The perils of loving velociraptors

Z warned me and I did believe her. Loving chickens is perilous. They do not love you back in the same way that dogs and cats do, but they do regard you from their chicken hearts. I know it's mostly cupboard love, but I can live with that. After all, I have a cat; and a cat's love is as conditional as it gets.

Mona and Polly were my first two. I 'borrowed' them and then came the others, Canasta and Scrabble. But Mona and Polly bullied the other two quite viciously, especially Scrabble who was a tiny little thing really. I looked at Mona and was sure she was a he - Mono, and Z agreed I could swap her for Jenga. 

Mona and Polly

The consensus was that Mono was a she, but she still needed to be kept separate. A momentary lapse of attention and deluge from the sky, led to the disastrous herding of the older chickens and Mona into the same small coop. Z found her unconscious, with all of the feathers plucked off her poor little head. Given it was my mistake, I took her on care. For three days, Mona was either on my lap or on my arm.  She was given a box in my greenhouse with a top to keep Rummy off of her. Her poor eyes were swollen shut and it was all I could do to get her to drink. She didn't appear to eat anything at all. We bathed her sore head three times a day and Z got a hideously expensive spray to deter infection.

She gradually opened one eye and got much stronger. I either carried her around on my arm or shoulder like a parrot, much to Z's amusement. Rummy sniffed her occasionally, but apart from that, he took very little notice of her. He would curl up next to me as she sat on my lap snoozing.  She liked to snuggle herself on my shoulder, cheeping into my ear as she fell asleep.

Mona and Rummy snoozing as I read my Kindle

As she got stronger, I brought her outside with the others. She'd sit next to me and attempt to peck at things, but without two working eyes she missed more times than hit. I began to look for chicken nappies. I felt a one-eyed chicken wouldn't do well with the others and I didn't mind her inside at all, it was just the poo. And OMG chicken poo smells! And then her other eye opened up.

She began to hang out more with the others. I needn't have worried about her healing head as an issue. She was the problem to my flock, not the other way around. By that time, it was clear that Jenga was definitely a rooster. He was totally giving it large at every opportunity. However, he and Mona started squaring up in a totally different way that he did with the others. Their heads would go down and they'd glare into the other's eyes doing their version of a growl.
Mona having a snooze in my kitchen

It was Saturday morning at 6.30 when the crowing from the greenhouse woke me and I knew for sure, Mona was definitely a Mono. My heart sank. I couldn't have two cockerels. 

Jenga is far more amenable and less of a bully than Mono and the other hens don't hesitate to tell him where to get off. Mono bullied everyone without mercy. For the flock's sake he had to go.

Last Thursday, Z told me she'd found a man to despatch her cockerels and he'd do Mono as well. With a very heavy heart I caught him and set him in the coop to await his fate. Something I regretted for the whole morning. I had a poetry tutorial that morning and I worried and worried about him.

It wasn't the decision that Mono had to be despatched that hurt. It was the fact that Mono was mine, he trusted me and I was going to let a stranger lay his hands on him and do him violence. I couldn't bear the thought. Happily, when I got back home, it turned out the guy didn't make it over. I got Mono back and he ran around with the others for the rest of the evening. Come bedtime, I put the others in the coop and Mono in the greenhouse to roost. I found an old cooler and when it was dark, I popped Mono in there.

He just went to sleep. 

To have animals live with you, is to accept the responsibility of their health and happiness. I miss Mono. I miss his stroppy self so incredibly much. It hurts more than is logical or makes sense and I don't regret his dispatch. 

RIP you stroppy cock.


  1. It's sometimes very tough to do what's right but it sounds like you're a good (and responsible) chicken mum. There will lots more chicken adventures in the future!! And hopefully no chicken nappies will be required. ;-)

    1. I'm trying to be. I adore them so much. I don't much care if they never give me eggs. I like their clucky selves scratching around.

  2. Thank you for the chicken update. I of course know nothing about raising chickens other than having observed the ones my grandparents had on their farm for eggs and eating. So I find these insider stories very interesting.

    1. I don't know much about chickens either. I'm learning as I go. I have to blog about them here because I'm boring the pants off everyone IRL.

  3. I beg your pardon and excuse please, I have some questions re understanding words, your post.

    What is "cupboard love" ?

    "He [Jenga] as totally giving it large at every opportunity." This means that there was no more incertainty about Jenga's, well roosterness - yes ?

    "despatch the cockerels" - kill 'em ?

    You found an old cooler - a fridgidaire ? Sorry, I do not get it - you killed the cockerel yourself ? By ice ?

    These questions may sound overly silly or "made up" - but they are not & I really want to understand it. Understand you, that is. Its nothing to "mock" you or something, or be rude & cruel : I simply do not get the words' meanings.

    After all it's about loyality ?

