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Word of warning on cockerels

17:58 25 April 2014

Q- I have been told a cockerel will make my hens happier and more productive, but my children love collecting eggs, and I’ve heard cockerels can be aggressive. Could a person actually be harmed by a chicken?Kay Flowers, Sussex
A - Anne Perdeaux says: A cockerel won’t increase egg production – his attentions may even cause injury to the hens. Feathers and skin are easily torn by sharp spurs during mating, leaving hens vulnerable to disease and bullying. However, a cockerel will fertilise eggs if you wish to breed replacements, and can be useful for keeping order in the flock.

He will also warn his hens of danger, and try to protect them. This protective instinct can lead to aggression in some cockerels, even against the person who feeds them. Some breeds are more likely to be belligerent than others, but so many factors influence behaviour, it is impossible to guarantee that males of any one breed will be placid.

Cockerels often change behaviour when they mature, too, and as they gain confidence in their status.

The wounds that can be inflicted by a vicious cockerel shouldn’t be underestimated. With spurs, claws and beak, he can pierce clothing, and draw blood. Even a bantam cockerel can cause nasty injuries (and may also be capable of leaping to head height), whilst a heavy bird can leave his victim really bruised and battered.

If you decide to have a cockerel, keep a watchful eye on him, and be particularly vigilant when children are around.

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