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Pecking order and age

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Peepthis541, Oct 27, 2008.

  1. Peepthis541

    Peepthis541 Songster

    Oct 25, 2008
    Eugene, OR
    I have two hens that are probably a year and a half, and one that was born this past spring. The older ones are also a different breed (black sex-link). I've noticed at least one of the sexlinks are picking on the barred rock, who is a little smaller than the two.
    I first noticed this when I got the hens the other day and held them down to clip their feathers. I did the black ones, and then when I got the barred rock, a funny thing happened. Noticing her in her vulnerable state, one of the sexlinks ran over and gave a nasty pick to the barred rock right in my hands.

    Anyway, this got me wondering about pecking order. I know it is normal for the hens to establish their hierarchy, but I am curious if it is ever unhealthy to put certain chickens together based on size or age.

    I am wondering if I am to get some pullets or chicks and raise them up, at what age or size can I put them with the older more established hens and not worry too much about them picking on them in an unhealthy way.


  2. Buff Hooligans

    Buff Hooligans Scrambled

    Jun 11, 2007
    Just to let you know, I have ZERO experience with your situation, BUT, conventional wisdom seems to be to only combine chickens of equal size. In other words, a smaller and younger bird will be at a distinct disadvantage in the fight for place in the flock.

    Good luck with your group.
  3. bellydancer

    bellydancer In the Brooder

    Sep 12, 2007
    One of my two chickens is obviously the "boss chicken" and does a mean job of plucking the other one.

    The only solution we have found is additional outside the coop time. Then, the non-dominant chicken can run away from the other one.

    Having said that, often times they hang around together.

    I think it's just a chicken "pecking order" thing.

    Mine are "sister" chickens bought at the same time, out of the same clutch, and are the same breed. And one of them still "henpecks" the other.

    I'll defer to those with more experience-- just my two cents from my limited experience.
  4. Jahlers

    Jahlers Hatching

    Oct 9, 2008
    North Dakota
    My two hens are the same way. They are both the same size and are both from my mom's flock. But one of them is the leader and the other just follows her around. I haven't seem them fight at all, but if the follower eats before the boss, she clucks to high heaven and the other one backs off. Chickens are so funny!! [​IMG]
  5. I have chickens of varying ages and you need to be careful any time you add new or younger,smaller ones to the flock.
    Some of the older and bigger ones can be very nasty and merciless.
    I myself don't add any to the flock that are by themselves, I intergrate new ones to the flock by groups so they aren't singled out.
    The younger ones might get picked on for a while but at least its kind of spread out.
    You need to make sure they are letting her eat, you might think she is eating fine but she really isn't.
    Usually the older ones don't let the new ones anywhere near the feeder. I have seen this every time, when the new ones try to eat they get pecked and chased off.
    I have to intervene and watch them eat and drink.
    It has been my experience that it takes a long time for the new ones to be accepted into the flock and even then they are always low on the pecking order.
  6. chickymama25

    chickymama25 In the Brooder

    Jun 27, 2008
    Oh, I am so not looking forward to adding to the flock someday because of this. I couldn't stand to watch the little girls get picked on. I am all about equality and fairness...good thing I am not a chicken cause I would be squawkin even more![​IMG]
  7. ears73

    ears73 Songster

    Jul 30, 2008
    Westchester, NY
    I just posted in another thread about this same thing.

    I have a mixed bunch of hens, but most recently added two little polish ones... They are still inside their cage inside the coop (during the day we move them to an enclosed pen outside) but I wonder if they will all get along. The big hens, only 5 months old, will always be bigger -but I hope they don't pick on the polish beauties too bad!

    Gonna have chickies in the house with us then, I guess.

  8. chick_newbie

    chick_newbie Songster

    Jun 15, 2008
    South Dakota
    I had this problem this fall already. I added three pullets that were about 8 weeks old to the six pullets that were about 17 weeks old. They have been together for about 5 weeks now and are more closer is size and blending pretty well. This really just happened in the last couple of weeks though. The younger ones are maybe a little more stand-offish than the bigger ones but they know that when I come out to give treats, you have to jon in to get some or they lose out.

    Can't wait to put the littler ones in again. I am hopng that they can join the big pullets around Christmas. Hoping that they will be about the same size then.
  9. DeeTee

    DeeTee In the Brooder

    Oct 1, 2008
    Desbarats, Ontario
    I have a less typical situation right now, in that I just added older chickens to a younger flock.

    My existing five pullets are 26 weeks old and on Sunday I added three 1 1/2 year-old hens that I rescued. I was a little worried because the newcomers are layers and therefore smaller than my dual purpose pullets (three Delawares and two Black Sex-Links). Also, the poor things were debeaked at the hatchery and one is really over trimmed. My pullets have full beaks -- I don't believe in mutilating animals for "convenience".

    I figured though that adding three to five is fairly even sides...
    I brought the new girls into the coop in three pet taxis and let them all look at each other through the grills for awhile. One laid an egg while in there, which I took to be a good omen! [​IMG] Then I brought them out of the carriers in time for lights out.

    Monday and today I have seen a little scrapping and a lot of posturing but nothing really violent. It seems that the new hens are quite capable of holding their own and are on the offensive as often as the defensive. Last night the three layers went to bed before dusk and snagged the top roost before the others knew what was happening!

    Egg production dropped to 4 on Monday -- I usually get or 5 just from the pullets -- but I figure this is due to the shakeup. The three new layers have produced three eggs between them so far; I can tell their eggs apart because they have much more bloom on them. Not sure what today's tally will be until I get home from work.
  10. mychickensrock

    mychickensrock Songster

    Oct 2, 2008
    Raleigh, NC
    My husband and I bought 2 new girls about 2 weeks ago. They are older than the 4 we already have. All the same size though. The "Fab Four" are really mean to the new girls. Newbies were kinda beaten up from their previous rooster. "Fab Four" just won't give them a break, especially the rooster. We've separated them, run interception, etc. Newbies are in our bathroom tonight (low of 31, lack of back feathers, and new injuries all a factor). Newbies seem pretty happy. They've laid every day. Just want everyone to get along.

    I just put an add on Craigslist for the rooster. It makes me sad to get rid of him, but I think he's the ringleader of meanness to the new girls. And he crows like crazy, I don't think the neighbors like it. At 5am, I hate it!!!

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