I Want My Free E-Book On Egg Laying Chickens

The Pecking Order: What Is It and How to Avoid Problems in Your Flock

Pecking Order in Chickens

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘the pecking order. In our mind’s eye, we likely see colleagues and co-workers neatly arranged in order of ‘merit.’ From the CEO down to the janitor, everyone has a place in the ‘pecking order.

The term ‘pecking order’ was first coined in 1921 by Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe to describe the hierarchy of flock dynamics, and it came into popular usage in the 1930s.

At times the pecking order can make life extremely difficult for both chickens and chicken keepers! Keep reading to understand exactly what the pecking order is and how you can stop common problems caused by the pecking order.

What Is The Pecking Order?

So, exactly what is it, and how does it relate to you and your flock?

It’s a system by which birds arrange their social standing in the flock. The higher ranked birds will get the best food, water, and roosts, while the lower-placed birds will get the leftovers.

This method of organization places each member of the flock on a ‘heirachy ladder.’ At the top of the ladder will be the head rooster (or hen if no rooster is present). This complex social order is designed to ensure good cohesion between members and few if any, petty squabbles…

This sort of co-operation between members of the flock ensures the flock’s survival by giving the best chances to the fittest birds.

It is a flexible structure, and within the flock, there are usually three different types of social order going on:

A rooster may go up the ladder if he mounts a successful campaign against the leader. He becomes the new chicken-in-charge! And the defeated roosters go down the ladder, as do weak or sickly birds.

Pecking Order in Chickens


Roosters that are lower in order, crow less frequently, and rarely mate. Hens have their own ‘girls’ only ladder. The matriarchs of the flock will be up to the top of the ladder, with less dominant birds at the bottom. In this system, the older, stronger, and more savvy hens will be at the top.

Young pullets just coming to the point of lay will quickly move up the social ladder.

If a bird tries to go ‘out of turn,’ she will earn glares, pecks, and feather pulling from the higher ‘ranked’ hens. Usually, a ‘look’ or a quick peck is enough to remind the lower ranking hen she has overstepped the boundary.

The serious games of the pecking order start when chicks are around six weeks of age. Chicks will start rushing at each other, bumping chests and flaring feathers. These are all methods used to intimidate flock mates at any stage of life. By the time they leave the brooder, they will have their own pecking order sorted out.

Pecking Order Problems

Whilst the pecking order can create a sense of harmony within a flock, it can also create absolute havoc, with chickens fighting each other for their position within the order.

A full-on pecking order assault is a violent and terrible thing to see. Older birds can be relentless, drawing blood, causing serious injury even death. There is nothing gentle about the pecking order.

The Pecking Order


1. Adding New Birds to Your Flock

Adding birds to your existing flock will cause a shift in the pecking order. The older birds will be very suspicious of the new members and can be quite violent about it.

If you do add new birds to your flock, it needs to be done slowly and cautiously. You should never add less than two birds to an established flock.

Adding New Birds to Your Flock

The method that has worked well for me in the past is the separation pen.

This is an area that tou can put the new hens safely without the older girls being able to peck them. They can look, pace around the enclosure but can’t get in. I do this for a couple of weeks, then open up the enclosure.

When you open up the temporary enclosure, you need to have places the new birds can hide or run to if flock members get really mean.

I have not had any integration problems using this method- a couple of pecks here and there, but nothing too vicious. As a keeper, you should not intervene unless blood has been drawn, then you need to remove the inured bird quickly and isolate them.

Remember to read Introducing New Chickens to Your Existing Flock for more help!

2. Sick or Injured Birds

Chickens rarely show any signs of illness or weakness. If they do, other flock members will pick on them and either drives them from the flock or kill them.

This sounds awful, but remember, the flock in the wild is as strong as its’ weakest member. It’s simply a survival tactic.

Pecking Order Is Survival Tactic

If you have a chicken that is constantly being pecked at, you will need to isolate her away from harm. A large crate or ‘chicken hospital’ area will do very well. Check her over carefully for peck damage and also try to find out what is wrong with the bird.

The victim will need to be isolated until wounds are healed- now comes the tough part, trying to re-integrate the affected bird. Use the segregation pen, which we mentioned earlier on for a few days, and then reintegrate her.

3. Bully Birds

Sometimes you have a hen who is a bully to everyone. Often she will be in the middle of the pecking order, rarely at the top.

My bully bird is called Red Sonya, and she is mid-level pecking order-wise. When she sees a new girl anywhere near food, she makes it her business to let them know they are not entitled to one beakful of food- it’s hers! She dutifully ‘patrols’ the food stations for a day or so then loses interest. She has made her point, and the newbies avoid her!

Red Sonya
Everybody meets Red Sonya.

If you have a hen like this, the best way to ‘straighten her out’ is the segregation pen for a few days. The pecking order will change while she is in isolation, so when she gets re-introduced, she will be a ‘newbie’ and treated accordingly.

Once in a while, you will get two or more hens that form a ‘bully club.’ Use the same treatment for them, except re-introduce them to the flock on separate days- this should break the pattern of bullying!

Adding Roosters

When it comes to roosters, however, it can be a losing battle. Adding an unfamiliar rooster to an existing flock with an established rooster is a recipe for disaster.

Two unfamiliar roosters meeting each other for the first time usually ends in bloodshed. The established rooster sees the newbie as a threat to his flock and his role as head honcho. Immediately, the established rooster will attempt to put the newbie in his place. And, as you know, roosters don’t like being challenged, and the newbie may be keen to take over as the head rooster.

In other words, the newbie may welcome the challenge and engage with the established rooster. Many times, they will fight to the death.

On the other hand, if you raise roosters together from the chick onward, the pecking order will play out a bit friendlier, and in most cases, the rooster can coexist in the same flock.

With that being said, there need to be enough hens for each rooster. Otherwise, the two roos may become competitive over the handful of hens available to them. A good rule of thumb is to have 4 hens per rooster. This is good for the hens and the roosters.

Pecking Order in Chickens

How to Avoid Pecking Order Problems

The good news is that the keeper can do much to ensure that old and new flock members integrate fairly peacefully.

First and most importantly, each bird needs to have sufficient ‘personal space.’

There really isn’t a ‘perfect formula’ for space requirements, often quoted is four square foot/bird for floor space. If they are confined within the coop twenty-four hours a day, I would certainly add as much room as possible since boredom leads to mischief!

