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Will new younger chickens always be at the bottom of the pecking order?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

We have a flock of 12 chickens.  All are either a year old or 9 months old.  Today we got an additional 2 chickens, which are about 3 months old.  Most of our chickens ignored them, but one of our Welsummers went crazy with them.  We didn't let it go on for long and separated the Welsummer out.  We think this particular Welsummer had been at the bottom of the pecking order and that maybe that is why she was pecking the new girls so much.  My question is:  When you introduce younger chickens into a flock of older chickens, will the younger (and smaller) chickens always be at the bottom of the pecking order?

 

We plan to keep the newbies separated in a dog cage within the coop/run for a little while and we will take them out each day for a bit to see if the Welsummer does better with them over time.  We'll let her show the new chickens that she is boss and will only separate them again if she gets vicious.  

 

If anyone has any other suggestions or has any answers about how introducing various aged chickens to a flock affects pecking order, I would greatly appreciate it!  Thanks in advance :)

Starting out our chicken adventure in July 2015 with 2 BOs, 2 GLWs, 2 Welsummers, 3 EEs, 3 Barred Cochin Bantams, and 3 Buff Brahma Bantams.   

 

"How many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings..."  ~Luke 13:34

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Starting out our chicken adventure in July 2015 with 2 BOs, 2 GLWs, 2 Welsummers, 3 EEs, 3 Barred Cochin Bantams, and 3 Buff Brahma Bantams.   

 

"How many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings..."  ~Luke 13:34

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post #2 of 9

When chicks are young like that they don't have the guts to stand up,and usually don't have strength or he size.

 

But,most generally the young ones will be at the bottom.Sometimes chickens young like that grow up and decide to try fighting for a higher rank,it's rare though.I have some pullets who have been living in the cage for about 5 months maybe,and they have tried fighting,but it usually lasts for five seconds.Sometimes they just do their growling.And just because when their older and they get i fights,big or small,it's probably not a comeback,becomes no matter how bad hey hurt the other bird,they probably will keep their place.

 

You can tell who is the bigger ranking chickens an dthe lowers. 

I have a  few chickens.

2 barreds,named Falcon and Hawk

1 New Hampshire rooster named,Zeus

2 New Hampshire hens named,Vanillipe (One has no name)

1 silver laced Wyandotte named,Special girl

1 White Leghorn roosters named Foggy

3 black&red Sex links,(Black)angel,and one red is named little red,and the other one is Mrs.Prissy

And a few others that sadly,died

 

I have a 11 ducks.

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I have a  few chickens.

2 barreds,named Falcon and Hawk

1 New Hampshire rooster named,Zeus

2 New Hampshire hens named,Vanillipe (One has no name)

1 silver laced Wyandotte named,Special girl

1 White Leghorn roosters named Foggy

3 black&red Sex links,(Black)angel,and one red is named little red,and the other one is Mrs.Prissy

And a few others that sadly,died

 

I have a 11 ducks.

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post #3 of 9
Until they begin laying, then they rise in status.
Western South Dakota Rancher
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Western South Dakota Rancher
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post #4 of 9
I’ll copy something I wrote for another situation but you might get something from it since you are interested in some of the dynamics involved.

In short, it’s not size or age as much as maturity. Adult bantams regularly dominate adult full sized fowl. Size doesn’t matter that much. Like Mrs. K, my pullets normally fully integrate into the flock when they start to lay, whether that is fairly young or fairly old. Until they start to lay they form a separate sub-flock, just avoiding the older ones.


You’ll read a lot of different things on here about when you can integrate chicks. That’s because your facilities and management techniques play a huge part in what can work for you. We are all unique. The way I do it could be a disaster for others. Some people consider me way too safe. One basic rule to remember is that chickens usually solve disputes by the weaker running away from the stronger or avoiding the stronger to start with. That means they need enough room to run away if they are chased.

Chickens can recognize which chickens don’t belong to their flock. It doesn’t happen all the time but occasionally one will attack an intruder. A way to really reduce the chances of this happening is to house the chickens next to each other for a week or so before you let them mix. None of this stuff comes with absolute guarantees since you are dealing with individual living animals, but I do recommend housing them side by side with a wire fence separating them if you can. Some people can’t and it still normally works out.

Chickens, like other social animals, set up a pecking order so each chicken knows its place in the social order of the flock. When two chickens that don’t know what that status is share personal space, one normally tries to intimidate the other, often by pecking. If one runs away, they’ve settled it, though there may be some chasing involved or a repeat performance. Occasionally they are fairly evenly matched so it takes some skirmishing to settle it. On really rare occasions they may fight to the death but that really is rare. The biggest danger in this is when a chicken cannot run away. If it can’t get away, it may just hunker down, quit fighting, and take the punishment. The winner doesn’t realize it has won because the other did not run away so it keeps attacking. That is why space is so important.

