Sonnerat's Junglefowl

Gallus sonnerati

Wild Sonnerat's Junglefowl, aka Grey Junglefowl, live in Central and Southern India and have a varied habitat among deciduous forests, bamboo and evegreen trees as well as open scrub. They reside on lowland and up to heights of around 5000 feet. Their diet is just as flexible, consisting of seeds, insects, fruit and fresh shoots.

The Sonnerat cock is a beautiful bird having grey streaky plumage with shades of rich russet at the sides of the rump and on the wing coverts and of course the magnificent and highly unusual neck hackles with their prized waxy spangles of bright golden yellow. He also has a glossy black curved tail, a bright red comb and wattles and his legs are also red. His mate has shades of golden and medium brown with a darker upturned tail and white breast feathers broadly edged in black. As she matures her skin colour will become yellow. Like other birds in the Pheasant family the Sonnerat's go through a moult after the breeding season however the new feathers of the cock bird which appear for the duration of the autumn is called their "eclipse" plumage and is rather more understated than their showy breeding plumage. During their eclipse the cock's tail is shorter, the comb less pronounced and the beautiful long and colourful neck hackles absent, being replaced with short, dark grey, feathers. Both sexes have a very noticeable iris of deep dark orange.

We are still fairly new to breeding Sonnerat's Junglefowl however we have had success keeping the cock with only one mate and with several. So far the cocks have not shown any agression towards any of the hens and fertility has been excellent. A clutch tends to be around five eggs but can vary a little in either direction and so far our hens have all started laying in the first or second week of April and continued, without much of a break between clutches, until well into the summer. We have had most of our hens lay in their first year but of the few cocks we've had so far only one was fertile before year two. The incubation period is 20 - 21 days and the chicks have hatched easily and been reared alongside other pheasant species without any major problems.

Our Junglefowl have proven to be hardy and also fairly bold little birds. They can be kept in a relatively small area however, as they do a fair bit of scraping with their feet and beaks, to keep them on grass they are probably best with a minimum space of around 250 square feet per pair or possibly trio of birds. They are pretty and for anyone already used to keeping poultry they are probably the easiest step between your chickens and the rest of the pheasant world. A word of warning to those who are not so used to poultry: They do make a bit of noise during the breeding season, calling on a daily basis. It is only at breeding times but if you wish to stay friends with close neighbours and enjoy a peaceful morning yourself they may not be the best species to choose. Otherwise they are totally charming, easy going birds. I have been told they may be able to mix with some other pheasant species but we've not yet been brave enough to give this a go with adult birds. If we do decide to try this I will report back on any attempt, hopefully with good news.

Sonnerat's Junglefowl cock Sonnerat's Junglefowl hen
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