If, however, your birds are allowed to free-range, coop space doesn’t really become an issue until winter. I provide my girls with one foot of roosting space per bird. Mine all cram together on the roosts at night, leaving lots of empty roosting space! As you can see, it’s very much an individual thing- some birds like space, others not so much.

Make sure you provide lots of roosting spots so that a hen can get away if she needs to. Providing places to ‘hide’ is important- old boxes, straw bales (outside the coop), dark, quiet areas in the barn/shed. If you can think along the lines of a two-year-old playing hide and seek, you will have great success!

Don’t forget to provide extra feeding and watering stations. I usually provide four for a flock of thirty hens; this gives everyone a chance to eat and drink in peace.


Congratulations! You have survived the ‘pecking order’ social upheaval! It gets easier every year, believe me!

The pecking order is a necessary evil for flocks to understand exactly where each hen fits within their own hierarchy.

Those birds towards the top of the hierarchy get first access to the feed, water, and roosting spots, whilst lower members of the pecking order are left with the scraps.

Sometimes the pecking order can become a real problem, but if you follow the steps outlined above, you will be fine!

Question: What do you think the best way to manage the pecking order is?

The Pecking Order

122 thoughts on “The Pecking Order: What Is It and How to Avoid Problems in Your Flock

  1. Another great article thanks! I have a bullying problem with my “middle” girl. She just came out of isolation for a brooding problem. Back with the other two, she constantly bullies the smaller girl and pecks her when she goes to eat. I think I might have to isolate her again for a few more days. Such fun!
    Wouldn’t change them for the world though. Thanks for all your advice.

    1. Hi Lynn,
      So happy the website is helping you 🙂
      Glad to hear you are taking the right steps to sort the problem out.
      Be sure to email us if you have any problems,

    2. I had to. Take the baby chickens out of the coop a week ago because of the pecking order now that they have settled down when can I put the baby’s back in the coop

        1. I’ve had the best luck adding my babies to the coop at night. The older birds dont pick on them nearly as much when they wake up with babies running around.

    3. Hello, me and my husband are new to chickens. We have 10 girls. I have noticed that 8 roost in the coop while 2 sleep by the coop door. So is this a pecking order? They rarely fight and they all get along pretty good. We have 4 barred rocks, 3 buff orpington and 3 Easter eggers. It one of the buffs and Easter that is down on the coop floor.
      Thank you 🙂

    4. Hmmm, I know absolutely nothing about chickens, but based on what I’m reading on this page, if it’s only one hen being picked on, then it might be more effective to isolate the hen being picked on rather than the bully, or maybe give one or the other to a different rooster and see how she does among his hens.

  2. I have a problem with my flock of 8 free range hens. One was sick for a while and while she has recovered she has now been isolated by the other 7 to the extent that she is constantly on guard, and is not even allowed into the hen house at night, but sleeps underneath it on the ground. If she goes anywhere near any of the others she is pecked and driven away. Needless to say, she no longer lays. Anyone have any ideas of how to reintegrate her into the flock?

    1. Hi Penny,
      Please follow our article on re-introducing hens into the flock and I’m sure she will be fine 🙂

      1. Enjoyed the information. I have four hens raised from chicks. Neighbors older non laying hen jumped our five foot fence to escape her situation. After several attempts to return her to her owner, he said we could keep her. She was mal-nurished. She ate a lions share of food. “Thumper” is now content with my girls and she has started laying large eggs.
        Thanks for your articles!! I will try the isolation pen when I introduce newbies.

        1. I had a similar problem, I had several white hens, several brown/reddish hens but only one gray hen. I came home one day to find the group nearly pecked her brain out ! I isolated her for several weeks until she healed up well and while she was healing, I got 4 gray birds. When I reintroduced her to the flock, she had gray friends to hang with and there have been no more problems. It seems there is something to that saying “Birds of a feather flock together”! I explained my situation to one guy who was selling hens and he said getting more gray birds wouldn’t fix the problem, WRONG !

          1. I was new to chickens last year and I had read that the breeds will stick together. So I bought 3 and 4 of each breed and I found it true. Since then though (1yr) they have become a non-breed flock and everyone now sticks together like one happy family.

  3. We have 7 in established flock, got a rescue and incubated. The rescue and babies have been together for a few months and are fine. We did the block off part of the run for them to be introduced to established flock. The “runt” or lowest in established flock is super mean. I feel bad because she is constantly picked on bit she dishes it out worse.

    1. I have six in established flock, and one of them is a wild hen that I raised along with the other five rr/leg horns. The wild hen is almost 1/2 the size smaller, is the bully of the flock. This morning I caught her pecking at a hen while the poor hen was nesting. So automatically I separated the wild hen in a holding pen. Lately my egg count has dropped almost 50%. I hope by separating this hen will fix that.The one thing I like about this wild hen is that she will dedicate her self to sitting on all of the eggs if I choose to one day hatch them.

  4. I just read the ‘pecking order’ article and I have a question.My girls are all about 6 months of age and they were purchased at the same time.They have lived in perfect harmony with occasional pokes and pecks but just the other day one of my hens started going after only one of my other hens.She literally pulls the feathers out of her and it’s constant is that normal after 6 months?

    1. Hi Donna,
      Has she stopped bullying them now? It’s quite strange after they’ve been settled for so long. Has anything changed in the flock recently?

    2. Donna – same with our 3 hens @ around 6 months. We have one coop, hence isolating the bully is problematoc. Any thoughts out there?

      1. Depending on the size of your coop you could add extra fencing inside. I have an older hen blind in one eye who was always being harrassed. I used a small wire dog crate when set up it’s 1’by 3′ she has space and can “see” the others but they can’t get to her. same outside a 2 by 4 (8sqr feet) area that she and her one friend go. it’s not ideal but it means i don’t have to part with her just yet.

    3. I’m actually having this problem too, my hens are 6 months old and my last to lay (an Orpington) finally laid today and then attacked my dominant hen (an EE), but ended up bloodied. I cleaned her up and bluekoted her and put her back out and after a bit she did it again…she went over to my ee, the ee froze and dropped down a bit and the orp started pecking her and they ended up fighting with my ee pulling on the orp’s comb. I penned the orp up in the run in a 3×4 wire dog crate and I’m not sure what to do next.

