On pecking order


Little, but big enough for trouble

“Man, I cannot believe the slugs in the greenhouse,” I said to Tom.  “They completely deleaved my Arkansas Traveler tomatoes.  And I had the bantam chicks in there too for the day….Wait.  Uh oh.”

Yep.  Not slugs, chicks!  Buggers.  The thing to know about chickens is that their existence is very monkey-see, monkey-do.  So I am quite sure one little chick got a taste and the others joined in.  Tiny as they are, they can do some damage.  I am not worried about the tomatoes, though; they’ll be fine.

“Well, I do need to get them out of the temporary coop, and move them in with the Big Girls.  And the baby chicks need to move to the temporary coop, and then THEY need to move into the coop, probably earlier than they’re comfortable, when the rest of the chicks show up in early June.”

“You mean you’re moving them all to Gen Pop?  Is that safe?  Poor birds.”

The one thing that I know about chickens is that they need Their People (i.e., at least two others the same age).  What makes Chicken Patty and Queen (Bloody) Beatrice so sad is that they’re “only birds,” as Chicken Patty’s “people” are all in the freezer and Bea’s “people” are likewise very dead.  Bea we don’t worry about so much because she’s Queen and everyone defers to her.  Chicken Patty, the largest bird, is the most picked-upon.  And so it goes:  move the bantams in, they’ll get picked on; move the babies in, the bantams will pick on THEM, then the new egg birds will move in during July and the babies will pick on THEM.  (Let me be clear:  the picking (pecking) only occurs at group events like trips to the feed bowl or while waiting for the dirt bath.)  There’s safety in numbers though.  Everyone will work it out, eventually.

9 responses to “On pecking order

  1. Sounds a lot like high school.

  2. I have 5 half-grown chicks trying to mingle with a 4 YO “only bird” hen and it’s not going well. Despite their collectively larger size and numbers she is still beating them up 😦 So they are separated at the moment and I’ll try again when they’re older.

    Silly me thought she’d be lonely on her own, but apparently she had it good with the food and coop all to herself!

    Glad I’m not coordinating multiple groups like you, ha!

  3. Sounds alot like people every where.


  4. Beautiful little chickies you have there! The whole pecking order thing cracks me up. People and chickens are not too far separated from each other apparently. 🙂 I love watching mine do the “chicken dance” to determine who is top peep. So far I’ve concluded that “Loki”, an Ameraucana, seems to “rule the roost”. I’m not sure if Loki is a male or female, but I’m thinking maybe a little cockerel by the looks of the comb at this point (1.5 months). I could simply observe these guys all day long and get absolutely nothing done. They’re good for my soul.

  5. Do you have any tricks for identifying the young roosters? I had a friend in Poultry Science years ago tell me that all of those little “Cornish Game Hens” you buy in the store are just young chickens born the wrong sex in the egg industry. I love a good Cornish Game “Hen” slow roasted on a spit over an open fire.

    I’ve got chickens sitting on eggs now. It won’t be long.

    • TOGE: My only indication of who’s what is when they start bumping chests at each other. It would appear two of our bantams are male as that chest-bumping is exactly what they’re doing right now (and they’re only 4-5 weeks old at this point). I have also noticed that the combs of roosters come out sooner, and they tend to be skinnier and more wary but these are not two hard-and-fast rules. Yes indeed Cornish game hens are simply baby chickens, baby broiler chickens actually which is where the Cornish comes in (CornishX being the main breed of breast-heavy bird we all eat). They can be either sex. Considering we only wait another 4-5 weeks until Cornish game hens become broilers, it’s not like we’re eating terribly old birds anyway. More like teenagers!

      But congrats on your broody birds! I have another week or so to go to see if our goose hatches out the 10 eggs she’s been dutifully sitting.

  6. Just found your website tonight. Love it! I’m raising chickens for the first time in 20 years again, and I have so much to learn!

  7. Kinda makes me sad to think how the pecking order continues on in so many of earth’s species. I detest bullies!

  8. Tameson, oh yeah. Or certain work situations. Cackle cackle.

    Sara, wow, your girl likes being top dog, eh? I know in certain situations like overcrowding they do get crabbier than in other situations. They’re amazingly like us in that way. But personally I think the pecking order has, well, order to it, you know? It’s been built up by these flocking birds for milennia for probably a good reason. It’s just hard to watch is all. “Why can’t you all just get along?”

    Linda, exactamundo! I have often thought of naming some of the birds after the people they really resemble, but I have a feeling that wouldn’t be taken in the right way 🙂

    Oh Blaitin I know exactly what you mean by wanting to watch them all day long. When we first got our birds our daughter was just over 2 and it was such a joy to watch THEM as they required little of me! The little girl required a lot more commitment. But watching them then, I could just feel the tension between my shoulder blades loosen, and frankly I hadn’t realized I was so tightly wound at the time….

    TOGE, poultry science! I dabble in that…

    Jayme, hi and welcome! They’re so amazingly funny, I think. I adore them but then again I think all our birds, even the spazzy guineas, to be fascinating. Great good luck with your new flock. For what it’s worth, we hadn’t had the coop completed when they started laying!

    Laurene, well, yeah, I abhor a bully too but it’s not true bullying. It’s more like a reminder of respect: each bird expects its due, you know? It certainly isn’t a constant thing or I wouldn’t be in the business of owning them as I wouldn’t be able to handle it.

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