Could chickens in tiny flocks develop pecking order later than within larger flocks?


In the Brooder
8 Years
May 22, 2011
My three 6-month old hens who have gotten along famously until two days ago, have started to act quite differently. It started with Maybel (Ameracauna) picking on Wanda (Barred Rock). Soon after, Eve (Production Red) also began the bullying. Now Wanda is the victim of a lot of chasing, pecking, and exclusion on the perch at night. They aren't constantly after her, but even when they free range, if she goes near where the other two are grazing, they will go after her. (If she keeps a distance, they usually won't, although I've seen one of them run at her from several feet away.) As much as I am trying not to humanize the behavior, it is hard to have my after work peace and serenity turn into a virtual civil war, and I find myself feeling anger toward the "mean girls".

I think the worst thing I can do is to intervene unless they are putting her in danger, but I am finding myself being puzzled as to WHY??? WHY NOW???? They seem to be establishing pecking order and honestly, I never saw any real order of any kind before now. They all just shared and seemed quite content together. So I wonder this: much of the writing is done by people who have large flocks and I am thinking that PERHAPS tiny backyard flocks like mine develop social order at a later age. I would most appreciate feedback and also to know if others have seen this kind of behavior starting at such a late age. (I don't believe that Wanda is unhealthy. I have checked her over and she seems fine. The behavior happens whether they are in the run or free ranging.) Thanks in advance, fellow chicken lovers!
Sandy (who would love to have her sweet, peace loving flock back)
The chicken social order is an ever changing/evolving thing. Those on the bottom want to improve their position. My guess is that the barred rock was boss. For some reason the EE/ameraucana and production red saw an opportunity to overthrow her and teamed up to do so. They will work things out. As long as no serious physical damage is taking place just let them sort things out.
Thanks so much. That's what I needed to hear. In a culture where we view egalitarianism as ideal, it's hard to remember not to lay my stuff on them. So can you tell me- when things settle, is it likely that she will be a part of the three again, or will she always be sort of separate?
That's hard to say. At one time I had four littermate female beagles. One was a bully and continually harassed the other three. One day the three had enough and beat the stuffing out of the bully. From that day onward I could not kennel her with or near any of her sisters. I eventually had to give her away because she was no longer a member of the pack. I'm not certain that poultry bear a grudge, but those 3 beagle sisters sure did.

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