  5. I am having a real problem introducing 3 bantams to my regular sized flock of 3. The original lowest chicken singles out the smallest bantam and chases her all over the coop. There are many places to hide, but the other two bantams can go anywhere Rusty goes, and they also follow her and bang on her constantly. Consequently I isolated Rusty across a fence, and closed off the small coop to the other bantams, but while changing the mini-coop configuration the next highest banty got across the fence and immediately started the torture. So who should be in jail –the number 2 bottom, the #4 bottom (full-size bottom), both of those, or some other combination?
    Interestingly, this seemed to start when Rusty, who is a few weeks older than the other newbies, started laying. Now she is so stressed she has quit after 5 eggs.
    The banties spent months in the isolation pen and have been with the big girls only two or three weeks.

    1. Hi Henry,
      I would isolate the larger bully and see if your bantams integrate well with the remaining 2 from your flock.

  6. Great article thank you. I have a problem with our rooster and a new chicken. She was in isolation for two weeks before introducing to the flock. After two days he had pecked her comb extensively and she was standing still taking it. I have isolated her again t heal. How can I stop the rooster pecking her to death.

    1. Hi Sara,
      Instead of isolating the new chicken, next time isolate the rooster and then reintegrate him into the flock.

  7. Hi! We have 3 Rhode Island reds, and recently added 2 Easter eggers. They seem to be fine with the 1, but two of the Reds seem to pick on the other.
    It’s only been a couple days, and no blood has been shed, but how much is too much?

    1. Hi Breanne,
      It isn’t a problem as long as they aren’t drawing blood or hurting each other…

  8. I have chickens & ducks co-living in a large coop/run area & they all free range daily,,I have 2pullets that pick on the smaller ducks,I’m isalating the two dominant pullets right now for a couple of days then will release those hound hens one day apart just like you sugguest,hopefully it works

    1. You’re not supposed to keep hens & ducks together, they’re both entirely different species, with very different needs & habits, ie hens go to roost at dusk, but ducks are quite nocturnal & stay up very late, disturbing the hens. Ducks also require a different shape coop, with a wider door opening, as unlike hens (going out one by one), ducks will rush through together & could injure themselves. Ducks also need a different ladder (having webbed feet). Most importantly, as your ducks mature, if you have drakes they will attempt to have intercourse with anything & could become very sexually aggressive towards your hens – & could even kill them.

      1. I’ve had 2 girl ducks and 2 hens in a condo coop – hens on top – ducks on the bottom for almost a year. They’re fine. They free-range together during the day and nap together as well. I’ve had no problems at all. They chase each other every once in a while, but that’s all.

        1. Perhaps to clarify – male ducks can cause severe injury and potentially kill hens with their mating attempts because duck anatomy differs from chickens and female chickens are not ‘equipped’ to ‘receive’ the male ducks ‘attention’.

          1. Surprising how many people don’t realize that male ducks have an actual phallus that is corkscrew-shaped, while chickens only have cloacas and there is no penetration by a rooster to a hen while mating. A drake can rip the innards out of a hen, and drakes can get extremely amourous, trying to mate with other animals and objects.

  9. Thanks for your article, very helpful! Recently added 3 hens to my flock of 3. Have a sectioned off part of the run, which I’ve now put the 2 meanies in, so the newbies and 1 existing hen have the remainder of the run. When they go out into the garden I let them all out, newbies just stay away from the flock.
    Question I have though is why should they be separated if they are going to fight when they are put together anyway?

    1. Hi Sophie,
      In my experience it helps to reduce the amount of fighting when they are introduced…

  10. I have a rooster and a bully hen who are super mean, it is our only rooster and he came at the same time as this hen, and they team up against the weakest ones. Pecking, banning from food etc. One hen has already died, because she was evidently not eating and then picked up an infection, so was too weak to fight against it.
    Now a point of lay that we introduced 6 weeks ago (carefully along with her sister), is going the same way 🙁 She never had any contact with the other bird that died, so we know it isn’t a contagious thing. Also all the other birds are ok.
    The only thing we can work out is the rooster and the bully hen are so aggressive that she is too scared to eat. She has lost weight. We have her isolated now, feeding her vitamins and yoghurt etc to try and build her up but I am scared she is going to die too. What suggestions would you have for this situation? Sorry for the long post!

    1. Hi French,
      Unfortunately sometimes you do just get super mean ‘bully’ hens. Have you tried removing them from your flock and reintroducing them to try to move them down the pecking order?

  11. Thank you, I have 5 6month old Rhode Island Reds with one being a bully. She pecks at their heads, Ears and now Lucy has a wounded eye. Thanks to you, I will Isolate Savvy tomorrow and hopefully this will be the solution. I also have 2 3-month old bantams that I am worried about and yes, I name them and love them all. UGH! Thanks again for the article. Nice to know I am not alone.

    1. I am in love with my girls. I only have 3, but they all have names and I am totally in love with them.

      1. Love our 6 month old silkies. One just found pecked to death. We are very sad. We love our babies . Had 7 now 6

  12. Have 5 chickens. The smallest one has, recently, been pecked to the point of serious bleeding. The two guilty bullies include her sister. We had no problems for 6 months prior. I have seperated the injured bird and nursed her to health. Yesterday, I returned her to the flock and the pecking resumed in the coop right away. They seem tp be okay during free time, but not within the coop. What should be my next step?

    1. Hi Bill,
      As the problem seems to be happening in the coop I’d say it’s likely to do with the roosting situation.
      Do they have enough roosting space (they should have one foot each). Also, are the roosts at the same height?

      1. Do hens do better with level roosting bars?
        I have a hen who gets picked on. I have to put the docile one on the roost when they get settled and it dark in there. They are fine and in the morning they start picking on her again.
        I have to guard my docile hen so she can eat.

        1. Hi Arlene,
          Yes, level roosting bars.
          Any sort of tiered bars will encourage more ‘alpha’ behavior…

      2. I am having the same problem with my poor, new Easter Egger, Greta. When free ranging during the day, she knows how to stay away from the bullies (Kung Pow and Teriyaki) and, for the most part, they’re do fine. When it’s time to roost, however, the bullies attack her head. She takes it, just bowing her head and squawking from the pain. No blood has been drawn yet. I have an Omlet Eglu and there’s only 6 hens total with Greta being one of two new hens added a week ago. There is plenty of room for them (more than 1 foot each), but the bullying persist. Some nights they’re fine, but it’s a real toss up. I’ve taken to separating the two bully sisters in the nesting area (there’s a door that can be closed to separate them) when the problem occurs. I don’t know if that’s the best option, but I feel like right now, it’s the only way to keep Greta safe and have everyone roost in the coop. I’m looking for a wire dog kennel to keep the two bullies in. Should I keep them in it over night (and during the day??) since that’s when the problem is occurring?

