French Hens

Ja­nine Marsh’s feisty, tetchy cock­erel Ken has been ter­ri­fy­ing her fam­ily, so could his days be num­bered?

Your Chickens - - Contents -

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.