Is This Ever Going to End? Pecking Order Question

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by donnerbrandpears, Jul 27, 2010.

  1. donnerbrandpears

    donnerbrandpears Chirping 8 Years

    Jun 12, 2010
    This is my first year raising chickens. I have three of them. One, Penny, is almost six months and the other two are almost three months. This age difference is because we had to get rid of the older chicken's pal, since he turned out to be a rooster. I did try to get chickens that were closer to Penny's age, but they weren't available. So we brought the two little chickens home, finished raising them in the brooder, and then approached putting them out in the pen with Penny.

    I knew about the pecking order and all that, but I didn't have any idea how brutal it could be. Penny chased the younger chicks around, cornered them so they were cowering in a corner, and then kept threatening/pecking them. Naturally, I stopped that behavior. I tried to approach it as a territorial issue, so for a week, I brought the baby chicks out and let them be near each other outside the pen so they could get used to each other. Penny got a little better, but she still chased them and pecked at them. The young chickens became *terrified* of her and shriek when she came near--who can blame them?

    When it came time to put the baby chicks in with Penny, we made a see-through screen and leaned it against the pen wall so that a section was walled off. That way the younger chickens could be behind the screen in the pen and they could see Penny (and visa versa), but Penny could not hurt them because she doesn't fit under the screen.

    That was two weeks ago. The chickens seemed to be getting a little better--they don't hang out together in a bunch, but they do peck near each other when they are outside the pen, and once Penny defended the young chickens from the cat. On Saturday, I took the screen out and left them in the pen together. The younger chicks are full pullets now, and they are so afraid of Penny that she doesn't even have to peck them, so between the two things I figured that at least it was physically safe. So I left them together and then on Monday, I realized the Penny was spending most of the day backing them into the corner so that they practically flatten themselves down to get away from her. She doesn't hurt them, but I don't think it is good for any creature to be constantly terrified, so I put the screen back in.

    I am sorry this is long! Anyway, I want to ask: do you think this will get better? Is this going to be their permanent relationship or do you think it will be worked out in time?

    Also: should I take the screen out and let them work it out, or should I leave it in until the younger chickens are as big as Penny?

    It makes me sad to see the younger chickens so terrified. But Penny is already laying an egg a day, so I must be doing something right!
  2. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

    Apr 15, 2009
    This whole pecking order thing- it's going to be tougher on you than on them. They are cowering to show Penny that they are submissive to her. She is queen of the flock and they are showing her that they are aware of it. You need to stay uninvolved as much as possible. It will work itself out much sooner if you just stay out of it. As long as Penny is allowing the newbies access to resources (food and water) and not injuring them, then let them be.

    Good luck.
  3. We have 30 Gold Comets now after we added 11 new started pullets to the flock back in May. The first couple of weeks after we put the Youngsters as we call the newest ones in with the Older Gals the Pecking Order was awful, but after a couple of weeks things settled down. But we still have two mean old biddies who seem to take great pleasure in making the Youngsters lives miserable. They'll catch one not looking and she'll do the squat thing to show submission but both of them will just beat the crap out of her. This usually happens when I let them out for an hour or so at dusk. I've taken to using my garden hose on the two offenders but they just come back later and do it again. I've even picked one of them up and carried her around with me the whole time instead of letting her free-range for the hour but nothing seems to work. They just have too much meanness in them towards the newcomers. I'm betting they were in the last group of 7 started pullets we got last year before we added the 11 new ones this year and I'd also bet they were the ones on the receiving end of the pecking order then. But, in the end it's a chicken thing and I doubt what I do will stop it unless I wring some necks...
  4. juliawitt

    juliawitt Songster

    Aug 9, 2009
    I added 4 Buff Orpingtons this year........Let me take this opportunity to say....."Buffs are wimps"! The Buffs are bigger than my other chickens, but only the Doms do not pick on them. The other Big Girls, live to chase, jump and basically torment. This has been going on for 2 months. The good one has ever been kept from food and water. They all perch together at night, so if they sleep together, all is well. Even though it is sad to us, probably a little demeaning to them, and as long as there isn't blood.....This is life in the chicken yard...consider it your own little soap opera, right in your own back yard.....

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