Anyone who has chickens knows there is a pecking order. In fact, that’s exactly where that term for a distinct hierarchy came from…chickens. Since we got our six girls at the same time, the pecking order seemed to be determinedly primarily by age.
Lucy, the Rhode Island Red, was 10 weeks when we got our chickens. The two Barred Rocks, Wilma and Betty, were 7 weeks old, Maude, the Silver Laced Wyandotte was 5 weeks old, and the Buff Orpington, Louise, and the Easter egger, Hazel were both a mere 3 weeks old.
Lucy is the quiet leader, she doesn’t seem to need to exert her status, except if someone is in her favorite place on the roost bar at night, which happens to be the first bar, near the window facing the street. This, for those of you who don’t know, is the most appealing and best seat in the house. There, now you know.
Betty also seems to be top dog because she will fight over bugs and other resources, although they pretty much have everything they need and want at all times. But still, mealworms and grubs are worthy of getting into a fight about.
I noticed early on as they grew, that most of them picked on Louise, the Orpington. Maude would do it when it came to grapes and the other older gals would peck at her too. I even saw an old fashioned hazing, where they all got their pecks in. They also bother Hazel, but mostly Louise, who would in turn, peck at Hazel. And so it goes in a family.
Then there was a coup in the coop!
Recently, they were all out free ranging while I was working the in the garden, and I heard a kerfuffle. It looked to be between Betty and Louise. Then I heard a few more BAAAWKKS!!! It seemed to always be between those two and it looked like Louise was picking on Betty!
I thought to myself, am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?
It took me a while to realize this because let’s face it, this is a huge shift in power.
Nothing that I could see had changed. No new hens, no new place, coop, no new anything. All the girls seemed very healthy, all were laying, no one was molting, broody, nothing. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
It is odd that this pecking order shift occurred after a year of living together, because usually once the hierarchy is established in a flock it doesn’t change if nothing else dramatically changes.
It is also weird that it was a hen on the bottom going after a hen on the top and usually during free ranging, and not when they were cooped up in the coop. (another term derived from chickens for those of you keeping score.)
I just kept saying, “Betty, just stay away from her already!”
While picking up some scratch from our local chicken store, Urban Chicken in Raleigh, I inquired about my coop dynamic.
A chicken expert there said, “It seems like Betty may have lost some street cred, and Louise is taking full advantage of it.”
He explained further about jailhouse rules, you know, where someone beats up the big, bad leader of the bunch so they don’t have to waste time with the others.
Maybe Louise had just had enough. I may never know what really lurks in the hearts and minds of these tiny dinosaurs of mine.
And Lucy had the good spot, of course.
Until next time,
Ingrid — Crazy Chicken Lady