The Pecking Order Among Chickens

Managing the Thugs in Social Ranking

The pecking order determines which chicken may eat first, where which chicken is allowed to sit on the perch, or even even drink. It is often the stronger or larger birds that rank highest in the social order.

My Bullies, Rhode Island Reds

The organizational power among chickens can be pretty brutal, fighting, pecking, and injuries often occur. To minimize ciaos,  offering feeders, drinkers and nesting areas in more than one place is helpful.

Note:  It is also important to consider the fact that over crowding can contribute to argumentative behavior or feather loss due to pecking.

The perch is a common place for pecking or bullying, especially when there are rank differences.  Watching them find a place to retire for the night is a complicated process.  The pecking order rarely changes among an existing flock, however we have some power over the pecking order simply by removing the higher ranking birds for a few weeks.  I bring this up because it is sometimes necessary to intervene when the pecking order becomes so aggressive that weaker birds are plagued with injuries.

Once a weaker bird’s skin is exposed from being pecked on, the situation worsens and another problem occurs. One measly drop of blood is enough to create absolute havoc in the chicken yard.  Something happens to chickens when they get a taste of blood, and they become quite capable of literally pecking a bird to death. Of course, before this happens the injured chicken will have to be removed and placed in isolation to heal and grow new feathers. 

It is usually 3 weeks to a month before new feathers cover the affected area. Or, you can do nothing, and stay out of the pecking order process entirely, which many poultry keepers believe to be the best way.  But personally, I’m not at all fond of watching my birds one by one begin to look like they’ve been through a meat grinder.

It certainly makes better sense to remove the trouble makers rather than constantly doctoring chickens. There are usually 2 or 3 thugs that dominate a small flock, isolate them from the weaker birds for a few weeks. Then you can re-introduce them to the flock, but only one bird at a time over the course of a week. This will lessen the chances of them ganging up on the existing flock.

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How to Bathe a Chicken

Show Off Your Fancy Poultry

You’ll need 3 buckets, any will do, but personally I like the 5 gallon size.  Use Ivory liquid soap in the first one for the bath. You can add 1/2 cup of 20 Mule Team Borax to the bath for a positive effect if your chicken is light or white.

Fill a second bucket with water, use this to rinse the soap off the bird. If your bird is white it’s okay to add 1/2 teaspoon bleach to each gallon of water. This will help brighten the white.

In the third bucket mix 2 cups vinegar to each gal. of water, this will make the feathers shine.  If you want that show shine appeal, add 1 tablespoon glycerin.

Gently pat the chicken with a towel, or confine to a clean cage to dry. Using a blow dryer is okay too, just make sure it’s not too hot, and diffuse the air stream with your hand at all times.  The blow dryer can frizz or break feathers, keep it on low and take your time.

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Chicken Keeping in Phoenix, is it Legal?

Are Chickens Allowed in Phoenix   Yes
Max Chickens Allowed     20
Roosters Allowed     No
Permit Required     No
Coop Restrictions:     80 feet from residence-ZONING ORDINANCES APPLY
City/Organization Contact name:       City of Phoenix Ordinances

Read on, especially between the lines…

Sec. 8-7. Poultry and rodents.

(a)  Except as otherwise provided in the article, it is hereby declared to be a nuisance and it shall be unlawful for any person to keep rodents or poultry within the City. No poultry or rodents shall be kept in an enclosure within eight feet of any residence within the City. Poultry may be kept within eighty feet of a residence if written permission consenting to the keeping of poultry less than eighty feet from a residence is first obtained from each lawful occupant and each lawful owner of such residence. Poultry shall not be kept in the front yard area of any lot or parcel with the City. Poultry and rodents shall be kept in an enclosure so constructed as to prevent such poultry and rodents from wandering upon property belonging to others.

(b)  No more than twenty head of poultry nor more than twenty-five head of rodents nor more than twenty-five head comprising a combination of rodents and poultry shall be kept upon the first one-half acre or less. An additional one-half acre shall be required for each additional twenty head of poultry or for each additional twenty-five head of rodents or for each additional twenty-five head comprising a combination of poultry and rodents. For areas larger than two and one-half acres the number of poultry or rodents shall not be limited.

(c)  No male poultry shall be kept within the City limits except such male poultry as are incapable of making vocal noises which disturb the peace, comfort, or health of any person residing within the City.

(d)  All such enclosures shall be kept in such condition that no offensive, disagreeable, or noxious smell or odor shall arise therefrom to the injury, annoyance, or inconvenience of any inhabitant of the neighborhood thereof.

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