Protecting birds in distress is something most of us do as a matter of course. A bird only has to show signs of illness or some other vulnerability and the other birds of the flock home in and attack the poor unfortunate bird.
What then to do with elderly cockerels who have been overtaken by a young rooster in the flock is a little more difficult. The older bird is usually attacked and even when the youngster has established themselves at the top of the flock, the attacks continue. We have a couple of old warriors who were themselves ‘the new kids on the block’ only a few years back.
The first and largest is Cornelius, a Lohmann Brown cross with a Light Sussex hybrid. As you see from the photo he is a very handsome boy. About 2 years ago now, he developed septic arthritis, quite large open ulcers on both legs. Needless to say, this affected his walking considerably, still he got about and the treatment, consisting of iodine and sugar, was applied every night for over 6 months. He improved enough to walk properly albeit with a high strutting gait. Now however, he has given up the fight and has been deposed by other younger cockerels.
There are two cockerels in this particular flock (besides Cornelius). The first is a bantam Silver Laced Wyandotte called Fraser, he remembers only too well the treatment he received from Cornelius only a year or so ago, and now it’s payback time!
Around 2 years ago when Fraser was less then 6 months old, he made the mistake of going into the maran run (clearly the maran ladies were too tempting) and promptly got attacked by Troy the resident cockerel of the flock. Just a small error to make, but he paid a heavy price and lost an eye in the attack from Troy.
The other cockerel is a Welsummer/Brahma cross by the name of Dexter. He was the last to join the flock, and yes he also remembers the chasing he received from Cornelius. Whilst we have managed to keep Cornelius in the flock, we have to make sure that he is not left on his own in a small space or else the torment is relentless. Each flock here is let out of their run on a sort of rota basis, this way everybody manages to get out and about. Cornelius manages to sleep in the same coop at night, by creeping in when most of the girls are already in, then he makes for the bottom nest box. Fortunately, Fraser is the only one he has to worry about at bed time, as Dexter prefers to sleep with a flock of bantams just opposite.
The other rooster who has been eclipsed is Troy. Troy is getting on a bit now, being almost 7 years old. He does stagger about when walking and is generally unsteady. He used to be in charge of our mixed flock of Marans/Black Rocks. Troy was always very loyal to his girls, never going after the girls in other flocks.
I remember on one occasion when he was with his girls one morning in the run, they were being tormented by a large gull who thought it would be good idea to take food from one of their feeders in the run. I was first attracted to the situation by some terrible screams, all the flock had homed in on this gull and were in the process of tearing it apart, I ran over and just managed to remove the gull just in time. Poor thing was in a real state of shock, I threw it in the air and it flew off a short distance and began inspecting it’s wounds. Troy undoubtedly would have led the charge and all his girls just followed him. I only wish the same thing would happen when our numerous flocks of pigeons descend on the food!
Anyway, as Troy is in a fragile state physically, we decided to keep him the garage during the day. He is allowed out on sunny days with no wind, but still runs the risk of being attacked either by Bruno the new Maran cockerel (who is very large) or by Trevor our Silver Pencilled Hamburgh. Both these roosters just love pecking him and chasing him all over the place.
It’a quite boring for him on his own in the garage, so when possible we let some of his former girls into the garage to keep him company, many of his girls just hang around the garage door in the hope of some treat, so Troy is never short of visitors most days. It’s quite obvious that he does so enjoy seeing his girls again, he perks up instantly and starts chatting to them and occasionally manages to mount one or two.
No doubt many people would say ‘why bother’? Well we bother because we feel each fowl deserves the same level of care and attention near the end of it’s life as it had during it’s heyday. After all, to us they are unique characters that make life worth living.