What decides a hen’s position in the pecking order? Can a hen change her position? Drew Peacock, Enfield

Chickens have a rigid hierarchy, the ‘pecking order’, where boss hens will bully hens lower in the order than them, and cower down or run away from hens higher up. It’s sometimes hard to tell why one hen is higher in the order than another. It’s not always due to obvious differences like size, as I have oten seen tiny little bantams bullying full-size hens. Hens can definitely move up and down in the pecking order – old or sick birds will sink lower in the order, and chicks move up the order when they are fully grown. Personality counts in the pecking order – passive hens will always be lower in the order than bullies, and some hens avoid the issue entirely by running away from any signs of trouble!

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