    2. Hi Bill, I couldn’t help but notice that nobody has mentioned on here about ‘Anti Peck’ spray. You simply apply to the bird which is being picked on/bullied & reapply every 3-5 days. It tastes disgusting & the bullies stop pecking immediately – thus breaking the cycle.

      1. Hello, Sian. Which “Anti Peck” spray do you use? I looked online and the one they had didn’t have a very high rating.
        Thank you,

  13. Hello I am very concerned about about the smallest hen in my flock. I have 20 or so laying hens and the last two days at feed time I noticed the hens would not let the littlest hen eat. I have a pretty large coop with two separate feeding areas that many hens can feed on at the same time. I feed them daily. This particular hen just paced back and forth in s frenzy manner at the rear of the coop. Each time she tried to sneak up a hen snapped at her and she scurried away. She attempted 1/2 dz. times or more and today the same thing occurred. Both times I tried giving her food in the rear but the other hens were to nosy and found everything I provided. My question is does her size cause this. It is obvious she is the smallest? Also her feathers look great, she is not showing signs of being pecked or bloody. So hopefully like your article mentioned maybe the middle girls are picking at her during feed time.
    Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!!

    1. Hi Anna,
      Are they all the same breed? If it is only one or two hens bullying her I would isolate the bullys. However, if it’s a lot of the flock then I would isolate the smallest hen and feed her up abit 🙂

  14. I have 8 med/large hens. The lowest on the pecking order started sleeping in nest boxes while moulting. I allowed it until she was feathered again but the nest boxes are now closed off at night. Found her lying on the floor of the coop near the nests but also by the door (which is always open Bc our coop and run are super secure.) I don’t want her to be chilled and I want her on the roost with the others, poor girl! They also largely leave her alone; I never see them picking on her but they also don’t include her…she’s often by herself. What should I do about roosting at night? Thank you!

    1. Hi Michele,
      I would wait until they go to roost and then physically pick the hen up and place her on the roosting bars with the rest of the hens 🙂
      You may need to do this a few times util she feels comfortable again.
      Let me know how you get on.

    2. Do you put her on the roosting bar after the others are settled and it’s darker out.
      I have to do that and they don’the bother her at night.

  15. Hello, great article. I have 11 nine month old hens, one went broody and hatched 5 chicks November 23rd. While the littles are extremely adorable, it’s been some additional work. Mom and littles have a separate sleeping quarters in the main coop under the poop board. It’s about 6’x2′ so she and the littles gated in at night and left out in the morning. I have made a 9’x5′ separate area in the enclosed run for her. The big girls also have access to a fenced in free range area 10’x20′. Mom looks like she wants out, but when I let her out, one go the big girls goes after her. A scuffle breaks out and it looks like the others join in. At what age is it ok to introduce her and the littles? Mom and the littles haven’t free ranged as I need to make sure the outside area is “baby-chick-proof” so they don’t get through the metal fencing as I have two very large hounds. What is the best way to introduce the mom and littles and at what age? They see each other all day. Thanks

    1. Hi Daisy,
      If the chicks haven’t been introduced to the existing flock straight away then I would consider waiting until they are a similar size until a proper introduction.

  16. I have three chickens in a pretty large coop and I know one of the hens is picking on one of the others, I’m just not sure if both of them are picking on her. she now hides in the area above that is secluded for laying and will sometimes come out and down on the ground for a little while. I have put food and water up in the area for her in case she isn’t getting any. Do you have any tips on how to help? They have all been together since they were chicks.

  17. We have eleven hens about nine months old. We got all of them at the same time. Two Australorps, two Columbia Rock Crosses, two Buckeys, and five Black Sex Links.
    One of the Sex Links recently started plucking and eating feathers from all of the other hens. One of the lower ranked links nearly has a bald neck from the plucking. They mostly just stand their and let her pull their feathers out.
    They get a 15% protein mash, oyster shells and they have always a fresh coop and fresh water.
    Their coop is 4×8 plus nesting on the side and their run is about 50’x25′ with lots of stumps and some concrete wheels to play on. They are let out occasionally but we can’t let them free range without supervision due to a neighbor that has a larger free range flock close by.
    I removed the cannibal today to a makeshift coop and run made from two dog kennels and an old cat house that I transformed into a small coop.
    How long should I leave her separated from the flock to give her an attitude adjustment? Or, is this situation one that once the bad habit is formed it’s too late for change?
    Thanks for any help with this. We don’t want to have to cull her because of this. She is a good layer.

  18. Thanks for this. I hope we don’t get to the bloody stage.
    We have three chickens in a coup, had them for just under a week, and the pecking order had been established most definitely.
    Edna is our boss lady hen. She’s always first at the feed never satisfied that she has her pile of food, as soon as she sees you giving some to the others, she forgets about hers and wants theirs. she doesn’t seem to like on of the other hens getting exited, yesterday, this second in command hen got spooked by a bumble bee and ran, and Edna fluffed up her feathers and charged at her, no feathers drawn yet. Hoping they’re being nice to each other today. 🙂

    1. Try putting separate feeders and waterers up….Like treat feeders. I have a set by the roost, and one on the ground. One hen can’t guard two sets of feeder/water/treater stations at once!

  19. I have three Isa Browns 6months old who free range during the day. Their chicken house has two laying boxes and two separate roosting areas which fit two chickens comfortably. A couple of weeks ago they all decided to roost in the one area and one of them is being pecked and every morning there are feathers being pulled out of her tail and around her neck. She has now stopped laying and looks very miserable. What can I do to stop this and why are they cramming into one area? Thank you for your help. Gillian

    1. Hi Gillian,
      I would use an anti-peck paste. This should do the trick.

  20. My problem is with the youngest hen. I added 2 girls to an existing flock of 2. The youngest is picking on the older hens it seems. Every time they are close the older hen puffs herself up and the younger one attacks, resulting in the older one running away.

