Hen Hierarchy

We’ve all heard of the old term: pecking order.

The truth is, the pecking order is a very real thing in a flock of chickens. Although it may seem brutal to us, establishing a pecking order, is inevitable if you have more than one chicken. It establishes the leaders from the followers.

All the way down the totem pole, each and every chicken has their place.

The number one contributing factor in hen hierarchy is age.

Age, not size, separates the bosses from the underdogs.

One of my most assertive hens, happens to be the tiniest, scrawniest little White Leghorn you ever did see. She doesn’t think twice about pecking a much bigger Orpington or Rhode Island Red right on the noggin. Why?

With age comes great privilege in the chicken world. The older hens, who have already established themselves, will have first access to feed, the leading pick of the nesting boxes, the very best sleeping spot on the roost, and are front and center at the giving of any yummy treats.

If you plan on ever adding to your flock, it may be wise to invest in more than one fenced area. You may not need more than one coop, but at least having a second run and shelter attached to your original coop, will help transition new additions.

For the safety of your young birds, always wait to add them to the flock until they are almost fully grown in size. It is very important to keep your young birds away from the adults until they can defend themselves. Chicks that are raised together, tend to stick together as adult birds. They do form little groups of “friends” staying together throughout their lives. Any young chickens that are introduced to the flock will always be on the bottom (unless you have that one bold hen who ain’t taking no crap and ends up hanging with the old girls). It happens!

When bringing in new adult hens, first try introducing them to the flock in a separate pen. Let the chickens first see each other thru a fence before adding them together. Alas, even with proper thru-the fence introductions, chickens will always do a bit of fighting when they are first put together.

It is best not to intervene. Most wrinkles in the flock will be ironed out in a few days.

When you finally do add new birds, adequate space is very important.

Fighting and pecking will be unavoidable at first, but the young or new chickens need the space to escape the onslaught of beaks if need be. An overcrowded coop is a recipe for stress and violence, whether you are adding new birds or not.

Although these pecks and scuffles may seem vicious to us, they are all part of nature. You should only intervene if you notice any amounts of blood being drawn. At the sight of blood, bully hens will only further harm the new bird. Remove the injured bird from the flock immediately until it is back to good health.

Hen hierarchy, although it may seem savage, is a very normal part of having chickens. We all have a place in the world, and this also applies to chickens. Let nature run its course, and soon you will have a happy, harmonious flock!