The Modern Knife and Gaff Keep

by Charlie Carr

Most knife fights are decided in a few seconds after the rooster leaves your hand. Endurance and stamina play no part in this type of fight. Cutting ability, Aggressiveness, sense, health, and speed are what it takes to win quick, which is what you want to do. Mental condition is 80% of condition is a well fed knife or gaff cock.

He must have his mind on absolutely nothing but the other rooster. This mental condition is achieved by a good week of pre-keep in which the roosters are gentled and acquainted slowly with their new surroundings.

You may think when you follow this keep you are not really conditioning the roosters you are partly right because what we are trying to do is get the rooster ready to fight. Without losing any of his natural abilities, especially his cutting ability.

In conditioning for the gaff or short knife the keep is the same except during the work week you may want to fly the rooster on the work board: or move him more times. Start with 5 flys and work up to 15. Hold the rooster lower that the board: about 3 feet out and release him at the board. This is optional, I think it's more for you than the rooster. Most people quit hand working roosters years ago, even for the gaff. Any keep or video you see with board work is dated to say the least.

Facilities and Equipment Needed

Cockhouse: About 15' X 20' with high ceiling, well ventilated, but no drafts, stalls about 2 square.

Fly pens: Roost poles about 4' high off the ground, pens about 5' wide X 8' long X 8' high use black felt tar paper on the floor with 4" of corn shucks as litter.

Feed cups: Small, plastic 2 oz. feed measure.

String walks: 7' long in grass, huts 4' high.

Drop-out pens: 4' diameter and 4' high, put some loose leaves.

Rectangular Pens: 4' X 6' X 4', use horse manure as litter.

Pens: 4' X 4' put on the grass. Have a pullet by each one.

Acquaint roosters with all stalls and pens they are going to be in.

Feed twice a day - start with 2oz. feed per feeding. Feed dry in morning. Wet with about 1 ounce of buttermilk at night.

Give 1 - teaspoon of chopped vegetables and fruits at noon each day of entire 3 week keep up to Wednesday of the third week.

The pre-keep is mainly for mental conditioning. Spar everyday in pre-keep, just 2 buckles. Also tease in and off pens.


Morning feed: 50% laying pellets (18%)
25% Cracked corn
5% Wheat
5% Barley
5% Dry Blue Ribbon dog food (21%)
5% Calf manna
5% Oat groats

Night Feed: 75% above mixture 25% Cooked pearl barley and buttermilk

Feeding and Conditioning Procedure

At 7 am go to the cockhouse and get the cocks from the stalls where you put them the night before. Be sure they have no feed in their craw, then put them in the fly pens. Throw 1 1/2oz of the morning feed on the litter. When the cocks are taken from the fly pens, check the pen to see if all the feed has been eaten. If not cut the amount by 1/4oz the next morning. You can increase by the same amount if he cleans up real quick and still acts hungry.

Leave the cocks in the fly pens for an hour then follow the morning schedule below:

8 am - 10 am ....................................Strings
10 am - 12 noon .................................4 X 6 pens
12 noon - 2 pm ..................................Round pens
2 pm - 3 pm .....................................4 X 4 pens
3 pm - 4 pm .....................................Back to fly pens

At noon feed each rooster a heaping teaspoon of chopped vegetables and fruits. (Do this the entire keep up to Wednesday of the third week.)

At 4 pm put the roosters in the stalls and feed the night feed. Feed 2oz per bird. If he has any in is craw in the morning, feed 1/4oz less the next night. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the first week, put one tablespoon of redcell vitamins per six cocks on night feed.

On Tuesday and Thursday of the first week put one tablespoon of desiccated liver per six cocks on night feed. Starting Sunday, the 7th day of the third week, change the moving schedule to below:

Monday: Move 4 times.
Tuesday: Move 3 times.
Wednesday: Move 2 times.
Thursday: Move 1 time.
Friday: Rest day.

Monday of the third week put the roosters in stall at 4 pm.
Tuesday put them in stalls at 3 pm.
Wednesday at 2 pm. Thursday at 1 pm. On Friday rest all day or half a day, use own
judgment. Nervous or high strung roosters require less rest.

The idea is to move the cocks less and less each day of the last week until the day before the fight. Starting Monday of the second week, increase the amount of cracked corn in the morning and night feed by 15% per day.

Starting on Wednesday of the second week, discontinue the vitamins at night feeding, also discontinue the vegetables and fruits at noon. Cut feed 1/4 ounce on Thursday morning. Cut feed 1/4 ounce more on Thursday night. Friday morning feed 1 1/2 ounce.

Point for knife: If you fight on Saturday at about noon, feed 1 teaspoon leveled of half cracked corn and half barley wet with buttermilk on Friday night. Feed 1/4 teaspoon Saturday morning if the cock craps out very little or just "dots" early in the morning. Keep droppings medium loose all during keep, even on fight day.

Point for gaff: On Friday night feed half a teaspoon of cracked corn and half hard boiled egg white with a few drops of buttermilk over it.

Traveling Feed

This is going to be given in place of the night of travel. Give this feed just before you box up and head out.

Take one box of Knox plain gelatin and mix with 2 cups of water and 1/2 can (small can) of pet milk and one tablespoon of sugar in a boiler. Stir and bring to a boil. Pour into a pan 1" deep. Put into refrigerator. Cut into 1" cubes and give to roosters just before you leave. If they won't eat it, hand feed it. Use this feed when traveling long distance only. They will not dry out and travel well. When traveling short distances, be sure there is no feed in craw before you start.


Once a day let the roosters buckle into each other one time and catch them immediately. If a rooster gets hit and doesn't get to hit back he will tomorrow. When the roosters feathers are green, which they will be until sometime in January or February, hold a battered cock in your hand let the rooster to be sparred hit into him once or twice a day. Hold the battered cock only one foot off the ground and offer him straight into the cock to be sparred. Don't make your cock fly up after a cock. Bill the cocks before you do the above.

"Remember roosters will not travel well or fight up to par when in green feathers."

"Good Luck"

Truly yours,
Charles W. Carr

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