  21. Hi i could really do with some advice i have 2 rescue hens and i would like to get another 3 but i am scared to mix them because one of my birds is a very dominant bird she is the head bird and will fight she is fine with my other bird though

  22. I have a 5 yo polish hen that broke her leg six weeks ago. She has fully recovered, but has been isolated for so long. I have kept her in a dog crate inside the coop, so the other three polish hens have seen her but can’t get to her. Now that she is better, I have been letting her out some but one of the hens pecks on her, and the previously injured one starts fights with another. I know this is pecking order norm, but how much is ok to tolerate? I’m worried to leave them unsupervised, especially at night. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Michelle,
      It shouldn’t go on seriously for more than a couple of minutes and certainly no blood should be drawn.
      Best of luck,

  23. I have 4 girls, all the same age. Have been together since babies. One got broody on me so we put 11 eggs under her. So far so good. They are due to hatch the 21st. But when she comes off the nest a few minutes in the morning, our dominate hen is very mean to her. It’s like she stocks my broody. Chases and pecks her.
    Also I plan to remove the broody and eggs to a safe haven, but not sure about when to introduce any babies we get.

    1. Hi Joyce,
      If you remove the broody hen and eggs from the flock, I wouldn’t reintroduce them until the chicks are a similar size. However if mama hen is dominant you can introduce them as chicks as she will protect them from the flock!

  24. Hi! I’m Brandy, my chicken is constanly being pecked and bullied, to the point that all of her tail feathers are being pecked out! Do you think i should keep her isolated or what?

    1. Hi Brandy,
      I would until she is in good health again. Have you tried using no-peck? It should help 🙂

  25. In the cases of multiple hens all picking at just one other hen, you should be sure to check the victim for mites and lice, if a hen has any, even just a few, the other hens will peck her to try and ‘get’ the bugs, commonly plucking her feathers and causing injuries in the process. Then once bloody spots and scabs are present, the other hens will pick at those, causing further injuries that become progressively more severe. There are also instances of hens that will pluck and eat the feathers from their flockmates because they are not getting enough protein or certain nutrients in their diet and of course, the same sequence of small injuries being picked at, becoming progressively worse will ensue here too. The nutritional needs that hens need can vary between breeds, in different climates, and with any number of other circumstances. For example, in winter the chickens bodies burn more calories than in warm weather just to keep their body temperatures up. Sometimes, chicken behaviors are influenced by factors we might not have even realized existed or were important. Anyway, just food for thought for anyone trying to solve their bullying issues.

  26. I’ve read through your wonderful article and all of the posts. You’re awesome at responding!!
    I have a question. Background: I had 4 chickens hatch last June. 1 hen and 3 roosters :/ The new hen integrated with the flock just fine. We built a new bachelor coop in our 2 acre horse pasture for the new roosters.. quite a ways from the regular flock.. and moved the 3 roosters there. They have been very happy… until this week. Now at 8 months old, two of the brothers are fighting badly! Their crowns and waddles were just covered in blood as well as at the top of one of their necks, just under the crown. I have applied Blue Lotion to both of them to help them heal. I worked on getting them to stop fighting with no avail. So… I’ve separated them. The rooster that I see as the aggressor is now next door to the other two left in the pasture. At first they just fought through the fence.. but now are just pacing the fence line…. as well as finding something else to do. I’ve noticed weight loss due to stress. I let it go a couple of days thinking that they will resolve this themselves, but the one being banished just paced the fence and didn’t eat all day yesterday. I put him in a crate last night to sleep alone..and in peace. But realized, I’m removing the victim instead of the bully… so reversed it today. Removed the aggressor. Questions: Is this the right way to handle this? How long should I keep them separated to reboot? Will it just they just go back to fighting? Will it get better once their injuries are healed? Will Peck No More help them from fighting and drawing blood? I’ve hand raised these guys and love them. In fact the bully has been the biggest love bug. I thought it could be jealousy at first, so I tried just cuddling with everybody equally… but there was no difference. Idk what is best!! Help!

    1. Hi Cori,
      Unfortunately there are no guarantees! In terms of who to remove, yes remove the bully and keep him away for a few days at least. Before you re-introduce him make sure that all the roos have recovered and have no open wounds.
      Any red/sore areas should be treated with Peck No More and then just keep a close eye on them. In the meantime make sure all three are eating and drinking.
      Best of luck,

  27. Loved this article! I had a question and I’m not sure if it’s related to pecking order, seems like it might be though. I have 7 pullers, two have definitely showed signs of being the top ladies. Thing is, they hang out together, usually just the two of them. When the other girls are on their perch, both other girls like to be elsewhere in the dirt. Any ideas what this might mean? Thanks!

  28. This is a very helpful article. We had 3 golden comets and lost one recently to a bear. About a week later, we got 2 new wyandottes (about the same age as our existing comets). So far the smaller newcomer has been accepted. The much larger newcomer, who is very skittish and clearly scared, is being picked on by the head hen (who is much smaller) and isn’t being allowed to eat or really move much around the run. They seem to be ok at night in the coop. It’s only been a few days, will this subside, or do I need to seclude the head hen. No blood or loss of feathers, but I don’t want my new hen to starve.

    1. Hi Kristen,
      Make sure the larger new-comer is also getting food, even if you need to set up multiple feeders; same goes for water.
      As long as she isn’t hurting her, it should subside in a few more days,

  29. I have a sick/injured chicken whom we isolated for a couple days to care for. It seems that she may be going blind/partially blind but otherwise looks healthy. We’ve let her free range with the flock during her isolation but now that we are trying to reintroduce her to the coop she is being attacked by my to Rhode Island Reds, the other chickens seems to have no problem with her. I’m not sure if they are at the head of the pecking order or the middle of the order bullies as you described. I’ve separated them in different areas of the enclosure for now. Should I put these Reds in time out or should I keep my blind bird in a reintegration enclosure? Is there hope for her?

  30. Hi! Thanks for this super informative article, but I need some extra help I think. I have 2 Rhode Island Reds and 1 Plymouth Barr, all adopted at the same time and all just turning around 6 months. 1 has started laying about a week ago, not sure which. Today I went to check on the girls and, while the Plymouth (Kimmy) was out exploring the rest of the yard, the two reds were in the roost squawking. When I checked, my larger red (Dorothy) was squatted down low and the smaller red (Dixie) was standing over her. When I pulled Dorothy out, she had blood spots all over the top of her head and her comb was bleeding. We only have one run, so I’m not sure how to separate Dixie. I’m unsure of how to stop this bullying, and I want to make sure Dorothy is safe. Thanks.

