Genetic Tendancy to Aggression in Poultry by Katie Thear
Some breeds and individual birds are more aggressive than others. Game birds, with their close-fitting (hard-feathered) plumage, long legs and sharp spurs have been used for the sport of cockfighting for thousands of years.
There is some evidence that they have also been selectively bred for this purpose, judging by the 17 th century advice: “In your election chuse him which is of a strong shape, good colour, true valour, and of a most sharp and ready heel” (Cheape and Good Husbandry. Gervase Markham. 1614)
Generally speaking, the heavy red-feathered breeds that have been developed as table or sitting breeds are less wild and flighty than the light white-feathered egg breeds.
Similarly, utility breeds that have been bred for production have less of an aggressive tendency.
Hybrids tend to be more docile than pure breeds. In recent years, with the growing emphasis on commercial free-range, there has been yet more effort to select for docility. The tendency of many hybrid hens to squat down in the submissive mating position when approached is an indication of this.
The following table indicates the relative docility of breeds, and reflects the level of selection (and taming) that has taken place for utility purposes.
Please be aware that it is only a generalised summary. There are always exceptions depending on individual birds and strains of flock. When buying birds, whether they are pure breeds or hybrids, question the breeder about this aspect. It is in everyone’s interest to avoid having aggressive birds.
Docility of Breeds of Poultry
Most Aggressive Poultry Breeds
Game birds, eg, Old English Game, Calder Ranger Asil, Shamo, Sumatra, Indian Game, Malay.
Fairly Wild Chickens
Un-developed old breeds eg, Old English Pheasant Fowl, Derbyshire Redcap, Poland, Campine.
Fairly Docile Chickens
Utility light breeds, eg, Leghorn, Welsummer, Bovans White
More Docile Chickens
Utility heavy breeds, eg, RIR, Barnevelder, Plymouth Rock, Marans, Dorking
Most Docile Chickens
Hybrids, eg, Calder Ranger, Bovans Goldline & Nera, ISA Brown, Hisex Ranger, Speckledy Babcock 380
Further Articles on Aggression in Poultry
- Aggressive Poultry Breeds – Dealing with Aggression in Poultry
- Environment and Poultry Behaviour and Aggression
- Male Aggression (Cockerels) in Poultry – Dealing with Aggressive Cockerels
- Pecking Order in Hens – Dealing with Aggressive Poultry