The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

The Italian Cockerels must go

Photo: Alfonso and Massimo

Photo: Alfonso and Massimo

Yesterday evening I noticed a brown envelope on the front door mat. I assumed that it was a circular and turned it over just in case. It had our address hand written on the front so I pulled out the typewritten letter and as I read the first few lines, my heart sunk.

“Danny, it’s a letter from our neighbours. The cockerels are waking them up at 4.30 am – they can’t cope.”

We have four cockerels. Beatyl, the diminutive cockerel hatched by Mrs Boss, Baby the tiny undersized Leghorn and the two Italian cockerels. Danny is not over keen on the latter. They do make a racket and are prone to covering some of our elderly – no longer maiden hens – on a daily basis. Even the gentle Massimo can be a bit of a bully with the smaller birds. But I do like the Italian cockerels – they are beautiful and elegant.

As the letter stated that the disturbance had been going on for a year now this correlated to the time that the Leghorns arrived from Caroline and Kevin’s care. So hopefully Beatyl’s cries can’t have been a problem. Baby can’t crow yet, thank goodness.

“Why not ask Emma if she’d like a couple of cockerels? She took the Guinea Fowl.”
“Most people don’t want cockerels. Especially if they have a breeding flock – they are usually trying to get rid of their cockerels. I remember offering her one before.”
“The best option is to offer the birds to Doug (another neighbour). He’d know how to kill them and prepare them for table. We could even try eating one ourselves.”
Danny looked unimpressed.
“Or we could take them to the chicken rescue place. But that would just be passing the problem onto them.”

Danny telephoned the neighbours and assured them that we will get rid of the noisy cockerels. Now we just have to decide whether they go in the pot or to the chicken rescue.

My Aunt Pickles regularly slaughtered her own birds and they were the most delicious chickens that I have ever tasted. She had a few named pet chickens and the rest of the flock in the meadow were there for meat and eggs.

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  1. Magic Cochin

    As I type this, our Araucana cockerel is crowing outside in the garden. He’s a year old, we adopted him 6 months ago – in his previous home he had started to become a noisy nuisance. I’m hoping one of the hens will go broody as they did last year and we’ll let her raise chicks.

    He is kept in the henhouse until 7am, so the sound is muffled a bit, our garden wall also muffles the sound. Luckily our neighbours have been tolerant/polite/deaf. And I tolerate his flying attacks when I wear my orange Crocs!!!

    But if they did complain, we’d cull him and he’d go in the stew/soup pot. Yes, it would be difficult – he’s beautiful but not a pet. It would be done with respect and he would have had a good life – I eat chicken and so how can I justify not eating him?

    When I was small I loved helping my Gran look after her poultry. Each year she bought a batch of day-old male chicks and raised them for the table. She loved all her birds, they were never stressed and she dispatched them quickly. The flavour of the meat was fantastic.

    You can do it Fiona and Danny – it’s the sensible and respectful option.


  2. I had a cockerel raised from a chick last year which I decided to put in the pot in the end. I couldn’t risk upsetting my lovely neighbours and he was bothering the other hens- including his sisters! I wasn’t sure if I could do the deed as I have never done it before, but I did lots of research plucked up the courage and did it. I slaughtered him after dark as I thought that would be less upsetting for me, him and the neighbours. I then plucked him and gutted him that evening, but I know you are already an experience hand at that Fiona. I really didn’t find it that bad an experience and I would do it again.
    I have to say it was the most delicious chicken I have ever eaten and made the most amazing stock. But that might have been because I really went to town with the preparation as I wanted to do him justice. He was about 6 months old at the time and the meat wasn’t at all tough.
    Good luck whatever decision you make.

  3. Cookie Girl

    I am up at 5am anyway so it wouldn’t bother me … well maybe at the weekend. Personally I would have to go for the dark room option, that way you get to keep them and the neighbours are happy. I agree with Cottage Garden Farmer though that they are part of country life, indeed they are part of the sounds of the landscape of rural France. Part of me says let the neighbours decide, “Do you wanna kill ’em, darken ’em or send ’em away’ ?”

  4. freerangegirl

    Hi Fiona – You have my absolute sympathy, they are beautiful birds though. Weve found that as long as we have a curfew on our rooster and lock him in at night he doesnt make any noise until hes back out in the open. This method does have its drawbacks though, like when you forget and have to round up a rooster at 4am in your PJs!

  5. danast

    I love my hens and ducks to bits, but the only two who have names are the old ladies of the flock. However I will still give them the respect of eating them when they are gone.
    I had two cockerels until recently and the way they tried to outdo each other meant for a very noisy hen run. I took the decision to cull the younger one and he duly went in the soup pot.
    If you keep animals you must have the courage to do what is necessary when required.
    Don’t think I don’t understand how difficult it is, but Fiona your neighbours have been patient and you do have to live there. People need their sleep ( and the goodwill of their neighbours )

  6. cottage garden farmer

    I sympathise, having had cockerels to dispose of myself. If they’re old, remember they won’t make good roasters, maybe you could get someone to do the deed for you to make it easier. I don’t know where you live, but I do think if you live in the country, people should expect to hear country noises, including cockerels which I love to hear.

  7. Natasha

    Ooooh its a toughie!

    One of my neighbours has a cockeral too…its far enouhg away though that my earplugs do the job though. I am one of those annoying people who once they wake up cannot get to sleep again as well! I can understand a neighbour’s frustration – it sounds like they have been tryng to ignore it for a while…but have finally plucked up the courage to say something.

    At the end of the day its your decision what to do. You have talked about a bird for the pot before, or you could try muffling tactics if you want to keep them as pets. Or offer them on freecyle!

    Might also be worth thinking about what you will do once Beatyl and Baby start crying as well.

  8. John W

    My parents kept hens in our otherwise sub-urban house & garden. It became my job to feed them twice a day, check the water was clean etc. Fuel was cheap then, (or at least compared to price of eggs) and they were fed cooked potato peelings (they loved them), along with “layer’s mash” which I had to buy in 56lb bags and haul
    to the car. I forget why the peelings were cooked, other than my father’s dread of potato eelworm. The hens would be desperate to get at the dish as I approached.

    We never had a cock but sometimes one hen, I guess the top of the pecking order, would give her own dawn chorus, taking over the cock’s role. We never had letters. We did have escapees, which I had to round up.

    It must be 30 years ago since the last batch of hens were retired (to Aunt’s). Her chicken house is still in the overgrown garden, rotted beyond use.

  9. Ruthdigs

    I’m afraid I do rather see the neighbours point. Being woken repetitively at that time in the morning is really not nice, whether it’s from alarms, cockerels etc. If you have problems with sleep like me it can be seriously debilitating and depressing. A cockerel crowing very early a couple of weeks ago near where I live woke me up and my heart absolutely plummetted thinking it was here to stay but since then I have only noticed it after about half 7 so I think they must have gone for the darkened room option. If this is practical perhaps try it otherwise my vote is also for the pot.

  10. follyana

    Please do not listen to your neighbours!!…they are beautiful birds, and should you really need to satisfy your neighbours by letting them go, then please at least let them go to a place somewhere, where they will be able to live their lives out in peace!!!!!

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