  31. Hey there!
    We have one rooster who keeps getting picked on-
    Some background: the night before New Year’s Eve (or somewhere around that time-) he was attacked by something as he apparently didn’t make it into the coop that night. We kept his separated from the flock to heal before introducing him again. Rather than it going smoothly, he’s getting bullied around by the other roo’s we have now.
    He’s quite distant form the others and it’s quite a sad sight to see-
    Do you know if this works with roosters to?
    Or if not, do you have any other ideas on how to help? That would be great too.
    Thank you for any possible help!

    1. How long have they been bullies for? It may be dominance pecking until things are settled. How many hens do you have?

  32. Hello there!
    So I have 4 hens, 1 easter egger, 2 silver wyandottes, and a Sapphire Gem. My 2 silver laced wyandottes pick on my Sapphire Gem hen and recently injured her foot and feathers are missing and she is now limping as well. Do I isolate the 2 bullies from her at day and night until she is healed? Also there is nothing visibly wrong with her foot but I don’t want her jumping off the perch in the mornings. Any suggestions??

  33. I started with five hens over a year ago and lost three to coyotes. For the last ten months I have had the two hens. One brown. One white. The white is the top hen. They’ve always bickered with one another but the last two days the brown hen has been hiding in the nest box. This evening I went to lock them up for the night and I found The brown hen in the coop bloody. Our coop has two sections with a fence divider so I have put the white hen I the smaller side to give her a time out.
    I don’t understand why they are always
    Bickering and now it’s escalated to blood. They free range and have lots of space in the coop. They are locked up at night in the coop to protect from predators but are let out in the morning. They both seem healthy and have been in the same flock for over two years. Any ideas ??

  34. I have a young hen about 1 and a half years. She was hatched from an egg from her mother. Mother hen does not peck at her when it is time to eat but the other two do. They are pulling the feathers out
    When not eating every thing is fine. She even sleeps between mother and one of the others. Realize that the pecking order is important when eating how can I stop this. Food is not left out all the time.

    1. Give them more time to eat, we have a very strict pecking order with our flock and many have to wait until the higher ordered ones have completed their meals.

  35. Hi, approx 5 weeks ago I rescued 4 ex battery hens. I’ve kept them in a run with a coop and had no problems. One was a bit bossy and pecked the odd head but generally harmonious.
    I let them out into the garden two days ago to free range during the afternoons and have now found that two of the birds have become very aggressive towards one bird. They attack , chase and pluck feathers from her neck. When they are in garden, she can keep out of their way but when I return them to the run, they start again.
    It’s all quite new to me. What shall I do? Is it too soon to separate bullies? One incidently was lowest in pecking order before and seems to have had a change in personality over night!

    1. You can try the cage method by putting the one that is getting picked on in the cage and do not allow any access to her. After a few days they may give up and accept. This has worked several times for us.

  36. Try using a baby monitor in your coop so you can watch who is picking on who. You might even save a life.

  37. I need help I had 2 hens they were not raised together as my first chick lost her mate, she helped raise the second chick and have been together for a year and a half. One hen is 2 and one is 1.5. Well I adopted two chicks from my boys school. I have split the coop to keep them separate, they free range my yard but the oldest hen is relentless chasing and pecking them even in the yard. If I open their side she will go in there and chase them and peck them. She doesn’t draw blood but they squeal it’s awful. They are over two months what should I do?

  38. Hi, I have 2 hens at the moment, one is a warren and is no problem at all and the other is extremely dominant, I’m not sure on her breed but she is 3/4 years old and is quite a bit bigger then my warren. I wanted to get two more hens just in case something was to happen with one of my current ones and then the other wouldn’t have a companion, but I’m not sure what age and what breed of hens that I should get. I was thinking of getting two point of lay pullets but I’m afraid that my dominant hen will bully them badly. I used to have another hen, a welsummer cross, who had just started to lay. She was bullied a lot at her previous home by the other hens and my dominant hen slowly started to push her from the group, my young hen became so ill and weak that she was on antibiotics for weeks and just as she got better 2 weeks later she had a prolapse and I had to put her to sleep. I think that my dominant hen had made my young hen terrified, she was very skinny even when I fed her separately to the others. As I first time hen owner my experience with Hazel (the young hen) has made me nervous to introduce more hens with my dominant hen, she doesn’t actually bully them terribly, just a peck here and there (maybe Hazel was just a very nervous and ill hen??) My dominant hen is extremely food oriented and doesn’t seem to care for company off of other hens and my warren can’t stand to be lonely (Hazel was very close with her) so not only do I want a few more hens to keep my warren happy but also in case something happens to one of my two. Does anyone know what breed would be best and if I could get a point of lay pullet? Also is it better to have a docile hen or one with more attitude with a hen that is dominant? Thankyou 🙂

    1. There is truly no way to know whether the dominant one will peck a new hen even if the new hen is more aggressive. I would try to just follow the introduction process to reduce chances of bullying happening. There will always be a pecking order with a top chicken. We have an article on these topics you can read here.

  39. Hi I have 3 hens. Bev is 11 and a broody hen. I let her hatch some eggs about three years ago and she now has 2 companions. The 2 sisters lay currently. We built them a new henhouse, smaller than their original 6’x8’shed. Today I heard a very loud conversation going on – when I checked the henhouse Bev had laid an egg. Another noisy conversation and then one of her “daughters” attacked her. I threw some cold water at it and let them settle. Next thing I see Bev and one of the others happily grazing round the garde. Attacker hen I think had gone in to lay an egg, but when she re-appeared she attacked Bev again. Eventually Bev went into the henhouse. I shut the door as attacker hen was looking through the door. So now Bev is in henhouse. I have left the door open on original 6’x8′ house, as two hens will make their way to bed at dusk. Any thoughts most welcome.

    1. The water was a smart move, this helps teach them “no”. However there may need to be some separation for a little while if you aren’t okay with the behavior then reintroduce. At the moment it doesn’t seem to be escalating so you could just watch it for now.
      Here are some articles that may help.

