Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Anatomy of a Rooster Fight

I am not talking the bloodsport. The normal kind. Fighting amongst roosters is absolutely normal and rarely injurious or fatal. Birds achieve great rank and can lose it in a day - nothing in the poultry hierarchy is stable and permanent. Their social world is in constant flux.

Most of their "fighting" is posturing. Roosters will offer every chance at avoiding a fight.

The beginning of a potential fight starts with the "I'm just pecking at the ground." Frost is the large white rooster on the right, Chaucer is the sporty fellow on the left. Frost used to be top rooster by sheer size alone. Chaucer is a jerk and loves to fight. Recently, Frost has fallen in the ranks. He is trying to get higher up, so he'll start a challenge with Chaucer (even though no one really likes to start something with Chaucer).

I've had visitors think roosters exhibiting this pre-fight behavior were being cute, unaware that inevitably a sparring session would occur. I don't know the root cause of this pre-fighting behavior. It's almost exactly like a food-call to hens. In fact, some roosters will vocalize like they would to hens. Showing off how great they are at finding resources?

If neither rooster backs down, next is the stare down.
I've seen one stare down last a full minute. Both roosters will bob their heads, fluff out their neck feathers and stare each other down. Frost is actually being slightly submissive by lowering his tail feathers, while Chaucer is continuing on his "I AM SO TOUGH, NOW DIE!" position on life. Sometimes they will circle each other.

If neither one is willing to back down, then it's onto the air kick...a generally inaccurate endeavor.
It's pretty clear Chaucer sees it coming. And while it may look like Frost is being pretty epic here, he's not. Chaucer, like I mentioned, is a jerk. He kicks losers when they're down, he's not about to fail at defeating a rooster twice his size.  The air kicks last a few seconds, and then it's back to the stare down and the ground pecking. Sometimes contact is made with the spurs or talons, but rarely is anything cut open. It's why cockfighters put knives on the roosters legs - a normal, species-appropriate rooster fight is rarely a battle to the death.

Most of the time, the submissive rooster will back down and maybe receive a peck to the head from the winner. Sometimes, though, jerk-wad roosters like Chaucer act like douche-bags and another, better rooster needs to intervene.

This is Picasso. When Chaucer was acting a fool, Picasso came in and escorted Chaucer out. Those are Chaucer's tail feathers exiting the scene. Frost is pleased with the deal.

Frost would have lost if Picasso hadn't intervened, and it would have been fine. Life would have moved on.

There are 46 roosters living together in this bachelor pad, victims of a hoarding case. They are living, breathing examples of the rooster myth...the one that says roosters are aggressive, bloodthirsty monsters who cannot cohabitate with each other without unnecessary, life-threatening fighting. It is untrue. Some of these roos come from gamecocks, some don't. I wish more people could see this bachelor pad of rooster boys. They are a joy to watch.

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