gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

The Pecking Order and The Top Dog

on September 12, 2012

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The hen books tell us that all flocks of chickens have a well-defined order known as the pecking order. A chicken at the top of the pecking order gets to do the things she wants by ‘pushing the others around’ a little, giving them a short, sharp peck if they don’t submit to her, allowing her to go where she wants to go or access food and drink first.
The bird at the top of the pecking order will have first access to water, food, the best roosting place and so on. The bird at the bottom of the pecking order has the least ‘rights’ in the flock and will usually be the last to the food and will ‘skirt’ around food that is scattered for them, nipping in to grab a beak full when possible. Once pecking order is established and birds are fully grown, it usually remains unchallenged unless one of the birds becomes stronger and challenges the hen higher up the pecking order.
When introducing new chickens to the flock, the pecking order is upset and needs to be re-established. This is very stressful for the flock and it is usually best to keep birds of similar ages together to prevent younger birds getting bullied too much or older birds being constantly challenged for their position in the pecking order as younger birds mature.
So much for the hen books. I have now had the Gillybirds for 4 months and from hours of observation the girls do appear to live in harmony and equality. There is the occasional tussle over a treat, and without doubt Apollo is the spokesperson/gobby hen, but very little pecking or posturing amongst themselves.
However, when it comes to the canine members of the household, with the introduction of baby Lucas, our alpha mutt Buttons now has competition for attention. Like bringing home a new baby from hospital, poor Buttons is like a jealous older brother. Only I never had the anxiety that any of our older boys would snap and bite the head off their newest sibling. After a few well placed nips Lucas does seem to have learnt to keep a safe distance, leaving Buttons the top dog position by nature of his seniority and sheer bulk. There are blissful moments when they are both lying at my feet gently snoring. (apart from the rather pungent odour of puppy flatulence).
It is a different matter when the hens are loose with Lucas (and me close by) in the garden. I am trying to raise him to learn to ignore them. So far, almost so good. A curious bouncy puppy has been seriously reprimanded by all four ladies with sharp pecks and loud “Bawks”. When it comes to the Pecking Order, the Gillybirds are the top dogs around here. And little Lucas is definitely “hen-pecked”.

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The boys waiting for top dog alpha pack leader Mr Gillybirds to come home for the night!

PS I have a new found respect for wildlife photographers. Impossible to get decent pictures of moving creatures. Sorry!

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