Flock Dynamics: A Guide To Social Hierarchy
Your Chickens|July 2018

Julie Moore takes a look at how the pecking order is established

If you’ve spent time observing your flock, you’ve probably realised that chickens care little for democracy, having no interest whatsoever in ensuring each member has equal access to food and water or a good spot to roost. But yet, a flock, for the most part, lives in harmony. So how do chickens maintain social order?

A flock’s hierarchy is known as the pecking order, a term coined by Norwegian zoologist Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe. In 1904, the 10-year-old Schjelderup-Ebbe was put in charge of the family’s flock of chickens in Oslo. Having a fascination for the birds, he watched their behaviours, recording his observations in a daily journal. Through years of recorded data, he realised that there was a hierarchy within the flock.

He observed that chickens rank themselves in predictable ways. He discovered that rankings emerged from squabbles over food and ascertained that each member of the flock understood who ranked above and below it. He found that dominant chickens reminded their subordinates of their relative social status with a painful peck, hence the term ‘pecking order’.

He observed that the most dominant hen received certain privileges, for example, first access to food and water, the first choice of nesting boxes, roosting spot and dustbath. If another bird tried to impinge on these rites, she would quickly peck the offender into submission. Dominance wasn’t related to size: old, savvy hens were able to dominate larger, naïve birds. The second-ranking hen was able to peck any subordinate but dared not assert herself against the dominant hen. And so it continued, with each hen pecking those ranked below her and in turn was pecked by those above her.

Every member of the flock is included in the spectrum of dominance — no one is left out! The hierarchy of a flock isn’t cast in stone and changes as birds age, perhaps relinquish their position, die or new birds are added to the flock.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

RELATED STORIES

Triple Layer Coconut Cake

This epic layer cake with a thick, buttery coconut icing will be the centerpiece of your Easter table this year.

2 mins read
Clean Eating
Spring 2021

GETTING TO KNOW CHEF FRANCISCO ALEJANDRI VAZQUEZ

He left behind the kitchens of some of the best hotels in Mexico and journeyed to Canada. Founder of acclaimed Toronto restaurant Agave y Aguacate (now closed, as he recently moved back to Mexico), he sat down with us to talk about his journey.

2 mins read
Clean Eating
Spring 2021

Gear Up Your Green Thumb

Whether you have acres of abundant backyard or a small apartment windowsill sitting in sunshine, these beautiful gardening tools and accessories will help you get growing.

1 min read
Clean Eating
Spring 2021

bits & bites - 3 WAYS WITH CHICKPEAS

This superstar ingredient is a favorite among vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike for its affordability, versatility and delicious, nutty flavor. The mighty chickpea takes center stage in these simple and nutritious Mediterranean recipes, each accompanied by a healthful dip or drizzle.

5 mins read
Clean Eating
Spring 2021

TAKE A TRIP TO FROM YOUR KITCHEN

Add some Latin flair to your cooking with these Mexican dishes in honor of Cinco de Mayo. We’ve got some favorites on the menu, plus new dishes that are so worthy of going outside the comfort zone, they’ll have you cheering, ¡Qué sabroso! (translation: how tasty!). Our acclaimed Mexican chef also shares his key ingredients and cooking hacks for the full authentic experience.

10+ mins read
Clean Eating
Spring 2021

The Dutch Art of Doing Nothing & the Norwegian Love for Nature

First, there was hygge, the Danish concept of mindful, comfortable conviviality – think warm fires, fuzzy slippers and overall contentment. Now, two similar concepts, from the Dutch and the Norwegians, respectively, are gaining traction: niksen and friluftsliv.

2 mins read
Clean Eating
Spring 2021

Countryside Wellness with Marika Blossfeldt

Meet Marika Blossfeldt, founder of Polli Talu (Polli’s Farm), an Estonian wellness retreat by the gentle Baltic Sea. Guests practice mindfulness, yoga and a diet of whole, real foods. We sat down with Marika to find out how you can bring the beneficial magic of Polli Talu into your home.

2 mins read
Clean Eating
Spring 2021

TRIED AND TESTED HOTEL: ME Cabo, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

BEST FOR World-famous views of El Arco with a beautiful stretch of beach and oceanfront pool

2 mins read
Business Traveler
April/May 2021

MICROBIOTA AND THE MIND

Did you know that chronic stress can lead to changes in your gut microbiota that can prompt depressive symptoms?

1 min read
Clean Eating
Spring 2021

TRIED AND TESTED HOTEL: W South Beach, Miami Beach

BEST FOR Playfully chic interior décor and a happening pool scene

2 mins read
Business Traveler
April/May 2021