Pecking Order

Pecking order in chickens is literally determined by pecking. Usually, this jostling for status is only briefly dramatic. Once everyone knows where they stand, the top hen just has to turn her head in a threatening manner, and the lower-ranked hen moves off.

When I selected the seven hens to live in the new barn, I based my choices on which ones I wanted in my children’s book. I picked six hens out of the flock that I already had, and I decided to purchase Prudence, as I wanted a classic solid brown hen, too. I’ve never had a problem integrating a new hen into a flock, so I was chagrined that Prudence was not only at the bottom of the pecking order, but that the other hens kept her there aggressively. Poor Prudence’s comb was ripped raw and she spent her days on a window ledge avoiding the other girls.

It became clear that Petunia had it out for Prudence. I don’t know why. Today, I finally decided that enough was enough. When I saw Petunia grab Prudence by the tail feathers, and then Edwina pin Prudence down and peck viciously, I ran into the run, picked up Petunia and put her in the other pen (the one you can see on HenCam.)

As soon as Marge and Petunia saw each other, they fluffed feathers, chest-butted and then Marge clucked loudly, welcoming her old friend back into the flock. And even though there are hens in this group that Petunia doesn’t know (the Party Girls and Alma), she doesn’t appear to have any of the antagonism towards them that she showed to Prudence.

Prudence has left her window shelf. Edwina half-heartedly chased her, but without head-girl Petunia to be the aggressor, Edwina doesn’t have it in her to do it alone.

Friendship is a mysterious thing, even in the animal kingdom.

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