pick up the corpse and attempt to stone you with it. Be on alert for messages involving the corpse being wielded. If you are blind and cannot see this information, it is best to assume they have wielded it. If an enemy has the corpse and you cannot kill it, you are advised to make your way to another level and wait for the corpse to rot away, which will take place in 250 turns. If a moat is nearby and you are wearing boots, you can kick the corpse into the water to make it inaccessible.
  • Eat it. Gaining the food appraisal intrinsic warns you before eating dangerous food, including food that will petrify you. ('This smells like it could be something very dangerous!') The intrinsic is gained by reading a blessed scroll of food detection, or casting 'detect food' at skilled or expert in divination spells. It lasts for one warning. If you have stoning resistance, it will give you a message 'This tastes just like chicken!' Keep food (especially cockatrice corpses) out of slot 'y'; this will help avoid accidentally eating something you shouldn't.

Without wearing gloves

  • Pick it up. If you are polymorphed into a creature that lacks hands and can pick up objects, you will also be stoned.
  • Put it into or take it out of a container.
  • Try to throw or fire it.
  • Wield the corpse.
  • Snag it with a bullwhip or grappling hook. However, simply picking up the corpse with a bullwhip is fine.[3][4][5]
  • Steal it (for example, when polymorphed into a nymph).
  • Sacrifice it. This even happens when it's already lying on the altar.
  • Tin the corpse.

Without wearing gloves, blinded

  • Feeling the corpse when you move or teleport onto the square containing the corpse when not using m.
  • Cease levitating over it when not using m.
  • Look (using ':' at the square containing it).
  • Get expelled from an engulfing monster on a square containing the corpse when not using m.

Without wearing a helm

  • Throw it upwards (direction <). The death message is "petrified by elementary physics" (what goes up, must come down).

Without wearing boots

Wearing gloves while wielding the corpse as a weapon

  • Fall down the stairs. This happens if you are burdened or worse, are fumbling, or are punished. However, you will never fall down the stairs if you are flying.
  • Fall down a pit, hole or a trapdoor, including jumping into them while flying.
  • Fall into a chasm created by a drum of earthquake.
  • Fall into a pit created by stepping on a landmine. If you are flying or levitating, you can pass over these without falling (except in Sokoban). Flying won't stop you from triggering the landmine, but it will prevent you from falling into the created pit. Jumping down a hole or trapdoor while flying will stone you.
  • Fall onto a sink while levitating.
  • Faint from hunger and fall on the corpse.
  • Lose your gloves to disintegration by a scroll of destroy armor.
  • Lose your gloves to overenchantment (or underenchantment) by a scroll of enchant armor. If the enchantment on the gloves is +4 or higher, reading a non-cursed scroll of enchant armor may destroy them. If the enchantment is −4 or lower, reading a cursed scroll of enchant armor may do the same.
  • Lose your gloves to the monster spell destroy armor. Magic resistance protects you from this spell.
  • Have your gloves taken off by a foocubus. You have charisma20 chance of having the option to stop a foocubus from removing an item of armor. Cancelling them stops the seduction attacks altogether. Nymphs and monkeys cannot steal your gloves if you're holding a weapon; they will try to take your weapon first, petrifying themselves if successful. The corpse can be retrieved by breaking the resulting statue.

Without wearing gloves, wielding the corpse while stoning-resistant

  • Change to a non-stoning-resistant form. Polymorph control or unchanging can prevent this. Reaching zero HP will change you back to your normal, non-resistant form if you don't have unchanging, and kill you if you do.

Petrification by a living cockatrice

  • Attack (strike, touch, or claw) it with bare, ungloved hands.
    • Due to a bug, even the m command will not be safe if the cockatrice is shown only as a warning symbol.
  • Attack it with ungloved hands, wielding a potion.
  • Kick it without wearing boots (as a monster attack or as a command).
  • Bite or sting it (monster attack).
  • Headbutt it without wearing a helmet (monster attack).
  • Hug it without gloves and a cloak (monster attack).
  • Suck its brain with tentacles (as mind flayer or master mind flayer).
  • Attack it while polymorphed into a foocubus ("You smile at the cockatrice seductively. You turn to stone...").
  • Swallow it whole (as trapper, lurker above, or purple worm).
  • Without gloves, attempt to saddle it.
  • Without gloves, attempt to untrap it from a pit.
  • Hear its hissing (delayed death). See § Hissing attack for details.
  • Ride an animal that steps on a polymorph trap and turns into a cockatrice. Your magic resistance protects ridden monsters against polytraps.
  • Get reduced to zero HP by its attacks. This will kill you normally, but if you weren't petrification resistant, you will leave a statue instead of a ghost in your bones file. If you were polymorphed into a stoning-resistant form while wearing an amulet of unchanging, you leave a ghost instead.