The last key to the puzzle is that mature chickens always outrank immature chickens and are often not shy about enforcing those pecking order rights. That’s why you usually see a group of younger chickens form a separate flock. They are simply avoiding the older chickens.

The younger the chicks the more danger to these confrontations. This does not mean that every hen will automatically seek out to destroy any chick they see. Some of my broodies keep a pretty tight rein on their chicks and keep them close but some allow their chicks to mingle with the flock. Usually the older hens ignore the chicks but if they invade the elder’s personal space, they might or might not get pecked. If they get pecked the chick runs back to Mama as fast as those little legs can carry them. Mama ignores this. That chick needs to learn proper flock etiquette. But if that hen chases the chick, Mama immediately teaches her that’s not really necessary.

I’ve had a broody totally wean her chicks at three weeks and leave them to find their own way with the flock but she had spent three weeks teaching the others to leave her babies alone. My brooder and grow-out coop are where the adults can see the chicks as they grow. I have lots of room and turn my chicks loose to mingle with the flock at 5 to 8 weeks. I’ve never lost one to the adults doing it this way. One time I lost a chick this way when a chick was killed by its 1-1/2 week old sibling. Mama stood by and watched one of her chicks kill another. The other adult hens were not involved. Another time a 1 week old chick got into that grow-out pen where Mama could not protect it. The 8 week old chicks pecked it to death. If I had just opened that gate a day earlier that would not have happened. Mama would have made sure of that.

If space is really tight, you might need to wait until the young ones are practically grown before you integrate, and even then if space is tight you can have issues. Different things work for different people.

I’ll end my rambling by saying that I’ve never had a problem with a dominant rooster. A good dominant rooster takes care of all his flock members. It doesn’t happen every time, but I’ve seen a rooster go take care of chicks if they get separated from Mama until she can figure out the concept of “gate”. They are living animals and I’m sure others have had issues with roosters but I never have.

 I grow a little impatient when people seem to think that they are unique in the world. Of course they are. Just like everyone else.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

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 I grow a little impatient when people seem to think that they are unique in the world. Of course they are. Just like everyone else.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

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post #5 of 9
In my own flock, it's not age or even maturity that determines rank in the social order. It's temperament. And temperament, or personality, is usually a component of breed.

For example, I got some new chicks last spring and one was a Silver Cuckoo Marans and another was a Black Copper Marans. As soon as the SCM grew to full size around three months, she rose very quickly in the pecking order, and now at nearly eleven months is very near the top in a flock of twenty. The BCM is also much higher ranking than probably half the flock but to a lesser degree than the Cuckoo Marans.

I have three five-year old Speckled Sussex that were the same way as they grew to size. They quickly became bossy and assertive with all older members of the flock, and they still are. Curiously, there are four of them, all the same age and the same brooder batch, but the fourth is very meek and gentle, totally not like her three mean sisters. Temperament over breed can go the other way, too.
post #6 of 9

The bantam I have look like a minature Brahama.Accept  she has a straight comb,and has feathered feet.

I have a  few chickens.

2 barreds,named Falcon and Hawk

1 New Hampshire rooster named,Zeus

2 New Hampshire hens named,Vanillipe (One has no name)

1 silver laced Wyandotte named,Special girl

1 White Leghorn roosters named Foggy

3 black&red Sex links,(Black)angel,and one red is named little red,and the other one is Mrs.Prissy

And a few others that sadly,died

 

I have a 11 ducks.

Reply

I have a  few chickens.

2 barreds,named Falcon and Hawk

1 New Hampshire rooster named,Zeus

2 New Hampshire hens named,Vanillipe (One has no name)

1 silver laced Wyandotte named,Special girl

1 White Leghorn roosters named Foggy

3 black&red Sex links,(Black)angel,and one red is named little red,and the other one is Mrs.Prissy

And a few others that sadly,died

 

I have a 11 ducks.

Reply
post #7 of 9
Azygous, what is the youngest you have seen a pullet stand up to a mature hen? I don’t mean that they can eat side by side or get along, I’ve had two week old chicks that some hens didn’t bother if they ate out of the feeder side by side. I mean fight back instead of run away if there is a conflict. I know we are dealing with living animals so anything can happen, but I haven’t seen that until the pullet is ready to lay. It’s usually after they start to lay, but can be just as they are getting ready.

