Pecking order

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by ldelorto, Jul 22, 2013.

  1. ldelorto

    ldelorto In the Brooder

    May 4, 2013
    Auburn Massachusetts
    So I have 4 13 week old chicks 2 RIR 1 Plymouth Rock and 1 polish, 2 were purchased together at 2 weeks, I introduced a 1 yr old Silkie to the group when they were 3 weeks trying to get her in there while she was bigger and there for hopefully won't get picked on, then got 2 more 4 week olds a week later. Everything has been going smoothly, the silkie has always been slightly separated from the other 4 who seem to move together as one. I saw the first signs of pecking order this week. No one has been pecked but I saw a RIR and the PR do a little face to face dance, nothing serious. Seems to be the PR will be top hen with out little argument. Then I noticed the Silkie hanging out in the nesting box the last few days. Thought maybe she was going broody but has still put out an egg each day and let me take them with no argument. So I put her out with the 4 teens and gave them treats THEN I noticed the silkie charging and giving the RIR and PR a few pecks (polish seems happy being a follower). This scared me, cause right now she's slightly smaller than the others. But they are growing fast .... And I'm afraid she is going to put up a fight for top hen and loose. She's not hurt at all but now I'm worried she has been in the coop cause of being too much of a loner, maybe being bullied or just trying to claim the throne in the coop??
    So I'm trying to fix this before there becomes a problem and keep the peace. Would introducing another silkie be a good idea or awful? Give my little girl a friend? Or would it likely just be a new easy target for everyone to pick on. Like I said, as of right now everyone is relatively the same size, 13 weeks and only showing small signs except for the silkie who seems to be trying to keep the throne as she shrinks and the others grow. There all loved pets and I could not handle a fatality!!
    Sorry for the length.
  2. 4 the Birds

    4 the Birds Songster

    Oct 15, 2010
    Westfield, Indiana
    The key to raising chicks and pullets is to keep relatively same age birds together. When they are 7 to 8 weeks of age then they are mostly feathered out and a good size to fend for themselves. They can mingle with the flock and find their place in the pecking order. Another key is to have plenty of space and a few hiding spots for the birds that get picked/pecked on. Some breeds and birds can be more aggressive but if you have a spacious coop/run/roost bar then it really helps to keep the peace especially when you mix several different sized breeds together.

  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    They are going to determine a pecking order. That’s how chickens have learned to live together peacefully in a flock. Each one knows its social ranking. It’s called the pecking order because determining that social ranking often involves some pecking or worse.

    What normally happens when two chickens that haven’t settled the pecking order meet, one pecks the other. If one runs away, the social order is established. There may be some chasing and a repeat until the message is clear, but if one runs away, no real damage is done.

    Sometimes, instead of running away they have a scrimmage. They’ll flair neck feathers and try to claw each other. Usually one quickly determines it’s not going to win so decides to run away. No harm done.

    Occasionally if the two are pretty closely matched, a pretty good fight occurs. Most of these still end in running away and chasing but it is possible some serious injury could occur. They are actually trying to hurt each other in these fights.

    I think it is really important that they have room to run away and get away if chased. If they can’t run away, then it is a challenge and is much more likely to get pretty violent. The winner doesn’t know she’s won.

    It’s not as much about size as many people seem to think. It’s more about the size of the fight in the chicken than the size of the chicken in the fight. Size is a factor if they are fairly evenly matched in spirit, but it’s not that unusual to see bantams rank higher in the pecking order than full sized chickens.

    Something else that happens is that a mature chicken will outrank an immature chicken. That’s why chicks in the flock often form their own separate flock. They are trying to avoid conflict with more mature chickens. I suspect that may be part of why you’ve seen them separate.

    At 13 weeks for a lot of them, you may be in for a bit of a bumpy ride the nest month or two, especially if your space is a bit tight. They are starting to hit puberty. Hormones are going to start flowing and they aren’t sure exactly what’s going on. And they mature at different rates. They may settle pecking order but when maturities change, they have to go through it again. When they all mature enough to determine their final pecking order spot, it will get much more peaceful.

    Sometimes this whole process goes so smoothly you wonder what all the worry was about. They just take care of it and you don’t really notice much. Occasionally it gets really violent, especially if your space is tight so they cannot run away. Usually, you will see a few face-offs and quick skirmishes with some running away and maybe chasing. Each flock is different. Each chicken has its own personality and each flock has its own dynamics.

    I can’t tell you what will happen with yours. Chickens have been going through this for thousands of years, every time a hen hatches and raises chicks with the flock. It usually works out.

    Good luck with yours.
  4. ldelorto

    ldelorto In the Brooder

    May 4, 2013
    Auburn Massachusetts
    Thanks. As of right now it really seems like the silkie is top hen and barred rock next. They all run away from the silkie and don't fight back. I just worry about her cause she started off bigger. I just hope no one challenges her, or she runs away and doesn't fight back too much. Cause they will all be much much bigger than her. She is a sassy pants though. Maybe she will stay on top. I would think they would have enough room. They have lots of roosting spots in and out of the coop and run, but the run is open most if the day, and they have the whole yard most of the time. No one has been hurt yet so I guess I gotta just cross my fingers and wait it out. I have just never heard of a silkie being the bully! But she's charging and they are running.

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