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