Flashy gal! Piper is just under 3 months old and just beginning to venture out of the grow pen to test her acceptance with the existing flock. Day 7 of learning the serious business of social ranking. Every day brings her one step closer to finding her place, and someday she’ll learn the power of choice.
Articles submitted by chicken keepers are always welcome because there is so much to learn from each other. Today we welcome an article from the Happy Chicken Coop offering valuable information about the pecking order.
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘the pecking order’. In our minds eye, we likely see colleagues and co-workers neatly arranged in order of ‘merit’. From the CEO down to the janitor, everyone has a place in the ‘pecking order’.
The term ‘pecking order’ was first coined in 1921 by Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe to describe the hierarchy of flock dynamics and it came into popular usage in the 1930s…. Continue Reading
Haven’t ever brought new chickens to an existing flock? Well, this can be an experience you won’t forget any time soon. Best to understand the pecking order now before you learn the hard way. Here’s the truth, expect the worst, because your precious little newcomers are most likely going to be pecked hard by the older chickens. Your existing flock isn’t going to take kindly to the new birds presence around food and water, the nesting area, or the coop for that matter. Seniority among a flock is serious business and the reorganization of social ranking can be brutal, even deadly. Space, space, and more space for a flock is a definite plus when introducing new birds. Multiple feeding areas and ample housing is equally important. Remember, size matters in the chicken world, the smaller weaker birds are at the greatest risk for injury and the least likely to get access to food.
Introducing new birds to a flock is not easy, even if the new birds have been housed directly in their view. My suggestion to you is to avoid this unpleasant introduction altogether by setting up separate housing. If this isn’t possible because you’re limited by space, I found a good resource from BYC about Methods of Introduction to help you and your birds make this difficult transition.
This pretty hen with every feather in place runs the show in the chicken yard. But let’s have a look at what happens if your not top bird… like Jojo.
- Dominique Hen, 1st in command
Being the newest member of the flock, Jojo has indeed fallen victim to the effects of social ranking. She is plucked near naked in places by the higher ranking birds… for eating.
- Sizzle Hen, lowest ranked lady
Jojo isn’t allowed to nest with the other hens, or eat until they are finished. She bunks alone in the barn some 100ft away. The flock allows her to hang out with them all day, but other than what she steals on the fly… all amenities are off limits.
- Jojo, 8th generation Sizzle
As you can see Jojo was beautiful before the effects of social ranking, now her fancy breeding is barely recognizable. But don’t worry about little Jojo, I sneak her goodies when the other hens are too busy guarding their house and food to notice. She has her own chicken condo tucked away in the barn, of course the boss hen lays her eggs in it during the day just to claim it hers. But come sundown, all the hens go to their coop and Jojo has has her very own place to call her own.