Archive for the ‘Pecking Order’ Category

Butt Pecking

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Back when we first got the chickens, there was some butt pecking going on in the flock. I now suspect that it was just that the babies needed some more space, but not having any experience with chickens, I freaked out a little. I was worried it was going to be a fight to the death or something, and that would not do. I ended up searching the internet high and low for “butt pecking” and after much reading, expanded the size of the box that they were in, and things got o.k. again. That problem was solved, but a new one arose. I noticed that after that, any time I did an internet search that began with the letter B, “butt pecking” popped up as a suggestion. In most instances, this wasn’t a big deal. However, as the tech support guy at work, people often come to me with questions, and sometimes the thing to do is look up the answer right then and there. So there was the risk that someone would come to me with a problem that started with B, and then, as they looked over my shoulder as I searched, they’d see I’d been looking for butt pecking. Eventually, I stopped worrying about it. “Maybe this is a good way to get people to stop coming to me with their problems,” I thought.



Butt pecking is back in my search history again lately. They’re not chicks anymore, but butts are getting pecked anew. It started with Henny Penny. One night I noticed her butt was featherless, and I panicked, thinking she might be egg bound. However, she’s reliably laying eggs, and pooping up a storm, so I don’t think it’s that. It happened at the end of the winter, so my thinking now is that the other birds may have been eating her feathers for protein. I’ve read that this happens. I put some Blu-Kote on her butt just to make sure nothing got infected, and she seems to be o.k. otherwise.

The blue butt of unhappiness.

The blue butt of unhappiness.

Then the other day I noticed that Suzy Creamcheese Junior’s butt looked a little worse for the wear. Sure enough, her butt was getting pecked too. And hers looked even worse than Henny Penny’s. She had lost fewer feathers, but had a couple of open cuts. I Blu-Koted everything right away, and then did Henny Penny’s area again for good measure. Henny Penny’s feathers do look like they’re starting to grow back, but her skin seemed a little red. That may have been because I was holding her upside down and she was freaking out, but I decided to look it up anyway. There is a pretty epic thread on one of the chicken forums I read about red, featherless butts that are also squishy. The squishiness of her butt was what made me think it might be a stuck egg. The thread speculates a lot, but there seem to be no real answers, or at least consistent ones. I’m not sure regular butts aren’t also this squishy, and you just don’t notice because of the feathers. And since Suzy Creamcheese Junior is also getting pecked, it makes me think it’s more of a pecking situation going on, rather than anything else. The chickens may be getting bored, and butts are an easy target. I put a cabbage in there today to give them something to occupy themselves with that wasn’t a butt. I’m also going to throw some diatomaceous earth in the coop to rule out parasites. This seems to be one of those issues that can be caused by a whole range of different things.

sell the sizzle

I believe this is what’s known as “selling the sizzle.”

There’s also the chance that I’m looking at two entirely different problems. The squishy butt problem could be egg peritonitis, which is what killed the original Suzy Creamcheese. But other people with chickens with red, featherless butts have said their chickens get it and just soldier on for years. Suzy Creamcheese Junior’s butt problems could be a result of a pecking order situation. There are really no clear answers. I’ll be monitoring the situations and applying antiseptic creams, salves, and unguents as needs dictate. And in the meantime, should I find time at work to search for more butt pecking advice, maybe I’ll consider clearing my search history. Though, if butt pecking is the worst thing you have in there, you’re doing pretty good, as long as you’re still talking about chickens.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: 1909 – Mlle. Modiste (Mademoiselle Modesty) Selection by Victor Herbert Orchestra)

Orders Of Peckitude

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Most people have heard the term “pecking order,” but I think for a lot of them, it’s kind of abstract. They know what it means, but it’s removed from its original context. As a chicken owner, I got over this quickly. There is real pecking involved, and many times, it’s not pretty. At all. My crash course in pecking orders came right after Boss Chicken became ill and lost her ability to walk well. As soon as it was clear she was no longer the actual boss chicken, Suzy Creamcheese, the new alpha hen, pecked her bloody within seconds. I now have to stand guard over Boss Chicken when everyone’s out in the yard, to make sure the others don’t take the opportunity to remind her of her place in the flock. In most cases, the chicken being shown her place is able to run away or otherwise defend herself. Boss Chicken doesn’t have the mobility of a regular chicken, and so she can’t do either of those things. She got pretty busted up after Suzy Creamcheese had at her, and while she was generally o.k., I learned that the pecking order was not something to be taken lightly.

chicken 101

Being A Chicken 101

It seems that the order is not set in stone, either. When I introduced the new chicks to the flock, my assumption was that they would be at the bottom of the hierarchy. I was pretty much right, I think. It was hard to tell, because once everyone was accustomed to each other, the n00bs did their best to avoid the old guard as much as possible, even in the run. There was a lot of hiding in the corners, or running from one side of the coop to another to just steer clear of their elders. However, now that they’re a little older, and everyone is allowed out into the yard again, it seems that there is a lot of jockeying for status going on. It used to be that the n00bs would keep to themselves, away from the others, though they would still bump chests and do a little bit of negotiating within their own small group, but allow that the grown ups were in charge. This spring has brought about some changes. I’m not sure if it’s that the n00bs are bigger, or if everyone is just feeling tougher for having made it through the winter, but it’s getting rough out there. The first day of free ranging this year saw Steve (I think, it might have been John) going after one of the Mandrell Sisters pretty aggressively. By “aggressively,” I mean “biting her comb viciously not once, but twice.” She got away after the first bite, but Steve (or John) wanted to send a message. Then last weekend, as if to just be clear on who was totally in charge, Henny Penny went after Steve (or John, but let’s just assume it’s all Steve) so badly that I decided to intervene. She was pecking Steve’s head really hard, and Steve was just squatting down and taking it, like it was some sort of fraternity pledging ritual. After the first couple of pecks, we get it, Henny Penny. Luckily, there wasn’t any blood, but there certainly seems to be blood lust in the flock. Or social climbing. Or maybe everyone has just had it with each other after being kept in close quarters for so long.

chicken note

No passing notes in chicken class, even if you’re sick of each other.

I realize the ways of chickens are different from humans. We shouldn’t judge based on our own societal standards, but sometimes that’s what happens. The pecking order can be very not fun to witness (especially the pecking part – I’m ok with order), but generally it’s a subtle thing. But sometimes it’s not. If I think one of my chickens is in danger of serious injury, I’ll step in, like I did with Steve and Henny Penny. That looked like it wasn’t going to get better on its own, and the point had been made. Safety first, always. I already knew that a lot of common phrases have pretty grisly origins, and there are probably ones much more grisly than chickens pecking each other. At the same time, I’ve found that I don’t use “pecking order” outside of a chicken context anymore. However, if I need to move up the ladder at work, I’m not above putting on a giant beak and attacking whoever it is in the position I’m gunning for. This will make self-evaluation time much more interesting this year.


No blood on the beak means I haven’t asserted myself enough.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: The Skating Trot by National Promenade Band)

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