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Shun, SHUNNNN the pariah!


MikeW asked a question about the pecking order in the thread below, and I think I can wring a whole post out of it.

This is Vita, the biggest and most beautiful hen in my flock. The variety is known as gold partridge; her feathers are a sort of gold/bronze color with black markings. Bee-yootiful. At least to people. To other chickens, she’s a hag. Go figure.

The pecking order isn’t necessarily one, two, three, four… It can be one, two, everybody else. Or one, a bunch of twos, a bunch of threes. You get the idea. Bottom hen is known as the omega or pariah hen, and not every flock has one.

Though a lot of it is down to the personality of the bird, you can adjust the pecking order sometimes by humiliating an aggressive bird, or separating her from the rest of the flock until she loses her status.

But I suspect Vita is a natural born omega. When she and Violence were little, she didn’t engage in any of the usual status-related play: leaping, pecking, belly-bumping (this is hilarious). When pecked, a normal chicken will squeak and get out of the way, but Vita just stands patiently and takes it as her due. It’s heartbreaking.

One day, when she was fully grown, I looked out the window to see Vita motionless, beak-down in the grass. The other chickens were whaling the shit out of her. I thought she had died or collapsed and they were trying to revive her, but no, they were just giving her a good pecking. I have seen them do this until they were too exhausted to peck her any more.

Oh, I kept an eye on it. They never drew blood. If they had done, she would have had to be separated instantly. Chickens go a little nuts at the sight of blood and will peck until death and beyond (horrible little cannibals).

But the sad truth is, she’s more scared of me than the other chickens. Any attempt to pet her or give her treats just makes her more miserable and might even call down the wrath of the flock. Sometimes, no matter how much you want to make it better, you just have to leave animals to it.

When I mixed Maggie and Coco in two years ago, Vita got super aggressive with them. I assumed she was trying to establish a new position for herself as not-pariah. Sadly, neither of those girls lived long enough in health to join the flock properly.

She being super aggressive with the new girls now. They stay well out of pecking range, and it gets briefly ugly if she manages to corner one against the run. But I have a feeling these three, when fully grown, will be well able to put her back in her place.

Poor Vita.


Comment from bikeboy
Time: May 18, 2016, 9:48 pm

“Sometimes, no matter how much you want to make it better, you just have to leave animals to it.”

I immediately thought of the recent city-slicker tourists at Yellowstone Nat’l Park. They “rescued” a baby bison because it looked cold apparently. Park officials were unable to re-connect the baby to either Mom or Herd… so they did the obvious thing – euthanized it!

Strangely, I’ve learned more about chickens at a “weasel” website, than I ever woulda known otherwise. THANKS! (You’re always informative, and a refreshing departure from the Election Tunnel-Vision.)

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: May 18, 2016, 11:04 pm

Ugh. I just cannot deal with this election season.

I don’t even know how to describe how I feel about it.

Comment from mojo
Time: May 18, 2016, 11:22 pm

So when can we look forward ti ChookVision in 1024 hd?

Comment from MikeW
Time: May 19, 2016, 12:09 am

Hey, cool! I got a whole post reply. You’re most welcome Ms. Stoat for the post idea. Heh! Interesting info on the pecking order.
I wonder if some of it has to do with your mixing bird breeds, i.e. that the outcome could be somewhat predicted by the breeds involved. Dogs definitely have different temperaments from one breed to another. Even true with aquarium fish, some kinds you can mix, some just eat each other.
bikeboy I concur. lotsa cool tidbits I’ve picked up here. One of my fave ‘I didn’t know that’ was learning that apple tree cultivars are propagated by cuttings, that seeds always produce something different than the parent.
THX Stoats, for running an interesting place.

Comment from Ric Fan
Time: May 19, 2016, 1:58 am

Shame on the NPS! Think they murdered the baby bison to teach the public a lesson. How extreme. They could have found a home for the bison.

Comment from Can’t Hark My Cry
Time: May 19, 2016, 11:14 am

The description of Vita’s behavior with the new girls sounds a lot like the behavior of human bullies: I get picked on, so I’ll pick on others. Not entirely surprising, I guess.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: May 19, 2016, 7:21 pm

Very true, Can’t Hark. A disturbing amount of human-like behaviour can be seen on display in Her Stoatliness’s flock.

Not for nothing did phrases like ‘pecking order’ enter the English language.

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