Pecking Order Question


15 Years
Apr 4, 2008
Tucson AZ
My hens are about 6 months old. Two are Barred Rocks, and two are Buff Orpingtons. The Barred Rocks are nine days older than the Buff Orpingtons, they are obviously the "head hens." There is one Buff Orpington, that is the lowest on the pecking order. All of the other three will peck her at when they are eating, and she will retreat and not fight back. Even if I take her by herself and offer her food, she won't eat it. She will only eat when she is "allowed" by the other three.

But, this week, she has started to fight back when pecked. Do chickens ever change the "pecking order" once it is established?

Funny thing is, the "lowest" chicken is the largest of the four. She could make mincemeat of them is she had a mind to...
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I dunno. I have two hens that started at the bottom of the pecking order. The smallest and lowest one finally started fighting back and now there are only two hens (I think) that she'll back down to. Her situation changed when I switched roos. She was ignored by my former alpha roo, but she's always been the favorite of my current roo; even when they were babies LOL. She now sleeps next to him every night and nobody challenges her.
That dropped my poor Lilith to the bottom of the pecking order and she never fights back. She stays pretty much to herself and rarely free-ranges with the flock. When I give out morning treats I bring her with me back to the house and give her a special serving of treats all to herself by the back door. If the other hens happen to see her with it they come and take it from her and she doesn't fight back.
So I guess the answer would be that yes it can change, but it depends on the personality of the individual bird.
It does change as they mature, especially with different aged birds. You can adjust the pecking order by isolating the head bird a couple of days then return it to the flock. It will start out at the bottom of the pecking order, but I'd expect it to eventually move up. You can do this in a brooder too if one chick is too aggressive.

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