Michelle Dunn gives a cock­erel to a friend and wit­nesses a change in his be­hav­iour that she hadn’t ex­pected

Your Chickens - - Contents - By Michelle Dunn

MANY DIS­CUS­SIONS have been held over the years as to whether some­one’s per­son­al­ity comes about from na­ture or nur­ture. In other words, were they born this way, or did they learn it as they grew up?

I had an op­por­tu­nity to see how the na­ture/nur­ture the­ory ap­plied to chick­ens re­cently. I gave our old boss cock­erel Ge­orge to Jac­qui, a friend with eight ex-bat­tery hens. Jac­qui’s hens’ be­hav­iour is very dif­fer­ent to Ge­orge’s be­hav­iour. Jac­qui’s hens have the run of her gar­den, but they don’t roam far from the house and they of­ten go in­side and watch an episode of Bar­gain Hunt while Jac­qui is work­ing. They also love cud­dles. Ge­orge is used to roam­ing eight acres of land, has never been al­lowed in the house and would run a mile if I tried to cud­dle him. The ques­tion I asked my­self was: will Ge­orge’s be­hav­iour change when he moves to his new home? And if so, how much?

If any­thing, I ex­pected Ge­orge’s be­hav­iour to stay much the same. He is four years old now, so very set in his ways and with no com­pe­ti­tion in the form of other cock­erels about, I ex­pected him to dic­tate his ways to the ex-bats. Jac­qui, on the other hand, ex­pected her strong-minded ex-bats to com­pletely dom­i­nate the cock­erel.

So what hap­pened? Well, Jac­qui and I were both wrong. Ge­orge changed some parts of his be­hav­iour com­pletely, but so did the ex-bats. For ex­am­ple, Ge­orge no longer roosts on a high perch as he used to, but in­stead spends the night in one of the hens’ nest boxes. He has de­cided he now likes grapes, as the ex-bats con­sider grapes to be one of the best treats known to chick­enkind. He even goes into the house (although he draws the line at al­low­ing Jac­qui to pick him up, or even touch him).

Mean­while, the ex-bats have been bit­ten by the wan­der­ing bug, and they now fol­low Ge­orge into the or­chard and across the field. At first they were afraid of him, but he soon won them over and now they fol­low him ador­ingly wher­ever he goes.

So it seems that chick­ens are ex­tremely adapt­able birds and they can change their be­hav­iour to suit their sur­round­ings and the com­pany they keep. Per­haps this ex­plains why they have es­tab­lished them­selves so suc­cess­fully around the world.

Cock­erels are in­tel­li­gent and quick to adapt to new sit­u­a­tions

Ge­orge is set­tling well into his new life

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