Michelle Dunn re­lates a true and heart-warm­ing tale of a lonely or­phan who turns into a ma­jes­tic ex­am­ple of the species

Your Chickens - - Contents -

By Michelle Dunn

IT’S THE time of year when the TV sched­ules are full of heart-warm­ing Christ­mas sto­ries about the brave lit­tle un­der­dog who bat­tles against the odds and, de­spite ev­ery­thing, comes out on top. Sadly, these sto­ries are rare in real life, par­tic­u­larly in the an­i­mal king­dom, so I am par­tic­u­larly pleased to be able to share one with you.

Keen read­ers may re­mem­ber an ar­ti­cle about Beaky ear­lier in the year. Beaky was the only sur­viv­ing chick from a clutch hatched ear­lier in the year. When her mother aban­doned her at 12 weeks, she was the low­est bird in the flock’s peck­ing or­der, of­ten bul­lied and chased away from food. Beaky per­se­vered, how­ever, and af­ter a while she was tol­er­ated by the flock, al­though they never re­ally ac­cepted her.

But Beaky had a se­cret weapon that even she didn’t know about. As the weeks passed, she be­gan to grow. And she grew and grew .... Our boss cock­erel is a ban­tam, but some­where along the line there must have been a full-sized bird in Beaky’s mother’s ances­try be­cause Beaky be­came huge.

Not only that, but she grew some mag­nif­i­cent tail feath­ers and proved that she was, in fact, a cock­erel. We re­named him Pierre, as he had a cer­tain French look about him. He tow­ered over the other chick­ens, but so pow­er­ful is the ef­fect of the peck­ing or­der that he still al­lowed him­self to be bul­lied by ev­ery other bird in the flock. He ran away from ev­ery­one and only ate the scraps left when ev­ery­one else had fin­ished eat­ing. It was ridicu­lous to watch this enor­mous cock­erel be­ing chased away by tiny ban­tam hens, but it hap­pened on a daily ba­sis.

Then one morn­ing some­thing changed. I don’t know how it hap­pened, but Pierre sud­denly re­alised he was not the lowly runt he thought he was. Overnight, and with­out a sin­gle fight or even a skir­mish, he took the four best hens from our boss cock­erel. Next morn­ing at feed­ing time he sim­ply barged ev­ery­one else out of the way and helped him­self to the best food. No one stood up to him and sud­denly he was the new boss cock­erel.

Now he struts ma­jes­ti­cally around the gar­den, look­ing as if he owns the place while the hens stare at him ador­ingly. Not a bad re­sult for a lonely lit­tle or­phan.

TOP: Beaky as a chick

LEFT: Beaky as a grown up turned into Pierre

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