French Hens

Ja­nine Marsh is alarmed at the be­haviour of one of her cock­erels

Your Chickens - - Contents -

The chicken stalker

Some­thing odd is afoot in my gar­den. Ken, my or­phan ban­tam chicken, has be­come a stalker. He is also act­ing weird. Ear­lier this year, my dog Ella Fitzger­ald found a cou­ple of or­phaned chicks in the woods where I live in the Seven Val­leys, north­ern France. Of course, they came home with us and I nur­tured and cared for them and they’ve turned into truly beau­ti­ful ban­tam birds, a colour­ful male and a yel­low feathered fe­male. I call them Ken and Bar­bie.

Bar­bie is like all chick­ens, wants food, wa­ter, a bit of TLC, treats, a comfy coop that’s safe and a place to roam in and make dirt baths. Ken is not like the oth­ers. It started off well. He liked be­ing cud­dled and stroked as a chick. He was very friendly as he grew up, run­ning to me when I called him. I don’t keep Ken and Bar­bie in the main pen with the big­ger birds as I feared they might fight. They have their own lit­tle coop in the gar­den and I let them wan­der about. Ev­ery time I go out the gar­den, Ken fol­lowed me around. How sweet, I thought to my­self. But a cou­ple of weeks ago, he started peck­ing me when I went to fill up the food bowl. Quite hard pecks.

Then he be­gan to fly at the win­dows of the kitchen (which over­looks the gar­den) when he saw me there, flap­ping his wings wildy. Af­ter that he took to perch­ing on any­thing that is high up near the house, star­ing in at me. He learned to crow and sits there for hours, his beady eyes fixed on the kitchen, cock-a-doo­dle-doo-ing. Bar­bie ig­nores him and does her own thing. She’s made friends with a large grey chicken called Bet­tina who flies out of the big pen ev­ery day. The pair of them am­ble around good na­turedly eat­ing what­ever they find, – hence I am not grow­ing veg­eta­bles this year.

This week Ken has taken to at­tack­ing me when I go out the door. He lies in wait and then flies at me, peck­ing and flap­ping as I fill the food buck­ets. Then he fol­lows me round the gar­den screech­ing.

I’ve never had a chicken be­have like this be­fore. I have two other cock­erels, Kendo Na­gasaki, an or­na­men­tal Ja­panese bird who is su­per­friendly and Gre­gory Peck II, who likes to eat out of my hand. Even the cats are wary of Ken. I have two strays who live on the ter­race: Hank Marvin He’s Al­ways Starvin’ has one eye and Fat Cat who eats what­ever you put in front of her. Both of them keep out of Ken’s way, so per­haps it’s not just me he pecks.

I thought Ken loved me, but now I’m not so sure and I have no idea how to help him be­have bet­ter. I haven’t come across a chicken psy­chi­a­trist so I guess I’m go­ing to have to wing it!

I thought Ken loved me, but now I’m not so sure

ABOVE RIGHT AND BE­LOW: Bar­bie and Ken in the gar­den

ABOVE LEFT: Ken peer­ing in the kitchen door

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