  40. Hi,
    My question is about one Buff Orpington in my original small flock. I started with one Rhode Island Red, then added two Buffs and a Silver Laced Wyandotte. There was no problems as the single RIR seemed happy to have friends. We lost the Silver LW about a month ago and I got another Silver LW and a Brahma to balance the flock out again. I was afraid if I waited too long to acquire new birds that the other three would get too set in their way and get overly clique. The new birds are started pullets, the Silver LW is smaller than the Brahma. Age and size of the breed may be the reason. I have slowly introduced them, the pullets sleep in my garage in a crate and during the day they go into my run while the older girls free range and observe them through the hardware cloth. I have let the older girls in under supervision and the original, and Head hen, the Rhode Island Red basically ignores them as does the other Buff. The other Buff goes after the two newbies until they jump up on a roost. She hasn’t hurt them badly, just pecking and bullying, but I am there supervising so she knows she can’t go too far. I’m afraid to leave them alone with her, and even more concerned about integrating them into sleeping in the locked coop. With no supervision in a smaller space I’m afraid she’d really hurt them. Interestingly the new Silver LW is spunkier, and the larger Brahma is more docile and seems more afraid of the Buff.
    Should I separate the bully Buff when I integrate the pullets to sleeping in the coop and then let her back in once they are settled into the sleeping routine? I haven’t let the pullets free range with the older hens yet as I am worried that they won’t follow them back in at night. Should I just try that first. I am thinking that the Buff who’s doing the bullying might have been at the bottom of the pecking order and is now trying to work her way up the ladder. I also have noticed her charging the Head hen, the Rhode Island Red. Not sure if it’s play or aggression. Of course the Head hen is having none of it and chase her away. The Head Hen is also going through her first big molt, I know not the best time to introduce new flock members but living in the North East time is of the essence, they need to figure it out soon. The Head hen, despite being a Rhode Island Red has never shown any signs of aggression and I am a bit surprised that it’s a Buff that is as I’ve always thought them to be quite calm and docile. Any tips would be much appreciated ASAP.
    Thank you

  41. Great article! I have a bachelor pad with 4 roos that grew up together. They’re almost 2 years old now. We’ve dealt with squabbles in the pat by separating the bully for a few days and reintegrating him back in. This time, however, we’re going on 2 weeks and one is relentlessly chasing and fighting the other. We’ve tried separating him for about a week, attempting to reintroduce after a few days several times, but they immediately go back at it. My concern is that the relentless one is bigger (and more dumb) than the one getting picked on. We tried taking the other one out for a few days, but that didn’t help either. The bully immediately picked a fight again, so now he’s separated again. Not sure what to do other than keep him separated, but he’s not seeming to cool down.

  42. I introduced 7, 11 week old, chicks to my flock of 3. (I had them separated for 2 full weeks by a fence they could see through, then I slowly integrated them).
    A little back story- I had 6 hens and 3 died within 2 weeks. The pecking order changed quickly and the now the top hen is quite mean. She will even try to attack me if I pet the other two hens.
    Now, the 7 newbies, are being tormented by her. She won’t let them in the coop to roost at night.
    Last night I removed the meanie and put her in the garage to sleep since our night temps are currently in the teens. However, during the day, I have her in the separation pen. My question is: will the separation pen be enough if the chickens can still see each other? Or do they need to be separated where they can’t see each other?
    Thank you for any help on this.

  43. I have a coop where I had to remove a mean rooster (both to any hen and to any human) last summer. I added a cockerel. Turns out with the two chicks the first rooster fathered, one is also a male. This gives me two males and 7 hens now that all the hens are laying. So far, the dynamics seem to be working out okay, but I am ready to remove one of the roosters should something go astray. I know the youngest rooster is simply only MOSTLY mature. (Barring any other reason, the younger will have to go, as an egg he fertilizes could potentially have been mated with his mother.)

  44. Hi, i have 6 hens and one of my hens is acting very tired and doesn’t really want to move around, they are all under year old I know she’s the bottom of the pecking order, how do you think I should take action?

  45. My “head honcho” rooster has been dethorned. He is no longer welcome in the coop at night and he has to wait until everone else is up and asleep (they free range over 10 acres) before he goes to bed. He free ranges seperate from all the others, and often just follows us around like a puppy. We always feed him separately, as he has been a great head rooster for years protecting the flock. Will he ever be considered as part of the flock again, even as a lower level member? I want to allow him to have a good life in his “retirement”. He is 6 years old.

  46. Hello today noticed that my bantam chickens have started pecking each other blood bits on comb area of the one that started laying not long ago and one with saw bits near eye
    As they have all grown up together it has been fine, not sure if it has happened because, one went to heaven not long ago (so upsetting)

  47. hello I have read your article about bullying i have a flock of 7 including the rooster who is coming up a year old and 3 three year old hens and 3 other hens about 8 months old they all get along except one that is usually wandering around alone during the day but at night will only roost with the rooster but during the day the other hens seem to pick on her and only eats when the others have left the food is this normal for them i have only been keeping chickens for a year the young ones i hatched myself and the older ones came from a family member

  48. So I have a a rooster that we added to the flock today and my chickens were not very welcoming. Should I use the isolation pen until he heals and then 2 weeks until they are settled.

  49. Janet I am thinking seriously about starting a back yard coop for about three hens. Please tell me where to begin this project. I have read and read about the roosting area, feeding area and almost everything I can think of. If I start with a hen house what is the most important things that will be needed before I bring them home. I would love to build one and I have the perfect place for it. Not sure why I am so hesitant except that it may involve more responsibilities than I expected. But oooooh those fresh laid eggs are wonderful. help thanks Viv

  50. Hi I hade 5 rescue hens 1 was lame and despite my care she passed away x but 2 weeks in one of my hens is being bulled by the outher 3 pecking her till she screams I have separated her for 3 days and today I put her cage next to the rest but had 2 cover her as she makes a crowing noise like they do when they are laying eggs I just don’t know what to do she’s not laying but eating and drinking well x

  51. Hello, thanks for all the helpful info. I have an issue with (I think she is Isa Red found on road at 2 days old asnd rescued from hypothermia etc) our biggest girl ‘Red’. We rescued 3 chicks dumped last year and 2 ended up bring roosters which we successfully rehomed. That left Red all alone and we then rescued two Pekin Bantams….one is a bit old and past laying. The young Bantams and Red were Best Of Friends for 12 months. Red started her laying about 8 months ago. Recently Red was I’ll and developed vent gleet…shes healed n oiw and most feathers returned. Problem being she no w seems to want to kill her best friend? I have seen other older Bantams squat for Red and they can hang out no probs….ive seen the older Bantams peck Red when there’s a tense moment and Red seems to snap back into reality at these times and everything stays ok. The young Bantams is now so scared of Red she has even lept onto my shoulders while i m observing. Is the friendship forever over? It’s been going for 3 months, I’ve tried ALL your suggestions to others plus more. Does anyone have any ideas or do q e need to permanently seperate these guys now? The size difference was never an issue, but Red is double little Bantams size and gas drawn blood in seconds of standing on Bantams back……ANY helpful reply would be great and so so appreciated thanks!

