establishing pecking order?

newchik715

Songster
10 Years
Aug 31, 2009
331
0
119
Washington
When do chicks begin to really establish the pecking order? What does it look like. My girls are charging each other and flying on top of each other's heads. one just pecked the butt of another, which is the first pecking i have seen at all. they are almost four weeks old now.
 

donnavee

Songster
11 Years
May 7, 2009
828
127
236
Hillsborough NC
I think all flocks are a bit different and it may depend a bit on the makeup of the flock. I got my 1st batch of 8 girl chicks last April - 2 ea of RIRs, Australorps, Stars & EEs. I really didn't notice any pecking at all, though there was a bit of chest bumping - the RIRs were the pushiest. DH and I thought that somehow we had such a well adjusted flock that they wouldn't even need a pecking order. Hah! We moved them outside at about 4 weeks and still no major fighting - until one day when I was offering some weed treats to them and bang, one of the Stars pecked the other on the head hard. I was devastated! So from there the real pecking order began to shake out. It's painful to watch, but no one actually drew blood. It was more of a chasing and pecking on the head thing. Sometimes they would go at each other chest to chest. Just keep an eye on the bottom ones to make sure they have access to food and water - sometimes the top ones won't allow them to eat. I always keep food & water in 2 locations just to make sure everyone gets a turn. So, now that they are grown, the order has remained much the same with the Reds on top and they rarely peck or chase each other since everyone sort of knows their place. I'm getting some more this April so I'll have to go through the process again when they are old enough to merge together. Also, I have read that if one or two are really mean to the point of causing injury to the others, you should separate the thugs from the others for a while. Supposedly when you return them to the flock, they will have been bumped down the pecking order. I have never had to do this so I don't know if it works, but it sems to make sense.

Good luck, I think giving them as much room as possible helps reduce pecking stress too. I always let mine out for about an hr. of supervised play each evening which they really love.
 

midget_farms

Songster
12 Years
Apr 15, 2008
1,359
11
194
Dunlap Illinois
The pecking order can start with birds just a few days old. Mine are 1 week now & you can clearly tell the dominant birds.

I have them in 4 brooders now (storage bins) seperated by breed, not that the have to be, because some of the Aracaunas were pecking the silkies & polish too much for my taste. I'll let them throw down when they are a little bigger - I just didn't want anything too ruff going on while they were so small.
 

catdaddy66

Songster
10 Years
Nov 18, 2009
1,050
17
151
Lugoff, SC
I have noticed that my Australorp chicks at 3.5 weeks are jumping on/pushing around/bowing up to other birds in the brooder, mostly around the food/water. They are clearly asserting their authority, and in one 15 minute viewing session saw it happen about 3-4 times each from 3 of the 5 aussies!
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gritsar

Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!
13 Years
Nov 9, 2007
28,906
324
661
SW Arkansas
The pecking order can be up and in good running order by 6 to 8 weeks, even if it is subtle. It's starts from day one of their life together.
 
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NWChicks

Songster
9 Years
Mar 3, 2010
467
4
119
Granite Falls, WA
I'm so glad you asked that question! I have five, four week old chicks (2 Buff Orpingtongs, 2 NH Reds and 1 Barred Rock) and they're doing the same thing. I kind of figured what they were doing but it still is a little unerving to watch! The BO's are the biggest and they're being the most aggressive right now. I had already decided the box they're in is too small and made plans to move them in the morning. I just had to go buy some more shavings for the new diggs so I couldn't do it tonight. I'm hoping with a little more room they'll tone it down a bit.

Not to hijack the thread but I do have a question. I have three other chicks in a separate box that are about 2 weeks younger than the big girls. One is very tiny, though she seems healthy. We bought them from someplace different than the others and were told to keep them separate for a bit. My question is, when can I put them together? I'm not in a big rush because I don't think we have a large enough box and the coop is still under construction. When the coop is done can I just put them all out there together and let them hash it out again? I know they're too young to move out for awhile yet, I'm just planning ahead for when I can reclaim my living room!

Can you tell I'm a newbie?
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donnavee

Songster
11 Years
May 7, 2009
828
127
236
Hillsborough NC
I can't really speak for merging the 2 flocks since I'm pretty new as well and haven't gone through that yet. However, when you move your chicks to the larger area - be prepared for some squabbling. Like you, my 8 had outgrown their little brooder box and though they weren't bothering each other that much, they looked sort of bored and were constantly stepping on one another. So we got one of those plastic kiddie pools, put in pine shavings and then dumped the chicks in. The RIR's who were and still are our top chicks, went wild - strutting around with their chests out and attacking the others. It was crazy for about 30 minutes and I worried I had made a mistake. I actually added a little "furniture" to make it seem a little smaller and all settled down after a while. When I finally moved them to their permanent outside coop at about 4 weeks, there was no major bickering so maybe they got it out of their systems in the kiddie pool. Good luck, and everyone says as long as they aren't drawing blood to just let them work it out - very hard for me to do.
 

NWChicks

Songster
9 Years
Mar 3, 2010
467
4
119
Granite Falls, WA
Thanks! I'll be prepared for that (or try to be anyway!) I so wanted to put the two most aggressive on timeout last night! I turned off their light and they all went to sleep.
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