Friday 4 April 2014

Cockfight and Dogfight

No! Don't worry, no real cause for alarm and we've not been up to anything illegal, but as well as the signs of spring and sap rising in the local flora, the local birds have been putting in their bids for their own sap rising and the breeding season coming up to full steam. Last spring, it occurs to us, we had just the one rooster (William), so it all passed off quite peacefully and although we'd seen a bit of sporadic cock fighting at other poultry keepers' places, we had never seen it here and lived in the bliss of ignorance that all 'our' lot would get along peacefully like one big happy family.

William high-kicks Henry in a fast and furious bout.
Well, yesterday our feisty Guinea Fowl cock-bird, Henry, laid that one firmly to rest by taking it upon himself to attack our Sussex Ponte rooster, William. William turns out to be no 'pussy' when it comes to defending his alpha status and gave Henry a good kicking for his pains, but Henry would not take 'No' for an answer and kept running in looping circles returning to William for more. It was fast, furious and noisy. These fights can get serious, we knew, with birds getting badly hurt or even killed and we, as their keepers are responsible for keeping them from harm.

Buffers, before he got involved in the fighting.
However, there is no easy way to catch these two in the open of a free-range system, so we chased around as best we could but basically had to let them work it out. We were relieved when they quickly seemed to, with William 'winning' and driving Henry off. It all calmed down though we did see at one stage, William and our Buff Orpington 'roo' (Buffers, for short) squaring up in that ritualized way - the cocks bowing low to each other, beak to beak, spreading cape feathers wide and displaying wings and tail feathers to make themselves look huge. We supervised and, where we could, a garden boot swung (gently) between the protagonists and waggled helped to separate them.

Blue is back in the ratting game.
It all calmed down and we decided it was over and it would now be safe to go shopping. We were wrong, and returned to what looked like the aftermath of a Hollywood saloon bar brawl. Poor Buffers was well spattered in blood and it had dripped down into his chest feathers. Henry was cowering under the hedge by the 'allotment', unusually quiet and subdued and seemed to have been deserted by his wife, who was now hanging with the hens. William had a few flecks of dried blood on his face and cape, but was strutting tall, presumably the winner.

Hooded crow (top) dog fighting with our Raven.
The boys had obviously been 'at it' while we were away although it now seemed to have been settled. Nobody was badly hurt but everyone needs a good rain shower to clean them up a bit. We have seen no such fighting since. W and B have had a square-off but no more kicking. We are not surprised William came out on top - he weighs easily twice as much as the Guinea cock and has inch long sharp spurs on his legs. Nobody else is armed like that. Later Henry went off into hiding (he was actually just out of sight behind the earth bank but was not about to show his face to William on the latter's turf) and refused to come despite hours of plaintive calling by Min (buck-wheat! buck-wheat!), even to come to bed as it got dark. We tried to shepherd him in the dusk back towards the buildings so we could lock him up safe from Mr Fox, but he was having none of it and kept side-stepping us  and nipping up the Rose Walk or through the car port to his bank. We said a prayer for him and left him to it.

Another egg glut solution - pickled eggs.
I was delighted this morning to find that not only had he survived, but he was sitting outside the chickens' pop-hole, come to collect his wife and possibly a clip round the ear! He's been very subdued today and no-one has tried any more fighting, which is a relief. He shuffles past William with Min in close formation, keeping his head down. Me? Noooooo no no no... I was just going to eat some of this grass. So we HOPE that is it. You get one brew up, one big flash of passion and emotion, everybody sorts out their pecking orders and we all go back to being a happy family. You think?

The passion was also waking up in the wild birds. I had my camera out with the 200 mm lens on it so I'd been able to get the above pic of one of the fights but was also lucky enough to see the local raven (whom we call 'Quoth') harassed by two of the local hooded crows in another noisy, whirling, aerobatic dog-fight. The Raven's loud 'Cronk' calls were being out-shouted by the "Werk! Werk!" calls of the crows as they wheeled their way westward along our ridge top.

And finally, if I can sneak in a quick bit of sad to tie up a loose end, our tiny chick 'Lonely Roads' had showed no improvement in his leg so we decided to cull him out. It's a shame and it's never nice to have to do it, but when we need to we are able. RIP 'Roads', we will miss you but you'd have never thrived here.

No comments: