The Cockerel That Knew

This is the true story of how a bantam cockerel learned to rule the roost after fleeing for its life.

I’ve written before about the chickens I used to keep, and about how they got red spider mite and how I cured them.

After I treated them with the medication, a neighbour said I should get a cockerel to stop the pecking starting again. So I went to the market and bought a cockerel and brought it home and lofted it over the wire fence into the chicken yard.

Except that I had bought a bantam cockerel (a white one) and my chickens were Rhode Islands and they were twice the size of the cockerel. So when the cockerel landed in the chicken year, it took one look at the chickens and they looked at it and then they just launched at it.

The cockerel took one look at them and dived under the ark, terrified.

A small digression for those who don’t know what an ark is. it’s a wooden shed on wheels that can be dragged around to fresh grass. At one end is the door for the owner to get in and out to clear it out.

At the other end is a box running the width of the ark with a lift-up lid. That is where the chickens lay their eggs. Inside the ark is a branch running crosswise, and the chickens roost on that at night.

Now in fact my ark was static and I had staked a high wire fence around it so that the chickens had a permanent patch of land to grub about in.

And the iron wheels had settled a bit and there was just a small space between the bottom of the ark and the ground. And out of this space the cockerel poked its head this way and that.

This went on for a while, with the chickens darting in when they thought they could get a shot at the cockerel, and I was getting a little agitated myself, because the chickens had a pretty mean look in their eyes.

Then the cockerel saw its chance and it darted from under the ark and scrambled vertically into the air and landed on the ridge of the pitched roof of the ark. The chickens were never able to do that – they were too plump, or maybe they weren’t adventurous enough. Whatever it was, the cockerel had a respite but only a temporary one, as it couldn’t stay up there forever.

And sure enough it flew with a mighty fluttering leap, right over the fence where it landed and then ran to the bottom of the garden, down into the little ditch that bordered the garden, through the straggly hedge and up the other side.

On it ran, across the field and down the ditch far away and up the other side and into the next field, and soon it was lost in the distance.

Late afternoon turned to evening and I went inside with a rueful feeling of having been pretty stupid not to have foreseen that a cockerel half the size of the chickens might have had a hard time of it.

The next morning I went out to the chicken run and there was the cockerel strutting around, and he had all the chickens treating him like the prince he was.

And I have thought and wondered sometimes what went on in his mind that evening.

I imagine him roosting in a hedge somewhere out in the fields, panting and bedraggled.

How did he know that he was supposed to be back with the chickens?

Did he sit there saying “I am not going to be defeated by a bunch of chickens – I won’t be able to live with myself if I turn tail and run now.”

And when he reappeared by the fence and leaped into the air and over the fence and in among the chickens, did they try to mob him or did they stand stunned and in awe at his audacity and bravery?

These are things I will never know.

This is a true story.