If you have no weapon or gloves, or are polymorphed into a form which has an unusual attack, cockatrices should not be directly attacked; attack them with ranged weapons or spells. If you suck a cockatrice's brain, you turn to stone. If your life is saved, you still suffer the delayed death stoning effects. Minotaurs are the only headbutters capable of wearing helmets (and even then, only cloth and leather hats). Salamanders are the only huggers capable of wearing both gloves and a cloak.

Other ways to be petrified by a cockatrice

  • Eat a tin of cockatrice meat.
  • Eat a cockatrice egg (delayed death).
  • Get hit by a cockatrice egg thrown by a monster (delayed death).
  • Without a helmet, throw a cockatrice egg in the air (direction <; not a delayed death).
  • Without gloves, smash a potion of polymorph over a monster, turning it into a cockatrice. (This is bug #C343-31, fixed May 2004)

Use as a weapon

A cockatrice corpse is an extremely powerful weapon, but can easily backfire and thus should be used with some caution. To avoid falling in an unknown pit, you should unwield it or be levitating when moving around in places that might have traps. Even if you are levitating and not fumbling (highly recommended), you should stay away from sinks, nymphs and foocubi to be perfectly safe. (But 20 Charisma makes foocubi safe.) Some creatures are immune to stoning, and golems turn into powerful stone golems that can easily annihilate a character in the early game. So have a different weapon ready to use, and never stone a golem in the early game.

Due to a minor bug, players polymorphed into a jabberwock will not stone monsters with a wielded cockatrice corpse.[6]


Before Hack 1.0.3, a successful hissing attack was an instadeath; the only safe way to fight a cockatrice was with ranged weapons. The effect of the new moon first appeared in Hack 1.0.2.


Wishing for footrice corpses can sometimes be a good idea when fighting tough monsters or a multitude of them. A good Astral Plane wish would be a blessed partly eaten chickatrice corpse—chickatrice corpses are lighter than cockatrices, and partly eaten ones are lighter still. All Quest nemeses and the endgame riders are stoning resistant.

Here is a quick list of monsters that can be good candidates for stoning.

It's always a good idea to save up a couple of extra charges on your wand of wishing just in case. You never know when Demogorgon shows up or five Archons are generated on the Plane of Fire.

Resistances conveyed

According to definition in monst.c, eating footrice should convey stoning resistance, but this is not implemented.[7][8]


The cockatrice is alleged to be incubated by a serpent or toad from a rooster's egg. Yolkless eggs were traditionally believed to have been laid by roosters.

Physically, it resembles a rooster with a reptilian tail and bat wings.

The traditional cockatrice is simply deadly. The stoning attack property comes from Dungeons & Dragons.

The cockatrice is closely related to the basilisk (a monster not present in vanilla NetHack) referred to in the encyclopedia entry. The relation between basilisks and cockatrices is unclear; sometimes they are used as synonyms, but other times a basilisk is a different monster.

Encyclopedia entry

Once in a great while, when the positions of the stars are
just right, a seven-year-old rooster will lay an egg. Then,
along will come a snake, to coil around the egg, or a toad,
to squat upon the egg, keeping it warm and helping it to
hatch. When it hatches, out comes a creature called basilisk,
or cockatrice, the most deadly of all creatures. A single
glance from its yellow, piercing toad's eyes will kill both
man and beast. Its power of destruction is said to be so
great that sometimes simply to hear its hiss can prove fatal.
Its breath is so venomous that it causes all vegetation
to wither.

There is, however, one creature which can withstand the
basilisk's deadly gaze, and this is the weasel. No one knows
why this is so, but although the fierce weasel can slay the
basilisk, it will itself be killed in the struggle. Perhaps
the weasel knows the basilisk's fatal weakness: if it ever
sees its own reflection in a mirror it will perish instantly.
But even a dead basilisk is dangerous, for it is said that
merely touching its lifeless body can cause a person to
sicken and die.

[ Mythical Beasts by Deirdre Headon (The Leprechaun Library) and other sources ]


  1. src/mhitu.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 995
  2. src/mhitu.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 1252
  3. src/pickup.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 256: apply.c does not call the usual check when using the whip to pick up the corpse off the ground, but does call it when a weaponized corpse is snatched.
  4. src/apply.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 2714
  5. src/apply.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 2849
  6. The exact condition for stoning a monster with a wielded trice corpse seems to be: (in natural form or (hit with weapon attack or hit with claw attack in slot 1 or hit with claw attack in slot 2 as a foocubus or hit with any attack in slot 1 as any L)). This also excludes some monster that cannot wield a weapon (adult dragon, raven, crocodile, and the invalid polyforms Ixoth, Demogorgon, and the Chromatic Dragon).
  7. src/monst.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 178
  8. src/monst.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 184
Parts of this page are based on a spoiler by David Corbett. The original license is unknown.