    And btw - a black cat, a cockerel sitting on yer shoulder, what next - nice drinks (or shall we call it potions ?) made from garden plants & mushrooms ? This is the fairy tales' witch equipment :)

    1. No problem. I'll take your questions from the top.

      Cupboard love is an expression that describes love given only with food. Generally used in animal context.

      Giving it large - I meant he was trying to crow his loudest. He stands up as tall as he can, stretches out and puffs out his chest and crows as loud as he can. It's a bit of a performance. Pavarotti would approve.

      Yes, I'm using dispatch as a euphemism.

      I found an old cooler, a box to put drinks and food and ice and take it to a picnic. They are air tight. Mona would have settled down and gotten a bit tired and then gone to sleep and then died. It was that or chop his head off or wring his neck or drown him. All very violent, but quick endings.

      Yes, I suppose I am a bit of a stereotype...must find a pointy hat.


    2. Sorry Roses, this has made me ANGRY. It takes a LOT (and i mand A LOT) to make me ANGRY these days.

      That is an utterly DISGUSTING way to let a chicken die in a slow and lingering way.

      He would have suffered MUCH more than if you'd let someone who knew what they were doing dispatch him.

      If you can't bear to do what has to be done when it has to be done, it's simple... don't keep animals.

      From somone who has kept chickens for 20 years and knows that she knows her stuff.

    3. That would in some respect be a "Bartkartoffelverhältniss" in German.

      I'd prefer the chop. With all that flapping around and the blood, but I'd chop his head off. Sorry. And eat him afterwards.

      Stereotypes are only on the side of those who look, perceive - I can not translate the word "wahrnehmen". No obligation to follow this - Roses is Roses, nobody else.

    4. Dear Blue Witch

      I don't "keep chickens" any more than I keep Rummy. They are my pets. My chickens and I hang out. I don't hand feed them, they help themselves to my breakfast when I eat it outside. When I garden, I'll have one examining my hair and scarf for bugs while the others perch on my fork while they wait for worms. They are tame and are used to me handling them.

      Mona was even tamer than the rest of my flock. He was used to me handling him and putting him into anything from a laundry basket to a pet carrier and when I put him into the cooler he settled down, like he always did.

      Birds settle very quickly in the dark which is why falconers hood their birds and people who keep parrots and the like keep covers for their cages.

      Carrier bags have holes in them to stop babies and pets sticking their heads in them, cats especially love them. They curl up, go to sleep and never wake up.

      Yeah, I've seen people who know what they're doing at work. I've seen a professional chicken cull, a vet, the farmer and his assistant move through a barn full of chickens, weeding out the smallest. It takes a chicken anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes to still. I know, because I saw it. How quickly a chicken eventually stills, depends. I don't count the point of neck twisting or being removed as dead any more, because chickens' central nervous system is quite remarkable. So remarkable that there is a documented case of a botched beheading removing most of the head. The farmer took that headless chicken out on the road for 18 months.

      This is why we have the saying run around like a headless chicken. But then, you're going to tell me that the chicken isn't suffering when that happens....

      As for what you know and what you don't know. I know Mona settled and wasn't distressed, he knew I was near and he wasn't panicked or in pain. Had he been, I'd have brought him out. He settled down and went to sleep.

      So I'll take that over some strange man who he doesn't know wringing his neck and leaving him to flop about until whenever...

      Herr Mago, I don't eat my pets. He was a pet.

    5. However you dress it up Roses, and however you may try to excuse it, he was suffocated.

      A slow and lingering death.

      Just like smothering someone with a pillow, or drowning kittens in a water souce in a sack weighted with a stone.

      Both the above punishable in law, as they are cruel and wrong.

      I don't disagree that many people don't know how to humanely kill chickens.
      Which is why vets are happy to help out when the owners can't face the inevitable.

    6. I haven't "dressed it up", I spoke my truth.

      As you spoke spoke yours.

      And made your opinions of me known.

      Which is fair enough, but we're done here.

  4. One does what one must at such times....
    I had a stroppy cock and, in the end, conceded that he had to go.So I re-homed him, with the dire warning that small children would not be safe with him.We called him "Drop-kick Andy" and eventually my limp got better...

    1. Your cock doesn't sound stroppy, he sounds aggressive.

      With a larger flock, I think Mona would have done very well indeed, I think he'd have been an excellent guardian for his ladies, but this is the UK. They don't like any extraneous noise and if people keep chickens, they cull the cocks very quickly. Rehoming them where they aren't going to be cooked up is very difficult.

    2. We lived on a rural property then and the chap who wanted Andy ( a pure bred Andalusian) was a breeder.

  5. My friend is due over this afternoon. I've got the four young cockerels cooped up ready. I'm looking at the other cock, father of all the chicks, wondering if I can bear to get rid of him too. It seems so mean - but this has been a miserable summer, frankly, with all those chicks to look after and I can't face doing it again.


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