As a poultry keeper, I’m always amazed by the antics of my birds. I have ducks, chickens and geese – they’re pets, not for the pot, despite the urging of my French neighbours. I love them all but it’s the chickens who for me are the most fascinating. Ducks fight it out to establish a pecking order. Geese seem to be quite democratic, group together and have no clear leader. Chickens are a whole other story.
Reggie and Ronnie Kray
Take Reggie Kray.
Reggie and Ronnie Kray are beautiful cockerels who are the spitting image of their dad Roger Moore who is the leader of the pack in the chicken pen. Roger does not share. He keeps a very beady eye over the ladies and what they get up to. Reggie is a romantic. He fell head over heels for a fluffy brown, coquettish chicken called Annette and the pair managed to escape the pen for a quiet tête-à-tête together. She is able to squeeze through the fence as she’s a miniature chicken, and he just goes straight over the top.
Their affair blossomed under the leaves of a quince tree. Every night they returned to the pen. Reggie slept in his tree, Annette in her tree with Roger Moore and his harem. They do have chicken coops, but they prefer to be outdoors.
Annette eventually tired of her young lover and refused to leave the pen. Reggie was heartbroken and cock-a-doodle-doo’d forlornly every day.
So we bought yet another coop, 4 new girls and put Reggie in a new pen with them.
It started well. The girls were wary but made welcome by the rest of the group. And Reggie did a little welcome dance too (you can see the video on Instagram). But it soon went wrong.
Kendo Nagasaki wins this round
Reggie stayed with the girls all day but at night, went back to his old pen to sleep up in the tree with Ronnie.
Kendo Nagasaki, a miniature cockerel who is a solitary old boy and chooses to live in the garden alone (where he can nibble my vegetables to his heart’s content) saw his chance. Every night he nipped over the fence into Reggie’s pen and stayed with the girls. In the morning he left the pen.
Then he decided not to leave every day, sometimes he stuck around all day long. When this happened, Reggie, who is a lover not a fighter, refused to leave Roger Moore’s pen unless Kendo Nagasaki went back into the garden.
This went on for weeks. Cockerels to-ing and fro-ing like yoyos. The girls seemed to take no notice whatsoever of the boys shenanigans.
The cockerels who stay together win together
Then early one morning I heard Kendo Nagasaki at the back door calling me for breakfast as he always used to when he was living in the garden. I fed him and went to the pen to see what had happened. Reggie and Ronnie Kray were strutting about with the girls. If they had been twirling silver topped canes and doffing their top hats I wouldn’t have been more surprised (alright maybe I would a bit!). They had staged a coup in the coop.
So now I’m thinking I need to get more girls for Ronnie. It’s a never ending saga. Peyton Place with pecking I call it…
Janine Marsh is Author of My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream – ebook, print & audio, on Amazon everywhere & all good bookshops online, and My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life