  52. Hello, me and my husband are new to chickens. We have 10 girls. I have noticed that 8 roost in the coop while 2 sleep by the coop door. So is this a pecking order? They rarely fight and they all get along pretty good. We have 4 barred rocks, 3 buff orpington and 3 Easter eggers. It one of the buffs and Easter that is down on the coop floor.
    Thank you 🙂

  53. I have a backyard flock of five hens, all different breeds (we like variety). I’ve watched flock dynamics play out as they have grown from chicks. Our Columbian Wyandotte Silvie is beautiful and large, but she has not yet started laying. She has held her on own up until recently.
    Our black Sex-Link Sasha started laying a few weeks ago. She is the only one laying at this time. She has become very talkative and submissive when we approach her. And she does things her way. She won’t sleep on the roost, but insists on sleeping in the coop floor!
    We noticed Silvie hanging out in the coop on the roost most of the day. Today I found out why. I witnessed Sasha bullying her. Silvie does not appear sick or have any symptoms. Could this be because Sasha feels she is top dog now that she is laying? Is it a sign that Silvie might be getting ready to start laying, and Sasha senses it? The birds have adequate run space, but Silvie is acting terrified to be anywhere near Sasha.

  54. We have a mixed of roosters and hens our sold white rooster for the longest time live just fine with other a week ago he got hit by a truck still alive not injured but now the other ones really go after him badly got the rest locked up at night in coop but the white one is staying on porch he has been following me like a puppy what can I do to get him back with others so they kill him thanks

  55. Hi,
    Four roosters were dumped on my property and I decided to give them a home. I think they were probably about 4 months when they were dumped looking at their feathers and spurs. They about 7 months now. They have been getting on great until today. For some reason 3 turned on 1. It got bloody so I took out the one that was being bullied. They have a lot of room – a big area to free range in and coops with room to roost. There are multiple feeders and water stations. There were no environmental changes so I do not know what caused this. They are roosters! What do I do now? Can I reintroduce the rooster or will they attack him again? I feel bad for him, up until now they have hung out close together all the time and now he is alone! Thank you.

  56. My hen Delilah is a more timid lady and she’s part of the newer group of hens we have of 3 hens . Unlike the other two hens she’s missing a lot of feathers while the other hens she came with are hardly missing any feathers. To my knowledge the ladies she came with do NOT peck her but my older hens do and I’m worried it’s gotten a bit violent.

  57. Hi – I got three new 5 week old hens to add to my 4-hen flock because one of my girls is left out and lonely. They don’t really let her eat without my intervention and they make her perch on a lower perch than them (wasn’t alway like this until she hurt her leg and I put her back in after she was healed) Okay so now it turns out one of the three new hens (now 9 weeks) is a rooster. He is pretty self assured and he flexed at my weak hen and she flexed back – a few pecks but nothing happened and she then kept her distance like “get me out of here”. Then I introduced Frannie who is at the top of the pecking order but much like the teacher in the class. She keeps order but is very sweet. He went at her and she went back at him (but since he still has a size disadvantage) she pinned him and then he ran away duely submissed. Frannie had NO ISSUE with the two 9 month old hens – just sort-of patrolled – but no aggression. I am not introducing my buffs yet because they are mean and he needs to grow a bit before I put him in with them. SO….my question is – 1) will he overthrow Frannie in the pecking order when he gets bigger? This would stink because she keeps order and kind-of protects my weak one. and 2) Will he hurt my sweet weak girl and/or Frannie?

  58. One of my chicken’s head and innards were eaten by my other chickens. Would they have done that because they didn’t like her, or is it because I hadn’t given them any food yet and they were hungry? Don’t know why they wouldn’t have liked her, she was so nice.

  59. We have an established flock of 4 hands in one rooster. We were given 3 new hints that I have on isolation in fenced area. The largest of the new hens and are roosters are pecking at each other through the fence. Not overly aggressive just pecking at each other does that seem like the indications of them having a problem when we integrate them?

  60. I have lost all my hens except one. She has been on her own for a few weeks. I have introduced four new ones. Now she does not want to stay in the pen with them(prefers to hang out with me) eventhough they do not bully her. What shall I do? I cannot babysit my old hen all day.

  61. I have two red hens, and two Wyandotte’s (one who’s a rooster.) The Wyandotte’s came young, and finally started to move as a flock with the two red hens. One of our red hens (who was top of the pecking order) injured her foot, so we kept the two red hens together while she healed so the rooster, now getting bigger, wouldn’t put too much weight on her while attempting to mate her. For some reason the rooster doesn’t bother the Wyandotte hen for mating so I didn’t increase the flock as there’s definitely no overmating happening.) Now the red hen is healed, and the rooster has matured, I tried to reintegrate them all again today. The previously injured red hen and rooster had a stand off.
    It was like watching two roosters. Both standing tall with ruffled feathers and flying at each other feet first. I eventually removed the red hen as I was worried she would re-injure her foot as she still has a slight limp, but can weight bare on her foot now. He’s not an aggressive rooster. And they’ve all been side by side still, and I just let them out at different times but they often sit close through the fencing. So I’m back to keeping the two breeds separate again. Do I buy more of the red breed so there’s more hens? The one who was injured used to be top of the pecking order, and now the other red hen pecks her and shifted to top of hierarchy when her friend got injured. I’m just worried about reintroducing them all together. Maybe the rooster needs to be separated for a while? But the wiandotte hen and him are so close as they were raised together from babies… would love some advice. I’m thinking I need to increase the flock size… just not sure how, what breed, and when. Gosh the pecking order feels brutal at times 🙄

  62. Great article! I entirely agree that the pecking order can cause problems in a flock, and I’ve noticed it firsthand. One of my hens, Blondie, has always been a bit more aggressive than the others and tends to bully them. I’ll definitely be paying more attention to their behavior and taking steps to avoid any issues. Thanks for the tips!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *