Battle Royal Among American Gamechicks


Crossing the Road
14 Years
Sep 19, 2009
Holts Summit, Missouri
This morning as going about business of releasing some of the free-range groups and walking down place with dog I came across a scene that plays itself out with my game broods, especially when then their daddy is not present. The chicks are approaching the age (5 to 6 weeks) where their mother would wean them (stop clucking) and they would begin moving about away from for part of day as she prepares for setting next clutch. While momma is busy setting next brood the offspring that I now call juveniles begin to associate with the harem master (dad). He and they have already imprinted on each other so they go about as a group. Dad will intervene on behalf of his juveniles when other flocks or predators are encountered. Mother will still call chicks to roost and sit over them at night and with large broods father will do same.

The scene was a battle royal. Of 15 surviving chicks, 7 are male and 6 where beating the crap out of each other. Four where in one pile and two in another. They were flogging each other just like adults would do but duration and intenstity is much greater than will be seen in either production breeds or wild jungle fowl. Battle duration exceeded 2 hours and continues as I write this. Such behavior is maladaptive outside of the gamefowl interests in my situation, considerable oversight will be needed to ensure predators do not go after distracted and / or weakened chicks today.

Later I will post a video showing part of what went on and show damage imparted on the little guys by each other.
Do you think that this behavior is in any way associated with a dispersal mechanism which would cause such birds to find new territory in the 'wild' situation?
Dispersal in mine does not occur until first adult feather set is nearly or is complete which is anywhere from 5 to 8 months post-hatch. The increased fighting I think is a function of internal changes associated with lifestage transitions. As chicks become juveniles and no longer require hen for protection (although she still benefits them), social rank becomes more important. Prior to weaning with hen raised broods, the pecking order is not discrete like with brooder reared broods. The fighting may be like that with puppies at 8 to 12 weeks where rank is actually sorted out. The intensity and duration of these birds is a function of their being games but the same occurs with a lot less damage amoung my dominiques as well. The cockerels will do this two more times before full adult, again somewhere between 12 and 16 weeks when starting from juvenile feather set into adult feather set and if I am sloppy at time of dispersal (5 to 8 months). The latter event has high probability of causing mortalities so males will be isolated by then.

Dispersal with red jungle fowl I am not clear on based on observation and literature I have seen. Their social structure is very complex and plastic. Amoung my dominiques where my observations are only 4 years worth, they do not seem to disperse, rather simply form huge (more than local forage will support) social groups.

Chicks still fighting 3 hours after sun up. A couple are having a hard time staying with group. Heads are clearly swollen.
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A somewhat similar occurrence would take place among my free ranging, semiferal bantam flock each autumn. Everyone would get along fine until mid Sept. when the fall rains started. It almost appeared as if the 'wet' chicks no longer recognized one another. Massive war-like fights would break out and carry on for a matter of days. Yes, game blood was a component of these birds genetic background.
First of two videos showing fighting. Shows what is going on when chicks all in one pile as initially observed. Commentary not entirely related to situation since takling with wife on phone.

Near end, Scoob gets flogged by Sallie (mother of chicks fighting). The flogging happens pretty regularly as the two fight a lot but no real damage. Scoob is also the first to come to Sallie's aid when ever she is stressed by another chicken or predator and Sallie roosts and incubates broods in locations next to his preferred sleeping site and where he can get in and sniff the action after dark.
It is now the day after. Fighting has stopped and typical harmony has been restored. Pecking order is now evident. Hen still clucks and sees to defense of brood.

Below are photographs of a combatent. His head has dried blood on it and is decidely swollen (especially evident in lower image). He and others are still a little mopey but by end of day swelling should go down. When brood makes the short 25 to 50 foot horizontal flights every hour or so the fighters from yesterday clearly have a hard time even going 20 feet so soreness is not restricted to head. Wings are almost certainly bruised up as well. If Mr. Fox were to visit today, sex ratio of brood would favor females by time fox left. This extreme fighting behavior is not a good characteristic for free-range survival.

I brought 9 of 15 inside for inspection. Could not fit balance on stick.

A few shots showing condition of heads with contrast between males and females. Males only have messed up heads. Some pecking still going on but is subsiding.

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