The Top Hen

All flocks have pecking orders. Hens raised together since chickhood begin to sort out everyone’s status from day one, but it’s not fully decided until they are mature. Right now, the Girls are teenagers. There’s a lot of running, chasing and testing of boundaries. I’ve managed their environment so that this doesn’t escalate to aggression and bloodshed. Most of the time the interactions are subtle, but I already know who will be the Top Hen.

When I let the Girls out for a bit of time on the lawn, look at who strides out in front.


out first


While the other hens spread out to graze and hunt for yummy tidbits,

grazing hens


one hen would rather take a look at what I am doing. The Top Hen ruins a lot of photographs.


You don’t need a telephoto lens when trying to capture the Top Hen’s image,

no telephoto needed


but you might need a camera that can photograph objects moving at speed.



When confined in the pen, like a good Top Hen, Veronica is not a bully. But she does get first dibs on the kitchen scraps and rests where she wants on the roosts. Veronica is definitely the Top Hen of the young Girls,



but she is no fool. She leaves the Grand Old Dames, Twinkydink, Buffy and Betsy, alone.

old hens


  1. Veronica is going to be a very pretty hen. And smart to leave the Old Dames alone. Our coop has two entrances/exits….from when the chicks were still small and the coop was separated. Even now that they are all integrated, the young girls use their own pop door and their end of the coop to sleep. They haven’t completely warmed up to the big girls yet….and vice versa. ;)
    How did the teenagers do going back in the run when it was time? Or did you round them up? I can get the big girls back in in seconds with a piece of cheese…but not the young ladies.

    • I’ve trained them to come when I shake a plastic cup that holds cracked corn and hulled sunflower seeds. It’s the only time that they get that treat, and they get barely a mouthful each, but they will run back to me, fast, when they hear it.

  2. I picked a barred rock chick this spring too. (have not had one in years) I call mine Hazel. She is going to be one of the top hens in my flock as well. When I let them out for a little “free range” time Hazel torments my two dogs. She loves sneak attacks as I call them. She waits until one of the dogs is walking away from her and then she goes dashing in, head down a flap or two of the wings and then a peck on the backside. Lucky for Hazel, Lulu and Skip are very tolerant of this game.
    Hazel, like Veronica, has her beak in my business all the time as well.
    Great post.

    • Veronica looks like a BR, but she’s a Cuckoo Marans. BRs can become bullies in the confined space that I have. It looks like Veronica has a lot of their bluster, but so far not the aggressiveness. Keeping my fingers crossed she’ll just be noisy and curious.

      • Well, Veronica had me convinced my chicken company sent me the wrong chicken. I ordered a BR, but she looks exactly like Veronica. So I talked myself into she is a Cuckoo Marans. I thought, “that’s ok, I’ll take the chocolate eggs.” After your comment above, I’m back to Gerty is a BR. Either way, it’s a win win..

      • What about your black sex link Nancy, she is half barred rock ? Has she shown any signs of bullying ?

  3. Hello, thanks for the article and everything else you have done. On the main cam page you seemed too have moved the rabbit hutch to the left. The girls would sometimes get in the hutch and they were under the hutch a lot. Could you consider moving it back to the right? may thanks.

  4. I love the picture of Steve and Veronica! I bet you just couldn’t resist taking that one!

      • that would have been amazing! I wonder what she was trying to tell Steve!

        • Sorry one more comment. It does look like Veronica has her beak in action in almost all the photos, she must be a “talker.”

  5. My 3 year old Jorge ( yes a hen, my nephew named her) is top hen…. She will actually mount the other girls… she might even be crowing like a rooster… no I’m not crazey. I do have a Polish hen that crowed, it stopped when I got a Roo, he has since died ( the heat got him) and the other morning there was crowing from in the hen house. I only have hens now ( the Leghorn I thought was a Roo is a confirmed.pullet, she laid an egg in front of me.

    • I had a silver, mild-mannered Araucana hen (“Ariel”) who laid aqua-green eggs who crowed on occasion–not often, but I saw her do it and It was a distinct crow. It really startled me.
      These great photos of Veronica were so much fun–really made me smile!

  6. Is that the job of a Head Hen, to investigate and inspect what the Humans are doing? That is so funny!