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Tips On Cock Raising...

You may suspect that some cockers who consistently show competitive fowl have a secret that gives their fowl a little edge over the next guy. Maybe it's a special bloodline or a conditioning technique, or a potent feed ingredient that they use in their keep feed or put in the drinking water the last three days.

The truth is, you may be right. The guy who whipped you every time the last three seasons may have something or do something that you don't have or don't do. However, chances are the "secret" isn't all that mysterious. In fact, if you have visited this cocker at his farm, he probably already showed you, and you didn't notice or recognize it's importance.

Basically, it's all the "extra" things that the successful cocker does EVERY day that makes the difference. For example, let's say a battlecock's genetic potential (genotype) may contribute up to 50% to his fighting ability. Adequate nutrition and health may contribute another 40% to his fighting ability. After all, a well-bred gamecock will never be able to reach his genetic potential if he is not well-fed and healthy. Assuming that the genotype, nutrition, and health contribute around 90% of what the cock is capable of, where does the additional 10% come from?

It is my opinion that every time you do something for your fowl that benefits them in any way, it adds to their "total energy" on fight day. These "extras" contribute to the remaining 10% of their fighting ability as mentioned in the above example. What are the "extras"? For example, when that top cocker takes the time and energy to move fowl regularly to fresh grass, to clean pens, to deworm and delouse BEFORE they are sick, to give them special "treats" like fresh fruit, cleaning and disinfecting water containers rather than just "topping-off" when the water containers still have a little left in them. It may be the extra attention given toward "mental conditioning" when his birds were still stags all the way through the keep. At the end of the article I have listed these and other extras that will help your fowl. So, that mysterious secret the top cockers have may just be their attention to detail, hard work, and doing the extra things that many cockers don't think of, or don't think it's that important. The little extra things help your fowl both physically (feeding supplements during the molt) and mentally (moving to a new area of the yard).

Most folks understand the importance of the physical aspect of preparing cocks for battle like the importance of balanced nutrition and proper exercise. One aspect of the conditioning process that deserves more attention is the "mental" conditioning that must take place in order to properly prepare fowl for battle. The "point" is that elusive and awesome combination of mental and physical "sharpness" at the time of the fight. It is my belief that physical and mental conditioning are connected to the extent where you really cannot achieve sharp roosters unless both are considered and addressed throughout the year.

Mental conditioning starts when chicks are very young. In just a few days of age, chicks will begin to start determining the "pecking order", the social hierarchy that results in only one dominant individual in the social group. Under this dominant chick, the remaining siblings through aggressive/passive behavior sort into their respective hierarchical order. The pecking order can change as the chicks get older, as the result of yard fights, introduction of new members or removal of chicks from the group, change in appearance, etc. My point is that the mental state of a young stag is influenced very early in life and it is very important to try to manipulate his environment to maximize his chances to express his dominant behavior.

Dominant behavior is a learned trait. It is also linked to the action of powerful hormones like testosterone that are naturally produced in increasing quantities as a stag matures. As a stag has the opportunity to express dominance, the body will secrete more testosterone, thus strengthening the dominant behavior.

The most important key to maximizing dominant behavior is giving as much room as possible to your young fowl to roam. Free range allows the less dominant stags to get away from the more dominant individuals. When these less dominant stags are on their own with a few sibling pullets, they become the dominant stag in the new "mini-group" that is formed. The worst thing you can do is pen up young stags with a dominant cock or boss stag where they cannot freely escape. They will live in terror if they show any dominant behavior in the vicinity of the boss such as interest in hens. The stag will remember this fear for a long time, even after he has been penned separately. In severe cases, this damage is permanent and he will be worthless as a pit cock. Never use a young stag as a "catch" rooster or spar him before he is truly mature and has "come to himself" (become game). If you do and he quits, this will slow his mental development. Another idea is to pen the dominant stag and let #2 experience the rush of power for a week, then pen him and let the former #3 take over the "cock of the walk" duties. And when you pen a young stag, try to always pen a pullet with him at the same time. In this way you will ensure he is the dominant individual in the pen. The idea is to produce completely self-assured, confident gamecocks.

