Egg Files

Will too many cock­erels lead to an­ar­chy in the hen house, asks Michelle Dunn

Country Smallholding - - Inside This Month -

With Michelle Dunn

HOW MANY cock­erels is too many? If you live in a row of ter­raced houses with a small gar­den, the an­swer might well be one. But if you have a small­hold­ing of sev­eral acres with many hens then the an­swer could be very dif­fer­ent.

Cock­erels bring many ad­van­tages to flocks of hens, but one cock­erel too many can lead to spec­tac­u­lar fights and hens re­luc­tant to go in­side at night when the cock­erels are wait­ing to mo­lest them.

In­tro­duc­ing a new cock­erel where there is al­ready an es­tab­lished gen­tle­man is just ask­ing for fights. But what about when a clutch of young cock­erels ma­ture? Young cock­erels are of­ten tol­er­ated by the boss cock­erel — as long as they run away when chal­lenged. Sooner or later, how­ever, the young cock­erel will stand his ground and that’s when fights oc­cur.

There are two types of fights be­tween cock­erels — a dom­i­nance fight and a fight to the death. A dom­i­nance fight is more of a scuf­fle. At the end, both par­tic­i­pants will have mi­nor wounds (which can look spec­tac­u­lar as combs tend to bleed freely) and one or both par­tic­i­pants will be ex­hausted, but no last­ing dam­age will have been done (apart from to male pride). Fights to the death are much rarer, but will hap­pen if space is lim­ited, or the in­di­vid­ual cock­erels are par­tic­u­larly bel­liger­ent.

We have an eight-acre hold­ing and once had two ma­ture cock­erels and five ju­ve­niles run­ning with a flock of 15 hens, with only the oc­ca­sional scuf­fle to mar the peace. We cur­rently have two evenly matched ma­ture cock­erels and five hens. The younger cock­erel re­mained re­spect­ful of the boss cock­erel for al­most 18 months, un­til one day he re­fused to run away and a dom­i­nance fight oc­curred. It was short and in­tense and at the end the boss was beaten and sat mis­er­ably under a tree while his tri­umphant ri­val col­lected the hens to­gether. In an un­ex­pected twist, the two old­est hens re­jected their new man and re­turned to the old one — which cheered him up no end. The older hens had known the older cock­erel for three years and ev­i­dently pre­ferred the hus­band they knew.

Now each cock­erel proudly struts around with his loyal hens and fights are a thing of the past. Given the al­ter­na­tive, cock­erels, it seems, can learn to share.

It is pos­si­ble for sev­eral cock­erels to live to­gether rel­a­tively peace­fully

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.