Chicken behavior is pretty complex. The term “pecking order” is definitely true. Chickens like to know their place in the flock and they are quick to make sure other hens know where they stand. I happened to catch a photo today that shows what happens when a more dominant hen approaches a less dominant one.
Here we have Olly Astro walking up to Olivia to see what she’s eating. Olivia has just found a bug, and Olly Astro wants it. Olivia stands very still and keeps her head down while Olly Astro challenges her. Olivia saw her coming, so she knows what to do: stand still until the standoff is over. If a hen sneaks up on a less dominant hen, you’ll often see the surprised hen flap both wings up and down once. That seems to mean something like “You surprised me but I’m big and strong! Don’t mess with me!”
Even after I distract Olly Astro, Olivia remains still until Olly moves away. If a hen is particularly aggressive, she’ll peck at the less dominant hen to make her move instead.
Carol is a chronic head pecker. She is the most dominant hen in the flock by far. She thinks she’s in charge of everything. If she sees another hen getting a treat, she’ll run up and peck them out of the way, then take their treat. She’s a tough cookie, but she’s also a softy.
Cindy seemed to challenge Carol for a while, but when she didn’t succeed in taking the top hen crown, she turned her frustration outward and began a sordid life of attacking ducks. She especially likes to pick on Petunia and Lenora Bea, which is why we keep the chickens separated from the ducks in the aviary.
Even with the occasional standoff or minor disagreement, the hens all get along pretty well. They like each others’ company and hang out as a whole group most of the time. It’s good to have friends.
Happy weekend from Tiff and the ducks and clucks.