On the wild side
Michelle recalls the bantam cockerel who led a semi-wild existence
As spring arrives, I know I can reduce the amount of grain I give to the chickens. Insects are more plentiful, and the chickens are ranging wider as they look for them. I sometimes wonder if it’s possible for a chicken to survive with no grain at all, and then I remember that of course it is. I know of one chicken that survived like that for years.
Cochyn was a sitting tenant when we bought our house. He was a minute bantam cockerel with elegantly marked plumage who lived a completely feral existence in the field around the house. The previous owner had been unable to catch him and had abandoned him when he moved out. The house had been empty for two years and, in all that time, Cochyn had never been fed or shut in at night. He ate grass and insects and he roosted on a broken engine on a shelf in the old stables. During the day he strutted around the yard as if he owned the place.
Cochyn was appalled when we moved in and disturbed his peace. The first time he saw Senrab, our dog, he launched a blistering attack, all claws and beak and whirling black feathers. Cochyn was small even for a bantam but Senrab knew a beserker when he saw one and promptly ran away. After that, hostilities between the two were limited to intense staring competitions where dog and chicken would slowly circle one another on the lawn, eyes locked grimly together.
Over time, we began to gain Cochyn’s trust and he would eat grain if we put it down in the yard. We tried to catch him by putting grain down in a pen, but he ignored it until we put the grain back down in the yard. We never did catch him.
After a while, we bought him a couple of bantam Buff Sussex for company – he was absolutely delighted by this, but he would never share their accommodation. Every night when we put the two girls away, Cochyn would fly off to his rusty engine on the shelf, and roost alone, high out of reach. He never did sleep in the chicken shed, and remained almost completely wild.
My advice would be – Don’t Try This At Home! Keep your chickens well fed...and, hopefully, you will always be able to catch them. NOTE: Michelle Dunn wrote this before the current bird flu restrictions were announced. As we go to print, all domestic poultry should be kept under cover. The order runs until Febuary 28.
Cochyn and his companions
Cochyn roosted in the old stable