What’s your rank there, chicken?
Posted by joeabbott on July 19, 2012
Chickens recognize status in terms of pecking order: the more important the chicken, the higher the pecking order. As chickens, that ordering is enforced by, well, pecking! I’ve heard chickens will re-order themselves after new chickens are introduced to a flock or any traumatic event; I’d even heard a large storm may trigger it! But, here in our little corner, we’ve only had one ordering and they’ve “happily” kept their rank for many months now. Here are our hens and in their pecking order, most important to least.
Poopy Butt, aka Alpha
A bit hard to call her “Poopy Butt” these days when she’s the alpha hen, but that was our original designation for her. When we first got her with her two flock-mates, she was dead last in pecking order and always seemed to have a clump of poo hanging off her bottom. Since then, the other two died (one of what appeared to be natural causes, another by raccoon … which may also be “natural” for a chicken) and she was looked up to by all the new chickens who came in as little more than chicks.
And so she was was given the title alpha and actually seems to be living up to the moniker. She stands guard over the flock, when one is missing (a few will come over the fence to greener pastures) she looks out for them, and she’s the first to bed: in the world of chickens, that’s what it takes.
This is my favorite chicken: she’s big and has a great ruffle around her neck! Great looking bird. She’s never far from the alpha hen and is strongly food-motivated; if she thinks there’s food in it for her, she’ll come a-running.
The Golden Star is an egg-laying machine. She’s likely giving us 5-6 eggs a week and is just a gentle bird. There’s not much to say about the hens in the middle of the pack and she may be below the chicken below her or not. We have a placid bunch of ladies and there isn’t a whole lot of squabbling on the property.
We have two Reds and this is one came in our second batch of hens. Our first batch, the Original Three, came to us a couple years back and, after a year, we only had Poopy Butt; then we got another bunch and the Buff Sussex, Golden Star, and this Red were in that batch. The three hens following were all in the last batch, and so our pecking order really does seem strongly influenced by when a chicken came onto the property.
A bit of a motley hen; she doesn’t have the iridescence of the Australorp (our alpha), her markings aren’t as distinguished as the Buff Sussex, but she’s a great layer. So, while she’s one of the less attractive birds in the flock, she’s a-OK in my books!
Curly Butt was dead last in the pecking order of the last three birds we brought onto the property but something about the Easter Egger (our white hen) bothered the alpha and she took this little Rhode Island Red under her wing and promoted her up a rank. When we got this hen, we chose her as a hardship case: she’d been picked on so much by the other hens she had a completely bare bottom. Every time a feather would come in, they’d pick it out. And the “they” here was primarily the Easter Egger.
Once we got her home we applied liberal treatments of “no pick um” but that was still a losing battle until we collapsed the flocks and the alpha kept any hen from bullying her. And so, very slowly, she went from the “Tailless Red” to “Fuzz Butt” and finally to “Curly Butt” … in the second picture above, compare the tails on our two Reds. We’re not sure why Curly Butt has such funny tail feathers but she does.
Our last hen, The White Hen or The Easter Egger: she lays blue-green eggs. I really like this bird a lot but she’s fairly aggressive. She’s skittish around humans and other animals, but a bit bossy to the other hens … and yet she’s dead last in the pecking order. It’s mostly because that’s where the alpha seems to want her: when the white hen starts asserting herself, the alpha will chase her off.
One of the things I like about this hen is that she had a hawk-like angular body. These days she’s getting fat and a bit rounder of shape, but she’s easily the strongest hen we have. When something has spooked the hens, you’ll see six birds flapping about the yard and then the Easter Egger will have flown to the top of a tree or completely across the yard and hiding in a pine tree off the deck. One day we thought for sure we’d lost her and, as we looked out into the back yard, she fluttered down from some unseen branch and went about scratching and pecking.
Maybe she’s last based on looks (if a predator was going to target a bird, it’d be hard to find an easier mark … and the other hens may “know” this), maybe it’s her bossy attitude, or just that one of the hens in the last batch needed to be at the bottom, but she’s a pretty good hen regardless.
And that’s our hens! Seven chickens and all are a bit different. Thanks for checking in on the flock!