I’m not as big a believer in breed as you are. There are breed tendencies but I find strain much more important than breed. For any breed, if you either on purpose or accidentally select as you breeders the more aggressive ones, before too many generations your strain of that breed will be more aggressive than normal. If you select less aggressive breeders your strain will be less aggressive. I don’t think hatcheries use aggression as a selection criteria for their breeders so what you get is more on the accidental side.

And as you noted, you can get huge variations within a breed. You have observed it. If you read through enough posts on here you will see that an aggressive or docile hen can come from any breed. While there are breed tendencies, if you only have a few of a certain breed you don’t have enough for averages to mean much. I still think going through the Henderson’s Breed Chart is a good thing but you can often get surprises.

I’ll try to explain why I’m not such a big believer in breeds. If you read through the heritage chicken literature you will often see a breed listed as endangered that hatcheries sell and many people breed to show. There is no apparent shortage of that breed. But what the heritage sites are talking about are the behaviors and productivity of the flock, not just the qualities that a judge sees. Even for a pretty common breed, there may only be two or three flocks in the country that are bred not only for show qualities but for the behaviors, traits, and the productivity the breed should have. If they should lay a light brown egg, they will lay a light brown egg. If the hens should often go broody, the hens will often go broody. I got this from a former forum member that was not only a certified APA judge but had one of those flocks. He was very clear (and very passionate) about what he considered the difference in chickens bred for show and true heritage breed flocks. He also agreed that for the vast majority of forum members hatchery chicks were as good as chickens from breeders. They will lay a lot of eggs and make great pets if those are your goals. I liked that guy. With these true heritage chickens breed tendencies are going to be very strong but I can’t afford chickens or hatching eggs from those flocks if they would even sell them to me.

I’m not looking to pick a fight, I’m just trying to explain where I’m coming from. I respect you have a different opinion.

 I grow a little impatient when people seem to think that they are unique in the world. Of course they are. Just like everyone else.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

Reply

 I grow a little impatient when people seem to think that they are unique in the world. Of course they are. Just like everyone else.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

Reply
post #8 of 9

While I feel age is the most important factor in determining pecking order placement, one cannot rule out individual chutzpah/moxie/fortitude/gumption/whatever-you-want-to-call-it.  I'm relatively new to the scene here only having chooks for two years now but I can and do observe closely.  Maybe it's because my chooks live in that gray area between pets and livestock, but I can't be the only one that's seen that special something in the occasional fluffy-butt, can I?  It's an air/attitude/demeanor that sets them apart from the rank and file.  Once age-differences normalize (after everyone is laying) it's that special something that *could* help them advance in the pecking order.

 

I have three different age-groups in my little flock.  Group 1 is three hens about 22 month old.  Group two is three hens about 20 months old.  Group three is three pullets and a cockerel at about 10 months old. The pecking order in my flock happens to be the age...i.e., Group 1 forms the top three slots in the pecking order, Group 2 makes up the next three spots with the pullets from Group 3 rounding out the bottom.  The cockerel is of course the nominal head of the pecking order while not directly influencing it.

 

Group 1 has two special-somethings in it.  My top hen is a laid-back, matronly Buff Orpington who loves to be held.  She has a calm, relaxed authority and doesn't often need to throw her weight around...very likely because of the second-in-command who is the enforcer.  The Enforcer is a chicken's chicken chickening her own way with reckless abandon since day 1.  She's very much the honey-badger of the flock and doesn't really give much care about anyone but herself.  She is often keeping those below her in-line with pecks, short chases and occasional flogs.  She especially terrorizes the bottom hen of Group 2 (we'll call her Flighty).  Flighty is sadly another special-something but in her case it's not complimentary.  When the Enforcer gets within 5 feet of her, Flighty has to make a big production about running away from her often exacerbating the problem.  Additionally, she is the flock harlot squatting ANYtime and EVERYtime my cockerel gets within 10 feet of her.  The loss of feathers and sores on her back (from the worst of the roosterly-affection) didn't dissuade her much either.  But as overly-dramatic and submissive as Flighty is, she has no problem keeping Group 3 in their place.  

 

So yeah, age seems to be the ticket to pecking order in the observations of my flock with the caveat that the presence of an "attitudinal outlier" could allow pecking order advancement/retreat in spite of age. 

post #9 of 9
These Marans are now around ten months old and the other day I watched while one of them challenged the alpha hen, an almost eight-year old Brahama in good health. They went at it, beak and claw, and I would say it was a draw. They do pretty much let the older girls, two seven-year olds and the eight-year old eat first. But these youngsters are busy all day long asserting their rank with all the others in the flock, from age three years on up, chasing a chosen victim away from whatever they seem to think at the time is theirs.

It's quite a circus. No one draws blood, though.
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