Once the stags are mature and their spurs are long enough, they should be moved to tie cords. Tie-out cords are probably the easiest and cheapest way to build mental conditioning. A cock or stag on a tie-cord has a lot more ground to explore than the average pen, and this extra room invites exploring this territory many times during the day. He can see around him easily, including other fowl, you with the feed bucket, hawks, bugs, and all sorts of interesting things. This mental stimulation keeps him tuned up and very reactive to stimuli. In the pit, this means he will sport that little extra that separates the "natural" rooster man from the rest of pack. Although cocks rarely become "stale" on tie-cords, it helps to move them around and let them experience a different piece of ground from time to time. Many cockers make the mistake of leaving cocks in the flypens for days at a time. Fowl should be rotated out on grass preferable once per day or every-other day.

Another tip that will help your fowl: spend as much time in the chicken yard and cockhouse as possible, just listening, looking, and handling. This cannot be over-emphasized. Most successful (experienced) cockers can tell when a cock is ready to fight by this method, and most fowl communicate their readiness for conditioning and battle. For example, watch how they eat. Are they hungry and clean up their feed and ask for more? Check droppings daily by scanning the ground and looking under the roosts. This should be automatic as you feed and water. The droppings and appetite will tell you if their digestive systems are working properly. Listening will tell you some information about their respiratory systems. Coughing, sneezing, and rattles indicate a health problem. Clear crowing and constant chatter means good health and high spirits. Picking up roosters on string is an easy way to gentle them down, while checking their weight, eyes, feet, feathers, tie-cord condition, etc. Gently handled roosters develop trust and confidence in their handler. When a cock trusts the handler, he can focus his attention on his opponent and express his dominant behavior (hopefully in one spectacular and victorious pitting).  

Some ideas and activities to give your birds a "little extra":  

1. Move your fowl to fresh ground often. Fresh ground = low disease stress, green grass, health.
2. Give 'em a hen to brighten up their day. Everyone likes a little fun. Especially a healthy gamecock.
3. Practice "mental conditioning" from shell to pit. To achieve their potential, those birds have to believe that they're the Supreme Gamecock.
4. Give your fowl as much space (tie cord, pen and range) as possible.
5. Spend time just listening and watching your fowl. They are telling you very clearly how they are feeling. Watch out for the liars on fight day.
6. Invest money in quality feed, pens, and equipment. You have to pay the price to be the best.
7. Try to control the variables. Heat, cold, shade, ventilation, humidity, feed and water quality, stress, dust, visitor traffic, varmints, etc.
8. Handle gently and often (except during the molt). You will build trust and confidence. If you're clumsy, get a handler. Clumsiness makes broken feathers and manfighters.
9. Use common sense: if they aren't using those 8' tall roosts in the fly pens , they aren't getting flying exercise. Move them down to 5-6 feet and watch 'em go!
10. Use small amounts of supplements like fruit, liver, grass clippings, etc. daily. You will make many feathered friends.
11. Use vitamins and electrolytes to control stress from hot weather and the dozens of other factors that can cause problems for your fowl.
12. Never say "that's good enough." Stay out in the sun an extra hour and do it right. You will be repaid in the pit.
13. Control dust in your flypens. Dust creates stress for the respiratory system.
14. Be open to new ideas and concepts if they seem based on sound judgement and research. Make informed choices. Don't guess on dosages of medicines. Don't try to invent a new innovative system of getting your fowl in condition without using the tried and true methods first and understanding what is required.
15. Breed the best to the best and cull the rest! Never breed anything that is not 100% healthy.
16. Most important of all: Be honest with your fowl and your fellow man. Good roosters have a way of giving their owner exactly what they deserve. I have seen and experienced this phenomenon time and again. 

Several other articles designed to help people and chickens can be found on The Pit Master web site. I highly recommend that you keep reading, thinking, and spending as much time with your fowl as possible. They are the ultimate resource! If you have a specific question, I'll be happy to try to get you an answer. Email me at or check out my web site for info on some nutritional supplements that will help your birds achieve their potential. Good luck!