Do Pullets and Cockerals Chest Bump EACH OTHER to Establish Pecking Order?


7 Years
Mar 13, 2013
My Coop
My Coop
On April 9, 2013, I got my first 12 chicks from the local farmers market here in southern Kentucky and so they are straight-run. I bought from 3 different farmers: 3 Buff Orpingtons, 3 Black Australorps, 2 Rhode Island Reds, 2 Barred Rocks and 2 Mystery Chicks (the farmer didn't know what they were). They were all around a 1 week or so old so now, they're all about 3 weeks old.

And, like so many of us, I'm wondering about their sex. I'm hoping I got about 1/2 pullets and about 1/2 cockerals. So, my question is: do pullets chest bump with cockerals at this age to establish pecking order? If not, I've got mostly cockerals. My 2 Barred Rocks have VERY distinct white lines across their wings so based on what I've read and the pictures others have posted in these forums, I'm pretty sure they're both cockerals. With this in mind, I watch who they chest bump with and it's a bunch of the others: 2 of the 3 Opringtons, 2 (both) of the Rhode Island Reds, 2 of the 3 Black Australorps.

So, my question is: do cockerals chest bump and otherwise work out pecking order with pullets? Or, do cockerals work out pecking order with only other cockerals and pullets work out pecking order with only other pullets?

I'm worried because I'm not looking forward to the part of this where I have to cull/find homes for the cockerals and then, maybe start over with another batch of chicks if I don't have enough hens in the end. I know I should just enjoy the journey and wait and see what nature gave me but for some reason, I'm having a hard time doing that so far.

Any help from all of you who are more experienced then me (which is pretty much all of you!) would be wonderful, much thanks.
In my experience it is the cockerels who chest bump each other but... you never know. You can post pictures and see if we could give you some opinions. You can tell on some 3 week olds.
OK, good idea. Here they are, all 12 of them and my thoughts on each. I'd love to hear your thoughts and what you see in these pictures so I can learn from your experienced and tested eyes.

Road Runner (Barred Rock #1) - I think this one is a cockeral based on the banding on the wings. This one chest bumps the others.

Little Shadow (Barred Rock #2) - I think this one is a cockeral based on the banding on the wings. This one chest bumps the others as well.

Colonel Mustard (Buff Orpington #1) - This one chest bumps the Barred Rocks. Not sure but suspect that makes him a cockeral.

Sonny (Buff Orpington #2) - This one doesn't chest bump the others but he stares them down. He's my second smallest chick. Not sure but suspect he's a cockeral.

MeMe (Buff Orpington #3) - This little thing hasn't grown AT ALL in the 2 weeks I've had them and he peeps not quite all the time but pretty much all the time. I don't think this one is going to make it, despite the fact that I feed him separately and give him special care. Something's just not right with him. I did research here in the forum to see what to do and what he might have and decided to just do what I can and let nature take it's course.

Black Knight (Black Australorp #1) - I think this is a pullet, pretty passive, never seems to get in tussles with the others.

Luna (Black Australorp #2) - I think this is a pullet, pretty passive, never seems to get in tussles with the others.

Cruella Deville (Black Australorp #3) - I think this is a cockeral, chest bumps with the others.

Sparrow (Rhode Island Red#1) - I don't know what I think this one is. Doesn't seem to mix it up with the others much. My largest chick so I can't tell if he/she is just developing fast and I don't know what to look for in this breed that distinguishes the pullets and cockerals at this age.

El Guapo (Rhode Island Red#2) - I don't know what I think this one is either, pullet or cockeral. Doesn't seem to get to aggressive with the others, stays with the other RIR mostly.

AppleDuck (Mystery Breed #1) - I think this is a pullet because she doesn't seem to get into it with the others but I really have no idea. Also, any idea what breed this might be?

Possum (Mystery Breed #2) - Don't know what this is but doesn't seem to get into it with the others but I really have no idea. Also, any idea what breed this might be? Is starting to show some copper on the wings...

Thank you for any insights you can give me on these chicks. I know I'm jumping the gun trying to figure out what I've got here so thank you for your patience and helpfulness.

Hi GuppyTJ, what a cut bunch you have there. Very sad about meme though :(

For me I can't really have a good guess from the pics, I do understand the obsession with sexing them! I was the same when I got my first lot! You do obsess a little less as they get older though!

With my lot, they're 10 weeks old now, I'm pretty sure (from people's online guesses etc) that I have 7 pullets and 1 roo, a funny silkie called rusty. When they were younger they pretty much ALL chest bumped/flew at each other/had stare downs. Some of mine even did little double kicks like kangaroos at each other! It's prett entertaining to watch! As well as working out pecking order, I think they do it to play. Mine were always so mellow in their brooder but as soon as I let them out for a play they would go wild and I too was like, oh goodness, how many roo's do I have!?

Now they're older, rusty still has little fights with the pullets. Maybe he's trying to dominate, but he's only bigger than the other silkie, so the girls usually win! Poor rusty.

Anyway I think in a couple of weeks it should start to get clearer. I think Roos can start to get some pretty serious head year around 4-5 weeks of age sometimes!
Thanks for the insights, Alex15! I really appreciate what you experienced with your chicks and how you also got more comfortable with being patient as time went on. Also, thanks for the help on the copper maran identification. That would be a great chick to have as I wanted a maran but they didn't have any (at least identified!) at the farmers market. Much appreciated, GuppyTJ
Does anyone else have insights on what I've got here? This morning, AppleDuck (Mystery Chick #1) was chest bumping with Roadrunner (Barred Rock #1) and Colonel Mustard (Buff Orpington #1). Trying to unravel what it all means. Plus, it amazes me each morning when I first look in on them and see that they literally grew overnight! And little MeMe is still hanging in there, maybe even a little more active than usual and not crying. So interesting, each with their own personalities and the dynamics between them are still changing every day.
My hens still chest bump with the cockerels all the time. In fact the worst fight we have had between all out chooks was started by a bantam pullet who decided to chest bump a cockerel 4 times her size lol.I understand your frustration l go out everyday and sit down with a coffee trying to sex our chicks much to my husbands amusement. Don't get to disheartened yet my rule is their not a cockerel till they crow :)
Thank you Tj11! I am so relieved to hear all of this, that the pullets and cockerals duke it, that you too sit and try to assess the sex of your chicks. I have you in my mind, sitting up at a barn, coffee in hand, studying your flock. Great to know I'm not alone and a bit embarrassed by how relieved I am. It's funny how experience is the very best teacher. Before I got my chicks, I talked a big story to my friends and family, how I'd cull for the table my extra roos. How if one gets taken by a predator, it would just be nature's way... bla, bla. Now that I have them, having mother henned them for 2+ weeks and come to understand each one a bit more each day, it's not so easy to be dispassionate.

Like, I'm still trying to help MeMe grow and come along and protect him from the others, but he keeps getting nearly trampled or smothered by the other chicks all of which are 4 times his size. What is the most humane thing to do as I don't want a house pet chicken and at this rate, MeMe will never feather out enough to be outside. Sooner or later, he's going to get seriously injured by the others, no fault of theirs. My husband suggests I wait until the hawks are overhead and then put MeMe outside so some good can come of little MeMe. Maybe a hungry hawk can benefit from MeMe's misfortune. Need to think more on this.

It's such a fun journey, so much to learn and experience. Each day brings something new with these little chicks. Thanks for your reply, it really helps me a great deal.

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