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