Janine Marsh’s feisty, tetchy cockerel Ken has been terrifying her family, so could his days be numbered?
By Janine Marsh
THERE COMES a time in every chicken owner’s life when a tough decision has to be made. I’m talking of cockerels.
I have four boys, Gregory Peck Jr (an enormous glossy bird with a soulful voice), Kendo Nagasaki (a colourful bantam), Cocky Rocky (cheeky and friendly) and Victor Hugo (he lives in the geese pen as the girls hen peck him too much).
I did have five boys. I found Ken the cockerel in the woods as a just-hatched chick after his mother was attacked and succumbed to her injuries. He was with another hatchling, Barbie, the only chicken I’ve ever seen with yellow feathers.
Ken was trouble right from the start. Feisty, vocal and tetchy. As he grew older he got worse. He would chase me around the garden pecking at my legs or anywhere he could draw blood. I spoke to a chicken psychiatrist who advised me to try to soothe him, talk to him and pick him up to get him used to the contact and me. Ken was enraged and pecked at my face.
He would chase anyone who came into the garden, so I kept him in his own bit with high fences. He was, however, a total escape artist and nothing seemed to hold him in. When he started chasing my kids about in the summer, I knew I had to do something before he caused a serious injury or instilled a lifelong fear of chickens.
“Jean-Claude,” I said to my neighbour and chicken mentor, “have you ever had a bird gone bad?”
“Many times,” he told me. “Sometimes male birds are just naturally aggressive and there’s not much you can do about it. They have to be let go.”
I gulped, I knew what he meant by letting go. Shades of the French Revolution.
“Show me the bird,” he said. So I took him into the pen and of course Ken had escaped again. He was now stalking us like the velociraptor in Jurassic Park. He was utterly incensed that there was a trespasser and he flew at Jean-Claude feet first.
Jean-Claude might be on the wrong side of 60, but he is a wily Frenchman. He moved swiftly to the side and then caught Ken deftly.
“No, no,” he said gravely. “This one you cannot keep. He’ll have your kids’ eyes out.”
My lip quivered. I couldn’t bear the thought of him being dealt with. He had the most amazing cock-a-doodle-doo, a high pitch screech and always at the end a low hum, like a sigh.
“He’s very beautiful though,” said Jean-Claude eyeing up the naughty bird in his hands. He took off before I could change my mind.
I felt very bad about Ken, though. It was nice not to have to wear protective clothes to peg out the washing.
Then three weeks later I heard a familiar sound, a high-pitched cock-a-doodle-doo… sigh. It came from Jean-Claude’s garden. Ken’s good looks seem to have got him a reprieve. I just hope he stays on the right side of the fence.
MAIN: Janine Marsh with Ken and Barbie as chicks ABOVE INSET: Ken was trouble right from the start — feisty, vocal and tetchy
Ken getting ready to jump on anyone who passes by