Cock­erels and eggs

Cock­erels are very much ab­sen­tee fa­thers, says Michelle Dunn

Country Smallholding - - Egg Files -

In my last ar­ti­cle I dis­cussed hens and eggs. This time it’s the turns of cock­erels. Just how much in­volve­ment do they have in the pro­duc­tion of eggs and the rear­ing of any young? Firstly, of course, the cock­erel is nec­es­sary to fer­tilise the eggs. Hens will lay with­out a cock­erel, but the eggs will only be fer­tile if the hen has mated. Cock­erels can tell if a hen is lay­ing or not, and a boss cock­erel will rarely mate with a hen un­less she is lay­ing or about to lay (this doesn’t ap­ply to ju­ve­nile or sec­ondary cock­erels who are des­per­ate and will try to mate with just about any­thing).

Next comes lay­ing. A good cock­erel will of­ten pick what he be­lieves to be a suit­able nest site. He will then lie down in it and roll about a bit to demon­strate the per­fect com­fort and di­men­sions of his cho­sen spot. He fin­ishes this per­for­mance with an odd cluck­ing noise, pre­sum­ably a cock­erel ver­sion of,’ now you just be a good girl and do as you’re told’. He is wast­ing his ef­forts, though, be­cause the hen, af­ter watch­ing the per­for­mance with in­ter­est, in­vari­ably goes off and lays some­where else.

If the flock is very small, or there is another cock­erel around, the boss cock­erel will of­ten stand guard over his hen while she lays. He is not pro­tect­ing her or her eggs, but his con­ju­gal rights. A hen is sex­u­ally re­cep­tive im­me­di­ately af­ter lay­ing, and the cock­erel wants to be there to take ad­van­tage of this mo­ment. If sev­eral hens are lay­ing in dif­fer­ent places at the same time, the cock­erel will stand guard over his favourite.

When a hen has fin­ished lay­ing, she will an­nounce the fact with a loud cackle. If the cock­erel is any­where near, he will rush over and mate with her. If he is some dis­tance away, he will crow to her so she can come and find him and the flock.

When a hen is broody a cock­erel takes lit­tle in­ter­est in her un­til she comes off the nest for food and wa­ter, at which point he will try his best to mate with her. Af­ter the eggs hatch the cock­erel has noth­ing to do with his chicks, and the hen usu­ally keeps her young brood away from the rest of the flock. Cock­erels are very much ab­sen­tee fa­thers.

Hens don’t want cock­erels around their chicks in case they harm them.

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