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The Pecking Order- Understanding and Encouraging It

  1. cluckcluckgirl
    It's something just about all chickens work and figure out- the pecking order. Now what exactly is the pecking order, is it necessary, and should you encourage it? First, lets take a look at what the pecking order is.

    The pecking order is a ranking among chickens in a flock to see who is higher up in the order than others. Commonly, two chickens come up to each other, flare their feathers, bump into each other, and try to look tall, and the first one to walk off is lower in the pecking order than their opponent. Some chickens my come up to each other and one pecks at the other's head. If the opponent doesn't walk away, they peck at the other chicken's head too. Same thing, the first chicken to walk away is lower than their opponent. As long as no one is bleeding or hurt, this is fine and just part of a chicken's natural instinct. If they do get hurt, try to cover up the blood color or stop the bleeding. Applying cornstarch to the wound is proven to stop the bleeding and cover up the blood color.

    The chickens towards the top (the ones that usually win a challenge against another chicken) usually eat first and get the treats first. The chickens toward the bottom of the pecking order eat whatever is left, or are chased away by the other chickens while trying to eat. The chickens toward the bottom of the pecking order eat after everyone is away from the food station, or some may even try and try again to eat with the others. The ones toward the bottom will also get pecked at near their tail area as a signal to move.

    Here, two of my chickens have waited for the others to move so they can eat too.

    So why have a pecking order?
    A pecking order will bring peace to the flock, as they know their rankings and who eats first. The pecking order is most obvious in roosters and cockerels. The roosters and cockerels challenge each other also to see who is the protector and hens' rooster. The top rooster will typically be the one to crow, protect, find food for the girls, and fertilize the eggs.

    However, some roosters and cockerels may try the pecking order on you, so be prepared. If they do, try to chase them away or push them away. I have had one that challenged me, and I would chase him away. He still wouldn't learn, and ended up hurting me. With roosters like that, you want to isolate them and monitor them for a few days. If you let them out and they do the same thing, try isolating them again. If they still don't learn even after a few times in isolation, then it may be time for him to go to the stew pot.

    So how do I encourage the pecking order?
    It's pretty simple. If you notice someone challenging another chicken, just let them challenge each other. Some will get hurt, but it is normal. If one chicken targets all the others and hurts them for no reason, isolate her or him for a few days. But as long as it's just chickens figuring out where they rank, everything is fine. It is in their natural instincts, so why eliminate some of their natural instincts by breaking them up if they are challenging each other? Basically, as long as no one is targeting and severely hurting the others, let it happen. After a couple or few weeks of them doing this, they'll know where they rank and all will be well.

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  1. Mountain Peeps
  2. Spanishchick
    I have a bully too! And I also have the momma, she is obviously at the top because nothing and nobody phazes her and from day 1 it wasn't even a question with her. She must smell like alfa chick jajaja!
  3. Farmgirl1000
    Good job! Very informative.
  4. chickencoop789
    Thanks man. I actually learned something today ;)
  5. szone
    We have five hens, from two different flocks (3 and 2). 1 of the 2 has asserted her authority and fits in well with the 3. But the second of the 2 is now retreating from the others because she is so bullied. She has stopped going into the hutch at night and retreats to another "hutch", or underneath the current one. Any advice on what to do? Thanks!
  6. lizzybaxter
    When my young roosters tried challenging me, or on a couple of occasions they were rough with the hens, I would hold them down on the ground, much like they would do to a hen. That sent the message that I was dominant. No problems with one-- the other wouldn't stop hurting the hens, and he got relocated to my niece's home, lived happily ever after!
  7. MyPetNugget
    very helpful
  8. ShelbyCoral
    I've noticed with my roosters is that if they dont get attention they go mad... So if you give them attention every morning and every night, you my friend will have a wonderful roo. Its best to cuddle with them when they are perching. My own rooster puts his head in my shirt by my shoulder and falls asleep.
  9. ShelbyCoral
    Not good for the the roosters. Mine have ALWAYS been treated with kindness. My top rooster (Pepper) has never done anything to me and he is the best rooster. He is Great with kids and will let you cuddle with him and an hour or two. My 2ed rooster(Chocolate, brother or Pepper) does go for me sometimes, but i hold him for a couple of min and give him love and attention. Hes fine once I put him down. Now If he when he attacks me, or at least tries. I just put my foot up and he runs right into the foot and he will stop for a few months.

    Lol He learns his lessons but he is also a very good rooster and is beautiful. I even fell asleep on the hay with him. His only girlfriend is a cat... They share food and hes tried jumping her... xD it was funny!
  10. MaPa26
    I have six hens. Two are white Leghorns and four are Red Stars. They did the "chest bumping" behavior a lot when they were young. I never noticed when it stopped. The Leghorns are bullies. They get along with each other but at feeding time they both challenge the Reds. I started using two bowls (when feeding treats or small meals) and would try to keep them separated. Often the Leghorns would try to control BOTH bowls, or piles of treats. It wouldn't matter if I put six bowls out, the Leghorns would go from bowl to bowl to check out what the Reds are eating, abandoning the bowl I gave THEM. It is quite a learning experience for me. I did get ticked when "Rosetta" decided that SHE had had ENOUGH and pecked back at a Leghorn; THREE TIMES-- hard on her head. The Leghorn backed off and now Rosetta is "allowed" to eat side by side with those two. I use her as a buffer sometimes, putting her in-between the Leghorns and the other three Reds! Anytime the Leghorns try to bully her, they are sorry! The only time I have ever seen a severe attack was when a Red (Fluttershy) went broody. She came off the nest once a day and when she tried to join the others, they would ALL attack her. After a few days, (and some research on BYC), we tried the separation technique, keeping her in the pen and unable to get to the nesting box. After a few days, she snapped out of it, rejoined the flock and all was well, again.

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