Peck order and mothering ability


10 Years
Jun 9, 2009
Does a hen's position in the peck order have any bearing on how well she will be able to defend a clutch of chicks? Will a low ranking hen still shrink from the "higher ups" even when she has babies? Or will the hormones help her rise to the occasion? What do you think?


Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Feb 5, 2009
South Georgia
I have 4 free ranging hens, including a broody who as of today is raising 4 chicks in the same coop with the others. She is either the lowest on the pecking order, or next to lowest. I have already seen all 4 hens and all 4 chicks in the coop together today. These same hens were part of a larger group who raised one chick last year; I never separated the mother and chicks then, either.

The other hens were curious and watched the chicks, but I did not see any effort to attack.

Not only that, only one of the eggs she was setting hatched, last Thursday, so this morning I bought 3 more from the feed store, and introduced them to the broody and chick around 10 AM today. All went very well, and Mama has been teaching all 4 to scratch and eat all day.

Maybe I just have nice chickens....


10 Years
Apr 12, 2009
West Virginia
You know, I don't think I have ever observed the pecking order thing. Perhaps because they free range, they do not seem to quarrel.

My darn Guineas do quarrel. They fight with the chickens, they fight with each other.

They don't take on the Peacocks.



12 Years
May 25, 2008
I've wondered myself whether a bottom-of-the-pecking-order hen would be assertive & capable of protecting her chicks if put with others...

Dirt Road

11 Years
Nov 9, 2008
Southern Idaho
As a rule, the chicks will fit right in with their mother within her place in the pecking order. The other hens will almost always accept them in that position. The hen will not suddenly find the ability to dominate the other hens. Only time you will have a big problem is trying to put a hen and chicks in a pen where the hens' position is not already established.


flakey chick

12 Years
May 3, 2007
I had a problem with it.

I had 2 hens and let one go broody. She was at the bottom of the pecking order. I didn't want to separate them because then they would both be lonely. They had a large communal nesting box and the other hen laid while the other brooded. I grafted some chicks under broody and she accepted them. When my other hen when to lay, she did not appreciate the interlopers. She grabbed one and ran off with it. Mommy did nothing. I intervened and separated them. I think she would have eatten the chick given the chance.

BTW They are now integrated and doing fine.


10 Years
Jun 9, 2009
Thanks, everyone. I had been told by several people that it would not be a problem, that even a low ranking hen would stop at nothing to protect her chicks. So, I allowed my broody hen, second lowest in a flock of 15 chickens, to hatch some eggs.

However, when the first chick hatched, I noticed other hens kicking her out of the nestbox so they could use it to lay their eggs. Afraid the chick would be trampled, I moved the mother and eggs to a separate pen.

The three chicks that hatched are now around 4 wks old, and they and mother have been gradually re-integrated into the flock. Mother does try to defend them from most of the other chickens, but will flee from a couple of the top hens. So far, those top hens do not seem interested in hurting the chicks - they seem to just want to let them know who's boss. But if they wanted to kill them, it looks to me like Mom would not put up a fight.

Anyone else have experience with low ranking hen raising chicks within a flock?


11 Years
Jul 17, 2008
DC Region
I have eight hens and 15 pullets, I've two co-raising about 20 chicks, one brooding. The one brooding is my lowest chicken, she picked an out of the way place to brood but is otherwise fine.

I don't separate broodies from the flock - including the Roos and the up and coming cockerals and pullets and all generally goes well.

Of course while they're growing out - any truly vicious, contentious bird ends up named Soup and discovers that short life path. I hate a constantly spatting yard, so I do tend to weed out trouble long before they brood a group of chicks.

Some broodies defend like the dickens and some just don't. Penelope is the velociraptor of the chick rearing group and her co-parent is Caladan, who is not nearly as assertive and usually lets Penelope handle all the defenses of the entire group.

Pumpkin the one on eggs is going to have a rough go because she hates trouble. We'll see. It's her second clutch, she was driven off the first clutch by an over amorous cockeral who pestered her. If she really wants to brood, she's going to have to step up and defend herself this time.

I don't artificially separate even when a broody fails. This is a free range flock, flock integration and survival by the strongest being important. If the broody is too weak mentally to successfully raise a clutch, then that's an egg set I don't need.

I keep a bator running in case, pretty much always.

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