Change in pecking order or personality or both? And why?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by chickneggs, Nov 19, 2013.

  1. chickneggs

    chickneggs Chillin' With My Peeps

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    So last spring I was given 6 one week old chickens. And they have grown good together. Early on I figured out the pecking order. (Top to bottom) Ameraucana with tan head, Queenie-Larger Orpington-Australorp-Australorp-Smaller Orpington-White Ameraucana, Rufus. It was a weird pattern how it came to be, but the Australorps being partners in crime, over powered the lower two. And Queenie is actually the smallest, while Rufus is the tallest.

    Well, the top chicken I named Queenie, because she was THE BOSS. She would love attention too. She would follow me around the yard, bend low so I could pet her and loved being held and petted. And all the other chickens would NOT come near me. And this went on for the 5 months.

    Then one day as I was trying to put them back in the cage, one of the brown chickens were last out. (Thinking it was the top Orpington) Through patience I just allowed her to chill for a bit while I did yard work and the other chickens relaxed in the cage. When I did go to try to put her back in, she actually bent low and wanted me to pet her! What?! First time for everything. But then I realized Queenie was in the coop, outta sight. So I thought maybe the other chickens don't like attention with Queenie around. I don't really know though what goes on within the pecking order, besides what I see.

    Well now, a few weeks later Queenie doesn't wanna be petted, held, and unless I have meal worms, she doesn't follow me around. A huge change since the other 5 months was the opposite. And on the flip side, both Orpingtons love being petted and held now. (The Australorps are REALLY shy, so they will probably never want contact and the white Ameraucana only accepts attention when I'm feeding them. (She being the "runt" would be picked on, so I would feed her separately.) Why is that?? That Queenie doesn't want attention while the other two do?? Did I mess up the pecking order?? Could Queenie just be going through a faze because our Michigan weather is being crazy right now?? Who is the top chicken?? Is she still top?? So many questions have been running through my mind because I don't know what to ask. I don't know what made Queenie's behavior/personality change and her being the closest to me, it kinda shocked me.

    Thank you in advance to anyone who can shine a little light on this! :)
     
  2. PrairieChickens

    PrairieChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    When a chicken hunkers down in front of you, that's called "squatting". It's how a hen communicates to a rooster that she's willing to mate and has nothing to do really with the pecking order. It's not unusual for chickens' behavior to shift as they go through puberty, which happens between 4 and 6 months. Chickens that were friendly as chicks and juveniles may become more independent, and shy chickens may become more confident. The real test if Queenie is still top of the pecking order is to see how she behaves when there are treats involved and other chickens try to horn in on her goodies. The dominant hen and rooster in a flock will peck lower-ranking chickens in the flock to shoo them away from really good treats. If she's the one dealing out the pecks, she's top chicken. If she's on the receiving end of the abuse, then she's lower ranking.
     
  3. chickneggs

    chickneggs Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Okay. I have no roosters, but all this time of her squatting for me-that's just her being submissive then? Since I'm clearly not a rooster... Lol So I guess she's becoming more independent. Thanks chicken maturity. Lol I sure loved her being friendly with me. But since the Orpingtons are next in the pecking order and not shy like the Australorps, maybe they are where Queenie used to be and soon, in the next month or so will be where she's at now? Independent? I will keep a better eye when feeding them treats. The pecking order was clear beforehand since we could tell by their behavior of pecking and chasing, etc. But I also forgot to share about a couple of weeks ago: They were all dust bathing in one hole-well Rufus and the other lower Orpington was scratching away from the hole-but the other 4 higher ranked were dust bathing and it was like a PMS war. One chicken freaked on another a couple times and that other freaked out and it started a chain of females freaking out on one another. And I believe this is when things started changing with Queenie. Guess all I can do is watch how they interact with one another.

    Thank you so much for the input!

    Oh and something funny I have realized: Rufus for being picked on the most and shunned many times, IS the smartest of all the chickens. Never underestimate one who is judged and placed lower, for they may have the brains of the bunch! :)
     
  4. Cluky

    Cluky Chillin' With My Peeps

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    just a thought because I just went through it. I noticed when my favorite chicken and queen of the coop started going through moulting she stopped being friendly too. maybe tours is going through soft moulting?
     
  5. chickneggs

    chickneggs Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Maybe. I'm not sure when they'll be going through the molting, but that's a thought too. They haven't showed any signs of feather-loss. But this being my first time personally raising chickens, I'll keep my eyes opened for any signs of molting. Thank you for the reply. I see you're from Chicago, so you'd understand the crazy weather that just came through the area. I was thinking to maybe the crazy weather could have an effect on their moods too possibly?
     
  6. Cluky

    Cluky Chillin' With My Peeps

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    ha ha weather was nuts but I really don't think that is the case. my birds didn't even get that spooked with it. but like I said I deffinitely saw personality change when they started loosing their feathers.
     
  7. Cluky

    Cluky Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I also got a bit of cold wing :) when I introduced new chickens but that passed fairly quickly. to be more specific when I took out their favorite treats hee hee
     
  8. chickneggs

    chickneggs Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Lol :) Well, I guess I'm not gonna focus on the weather anymore. After this weekend's storm, if that didn't influence them, no other weather will. I will keep watch on their feathers and then tomorrow, on how they interact with treats. Gonna get down to who's who now and where each chicken stands in the pecking order. (It might be the same for all I know...) Thank you for all the thoughts and information. I've been worried for a while, when I just should've asked on here from the get go and now realize the worry was for nothing. I read you shouldn't interfere with their pecking order-that that can cause issues and was thinking maybe I did something with that without thinking. But now, I'm feeling relief, knowing that my chickens are just growing up, maturing, and possibly ready to molt. So all good. Nature is working at its best! :D
     
  9. PrairieChickens

    PrairieChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The hens respond to you as if you are a rooster--whether or not you resemble one is no nevermind to them. I've had hens squat for me several times, especially when startled, and even had a rooster for a while that would sweet-talk me and try to give me treats. He finally moved on when the real hens stopped ignoring him.

    Here's a couple of examples of squatting behavior.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    As you can see, they'll squat just as readily for humans as another chicken.

    As for your hen's standoffish behavior, don't be too disappointed. She may decide later that she wants cuddles again, or she may just not be into cuddles anymore. Chickens have their moods and their moments, and even friendly chickens will want to do their own thing sometimes.
     
  10. chickneggs

    chickneggs Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you for sharing the videos. :) Always nice to be visually reassured. I have confirmed the pecking order is still the same. Queenie is still queen and the rest in the same order follows, as always. :D Thank you so much for the help. I've found confidence in my flock again. Just as kids grow into teens and young adults and so on, so do our chickens. ...Nothing like having a stubborn chicken. Lol There has been a lot to learn since last spring and I'm sure there will be more to come. Thank you again. :)
     

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