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Pecking Order

If you've always thought 'pecking order'
was just some sort of cliche', think again!
For chickens, it's a very real part
of their social system.

It doesn't take watching chickens for too long to see that there is a very distinct 'animal hierarchy' that is established in the flock. This animal hierarchy is called the "pecking order" and it determines who is the top chicken, who is at the bottom and where all the other chickens fit in between. Once this order is determined, it rarely changes as the lower chickens are generally too scared to challenge a chicken higher than them.

This social order keeps the peace in the flock. It establishes who gets to eat first, who gets to sleep where, whose hens are whose (in the case of a flock that has more than one rooster), etc. Chickens are 'wired' with this behavior. They understand that those higher up in the system than they are can peck them but they're not allowed to peck back. Yet, those lower than them can be pecked on by them without any fear of retaliation.

What sometimes looks mean to us humans is really a very orderly way for chickens to co-habitat and get along. Generally, a flock will take some time to establish the pecking order and then peace will reside in the flock.

Because of this aspect of chicken behavior, it's important to follow a certain protocol if you're adding new chickens to the ones you already have. (Here's more information about introducing new chickens to your flock.)

Occasionally, you might have to step in and intervene if your flock can't work out their differences. Sometimes a chicken will get pecked on so much they get their feathers picked off, are wounded, or even killed. Always watch your flock for signs of distress, however, don't worry if your flock is just trying to establish their hierarchy of order in their family. It's part of what chickens are all about.

 

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This pecking order keeps the peace in the flock. It establishes who gets to eat first, who gets to sleep where, whose hens are whose (in the case of a flock that has more than one rooster), etc. Chickens are 'wired' with this behavior. They understand that those higher in the pecking order than they are, can peck them and they can't peck back. Yet, those lower than them can be pecked on my them without any fear of retaliation.

What sometimes looks mean to us humans is really a very orderly way for chickens to co-habitat and get along. Generally, a flock will take some time to establish the pecking order and then peace will reside in the flock.

Because of this aspect of chicken behavior, it's important to follow a certain protocol if you're adding new chickens to the ones you already have. (Here's more information about introducing new chickens to your flock.)

Occasionally, you might have to step in and intervene if you're flock can't work out their differences. Sometimes a chicken will get pecked on so much they get their feathers picked off, are wounded, or even killed. Always watch your flock for signs of distress, however, don't worry if your flock is just trying to establish their hierarchy of order in their family. It's part of what chickens are all about.

 

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