Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 31, 2011

Well, the rain is coming down like crazy and has been for the past two days, making gardening difficult for all but the most crazy among us.  Now normally I'd be one of those out there in my rain gear doing what I could in the garden, but since I got my chicks, I've had better things to do with my time.

So, this post is going to be about the chicks so far.  Mostly, it's going to be about the pecking order ritual. I keep telling folks you could write a paper on this stuff, and that's just what I'm doing.

With my first three chicks, I found it interesting that the most active chick became the alpha, for lack of a better term.  The others would, after a while, simply let my Welsummer just peck at them, while they literally turned the other cheek.  What I didn't see was how the second fiddle got that job.  Sure the third in line was so docile that she simply sat there and did nothing while the others took their places, but all I saw her doing was staying as close to the alpha as possible.  That couldn't be a tactic, could it?

While all that was interesting, I didn't realize just how fascinating it all was until the Buff Orpington entered the picture.  I chose her because she was running around, best not to get one too lethargic as they could be sick.
Boy is she cute!

That change in dynamic seemed to start the process all over again and this time I found myself watching their behaviors closely.

It seemed at first that she was just trying to find a spot under the heat lamp, next to a warm chick.  Of course the original three wanted nothing to do with the tiny intruder.  Then all of a sudden, one went to eat, and it quickly became "let's see who can eat the most" in the Davies brooder. 

I've never seen the chicks eat so much in a day as they ate in that five minutes. You thought we were out of food.  Boy am I glad I turned the 2x6 board such that they have more room to stand on it and peck down into the feeder.  Anyway, the older chicks kept nudging the little one out of the way, so much so that she ended up against the side of the brooder eating from the other side of the tray.
I just realized something.  The chicks are actually demonstrating my next big point in the last two pictures above.

Although at first the chicks were all pecking each other, especially the baby, this little fluff ball kept on pecking while the others were content to just ignore her.  It seems that the one I picked out was not only fast, but clearly had some serious ambition.  I mean, she's half their size! 

It took a bit to notice, but by ignoring the chick, I found they were actually grouping together in a set formation.

As you can see, the Welsummer is stationed in the middle, flanked by her second and third in command.  They kept that formation everywhere they went, including to the feed tray!  Any time the chick tried to get in between them (which was frequently), the closest one would peck at it.  It became clear they were protecting their leader. 

It's funny, I don't think I've seen the Barred Rock peck so much ever.  Maybe she was trying to keep the chick away from the leader, or maybe she was trying like mad to keep her place as third fiddle and not the bottom of the heap?

On it went, for hours.  This chick was clearly not settling for the bottom.  She had her sights set on number two, if not the top dog!  We left for the evening confident that these week-old chicks were not going to push around the little one.  She seemed to just wear them down.

So, now I'm not sure where she fits.  She's clearly one or two.  Whenever I think I've got it pegged, something happens to change my mind.  Like she'll race to catch up to the three of them and squeeze her way next to the Welsummer.  Then later she'll peck at the leader only to have the elder turn away in possible submission. 

Either way, this little girl has stormed onto the scene and made a name for herself (we're thinking of Buffy the Worm Slayer, hehe if we can convince the boys).  And the way she's eating she'll catch up to them in no time.
Ain't she cute?!


  1. Oh, she is such a cutie!! Buffy the Worm Slayer is a perfect name for her. She's blond and has spunk and confidence. I love that you documented some of the adjustment in the bunch on their first day together. I too am curious to see where this little one will end up in the pecking order.

  2. They are all just darling but Buffy is pretty dang cute! She is a scrapper and I will lay you odds that given time to equalize the size issue - she becomes the top dog.

  3. So cute! I just love them.. we've been talking about getting some backyard chickens for a few years - as soon as they change our local bylaw (soon!!).. thanks for this 'peep', i mean peek into the world of chicks! :)

  4. She's incredibly cute! It's amazing how many true behavioral characteristics an animal of that size can possess! Enjoy watching!

  5. You have four now! It will be cool to watch their progress.