It can be hard to predict chicken behavior and even harder to understand the pecking order. It’s not uncommon for there to be pecking and squabbles among the ladies and gents. It’s impossible to micromanage the flock dynamic, although I’m not ashamed to admit that I have tried on more than one occasion. We’ve recently introduced a few new members to the flock and moved chickens from one pasture to another, and I’m happy to report that we have peace at the farm. It’s been a month and a half since we brought the turkey hens, Eleanor and Prudence to the farm, and they have settled in nicely. The turkeys tend to keep to themselves, but I think they do identify themselves as part of the overall flock. The turkeys sleep outside at night, while the chickens are locked safely in their coops. In the mornings when I go down to open the coops, the turkeys are roaming the pasture, making various loud calls and yelps as if wondering where the rest of their flock is. As soon as they see me, the turkeys come running for their breakfast treats, and Eleanor is now eating out of my hand along with Prudence. I put out some food for the turkeys, then I let Brown Rooster and his ladies out of their coop, and then I let Ramon and his ladies out of their coop. Despite my efforts to try to distract the turkeys and keep them away from the feeder by Brown Rooster’s coop, so that he and his ladies can get their breakfast before the turkeys barge in, the turkeys go wherever and do whatever they want. The chickens are gradually getting used to the turkeys, and somehow everyone manages to get a full belly by night time, despite my worrying and micromanaging.
I’m very pleased that Brown Rooster and Ramon are coexisting together in the same pasture. It’s been over a month since we moved half of the chickens down to the front pasture to let the upper pasture rest over the winter. This move included bringing Brown Rooster down to the lower pasture. There were a couple of sparring matches at first, but nothing serious, and now that Brown Rooster has accepted Ramon’s dominance they are getting along fine. I also moved Raquel’s four bossy daughters down to the front pasture. Having been raised by the boss lady of the flock, Raquel’s daughters are quite bratty and entitled to say the least, They were constantly pecking the shyer easter egger hens in the flock, which are among my favorites, and I felt sorry for them. So when it came time to choose who was moving down to the slightly less predator proof lower pasture, Raquel’s daughters were at the top of the list. They are doing just fine in the lower pasture, although they are not quite so sure of themselves now that they have the turkeys and Ramon’s bossy girls to contend with!
Now that Raquel’s daughters have moved down to the lower pasture, the older girls in the upper coop are all getting along well. Raquel, Rhoda, and Rosie, our 5 and a half year old ladies seem to appreciate not having a Rooster around. Now that there is no rooster in the upper coop, Raquel is exhibiting a bit of rooster-like behavior, which is not uncommon in flocks with no rooster. Typically Raquel is a pretty quiet chicken. As the boss lady, she usually communicates to the others in the flock with her body language, or a quiet growl if another hen is getting on her nerves. But as the dominant hen, it is her responsibility to keep an eye on things, and just the other day I heard her giving a loud rooster-like alarm call when one of the feral cats got a bit too close to the coop for her comfort. Violet’s three daughters, Rosalie, Dusky, and Midnight, are no longer getting pecked by Raquel’s daughters, and our other easter eggers, Buttercup and Reina also seem to enjoy the absence of Raquel’s daughters.
I’m also very happy that we have peace in our fourth coop that houses our three little banty hens, Millie, Salt-n-Pepa. After the first couple of months of pecking and chasing while Millie asserted her dominance over her new roommates, they have finally settled into their roles, and everyone is getting along nicely. Millie allows Salt-n-Pepa to eat treats with her at the same time out of the same treat dish, and the other day I even saw Pepa give Millie a peck on the head with no repercussions from Millie. That was something I never thought I’d see, but it made me realize that the chickens will eventually sort out the pecking order on their own, without too much micromanaging from me.