The One that Got Away, or Hostile Takeover: Etseri, Svaneti

Dear Debbie Lee,

I’m an amateur farmer in Upper Svaneti, with a couple of cows and seven or eight chickens. We had two roosters which grew up together and got along, but we gave the larger one away to distant neighbors because they didn’t have one.

Now, the rooster of another, closer neighbor has started boldly invading my garden, fighting with our remaining, smaller rooster, and taking over his “harem”! The neighbor even told me the other day that his rooster had moved all my chickens onto his land for a while when I wasn’t looking! They didn’t stay there long, but the threat was obvious. The neighbor does have several hens, but not as many as I do, so I suppose that his rooster is after a larger flock of groupies with whom to stroke his own ego. He is a fine fellow, but this has got to stop.

Whenever I’m out there, for morning or evening milking or other outside gardening work, I chase this foreign rooster back across the fence. But not five minutes later he’s back again, beating off his weaker rival and “jumping” my hens at every opportunity... I can’t be out there all day long guarding them against him! And his nature seems to be forcing him to behave like this, so while I don’t want to put up with it, am getting angrier and angrier to wanting to kill the monster, I can hardly actually blame him.

Recently I tricked him into entering my barn, which he did with great trepidation, mostly because all the other chickens were in there too. Then I tried to shut him in there, but he squawked daringly past me out into freedom before I could shut the door. Eventually, with much stealth and care, I was able to repeat this successfully. I had blocked the little “manure window” in advance, so that he couldn’t get out via that, and after some minutes’ frantic chase, I actually caught him! Took an awkward “cellfie” to prove it, too.

Then I tied his feet together with some string, and was preparing to tie him to a manger post; but he “gave me the slip” because my string was too humanely loose, and was gone again in a flash! Much groaning and gnashing of teeth, and some most evil thoughts of “coq au vin”. I may never be able to coax him back in there again now, my best way of catching him. I’ve looked online for “how to catch a chicken”, but the ways suggested are for one’s own bird, not for an outsider, which is naturally much more suspicious. I’m at my wits’ end, and my own poor rooster is most depressed, while my hens don’t seem to care who is their man! Help, please...


Tortured Tony

Dear Tortured,

You need to have a frank talk with your neighbors. I, too, googled “catching chickens”; the most often recommended way is actually at night, while they’re roosting, either asleep or at least much less alert. You need to persuade them to catch him then, if you can’t do another “barn job” of your own, because he roosts in their barn, and then they must tie him up and get him out of the habit of invading, whatever that involves. If they’re really your friends, they should see the necessity of this. You might also suggest that he is actually ruining the life of your rooster, and mildly threaten your use of stronger force against him than merely chasing him off if they don’t comply... Let me know how it goes!

Best of luck,

Debbie Lee


Dear Debbie Lee,

Well, after a few more “barn intervention” attempts, all failed because he’s on to me now, I did go and talk politely to the neighbor, who’s also a good friend. He got the message, was sympathetic, and told his son to get that rooster this evening and tie him up. SO... hopefully this is the end of it! Thanks much for your advice, and I’ll likely write to you again if ever I’m in a bind.


Trouble-free Tony

Ps Just a final update: another neighbor tells me now that last year, it was OUR rooster attacking hers, even tearing his comb off! She had to “put him down”, but didn’t even feel necessary to tell me until now, so I suppose that these goings-on are quite normal in the poultry kingdom... Who knew? And my wife even seems fine with killing our rooster before the invader can, and letting him rule the roost as it were... So, I bow to superior knowledge.

Tony Hanmer runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1300 members, at

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:

12 May 2016 18:51