This Sicilian pasta and broccoli recipe is one my mom made a lot when I was a kid. She’d tell us how, when she was growing up, her family was poor. So, they ate this meal weekly, because it was inexpensive. Also, it’s typically a meatless dish. However, the first time I prepared this for my own family, my husband complained about the evident lack of protein. Therefore, I have since added ground beef. And although it changes the original somewhat, it makes for an excellent meal.
There are a number of other Sicilian pasta and broccoli recipes to be found on the internet. But most of them are missing the tomatoes that are in this one. Or they add pine nuts. Though a lot of them are also meatless. However, whichever way you prefer, I hope you try this recipe and let me know what you think;.
Ingredients for Sicilian Pasta and Broccoli:
1 lb ground beef
12 oz broccoli florets, washed
2 (14.5 oz) cans whole tomatoes, pulsed or diced in food processor with 2 cans of water
12 oz elbow macaroni
4 tbsp olive oil, divided (you can use extra virgin olive oil, butter, or any kind of oil you choose)
1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 tbsp each basil and oregano, divided
2 1/2 tsp salt, divided
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper, divided
Shredded Parmesan or mozzarella cheese
Instructions for Pasta and Broccoli:
First, put 2 tbsp olive oil in 4.5 quart saucepan, heat over medium heat, and add ground beef, breaking up with a non-stick cooking spoon.
Next, while the ground beef is cooking, add 1 tbsp minced fresh garlic, 1/2 tbsp basil and 1/2 tbsp oregano, 1 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper, and stir till combined. And then stir occasionally.
Then cook 12 oz of elbow macaroni according to directions. But don’t drain water completely, because you might need to add some of it to broccoli and beef mixture.
When ground beef is browned, drain fat and set aside. In the same saucepan, on medium heat, add last 2 tbsp of olive oil, broccoli florets, remaining basil, oregano, 1 tbsp garlic powder, remaining 1 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper, tomatoes, 2 cans of water, and stir till combined, cooking ~ 6-8 minutes.
And add the ground beef to the broccoli mixture and stir till well combined.
With a slotted spoon, add the elbow macaroni to the mixture, adding some pasta water if needed. And stir till all combined.
Finally, serve and top with your favorite Italian cheese. Enjoy!
Thanks for stopping by! If you made this recipe, please let me know in the comments.
The first time I tasted Italian sausage sandwiches with peppers and onions was at Grapevine Mills mall in Texas. It was at this really cool eatery. And it featured all my favorite flavors: garlic, tomato, and onions on a crispy roll. But it was many years until I decided to try my hand at making the recipe.
These sandwiches are great for when you have company like a tailgating party. And they contain delicious Italian sausage and sautéed vegetables. They are also really easy to make. So, please enjoy this recipe.
Ingredients for Italian Sausage Sandwiches with Peppers and Onions:
~1-1/2 lb of Mild or Sweet Italian Sausage links
6 Ciabatta Rolls
1 Bell Pepper, Seeded and Sliced
1 Onion, Peeled and Thinly Sliced
1/8 C Butter
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
You’re probably familiar with cooking sausage. Maybe you grill it or broil it. You possibly even cook it on the stove in some oil.
However, the way I’m going to cover it might seem a little strange. Although, this way is better for cooking the sausages completely through. And also browning them evenly.
Instructions for Cooking Italian Sausage Sandwiches with Peppers and Onions:
First, put Italian sausage links in a saucepan. And fill pan with cold water until the sausages are covered.
Next, put the saucepan on the stove on med to med-hi heat.
Then, in another saucepan, melt the butter on med heat. And add your vegetables, salt, and pepper. Next, cover, cooking on med to med-low until vegetables are tender.
When the water begins to simmer in the sausage saucepan, cook ~6‐8 mins.
The internal temperature of the sausages should be at least 165 degrees; so, if they’ve reached that, then remove the pan from the burner.
Finally, turn off the heat source.
Now the sausage links are fully cooked. But they appear to be washed out. Though they won’t be for long.
Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. And spray foil with non-stick cooking spray.
Next, place Italian sausage links on aluminum foil.
Then, turn the oven broiler on hi heat.
Finally, put the jelly roll pan under the broiler for 3-5 mins. Then flip sausages over to the other side. And broiler another 3-4 mins.
When the sausages are browned the way you like, take them out of the oven, and turn off the broiler.
We slice our Italian sausages in order for them to fit the Ciabatta rolls better. Though you can do it however you want. Then add your sautéed vegetables. And that’s it. A lot of times I’ll add sliced and seeded tomatoes as well. But you could also add Mozzarella cheese if you wanted.
Maybe you have some ducks and are thinking about getting more. You might be asking yourself whether it’s anything like introducing new chickens. Then this post will help you know how to introduce new ducks to an existing flock.
And the best part of familiarizing your new ducks with the established ones is that ducks, for the most part, are not as adamant in their pecking order as chickens are. It would even appear as if ducks didn’t have one. Unless you’re watching closely.
How to introduce new ducks to each other
So, how do you introduce new ducks? What’s the best way, with minimal stress on both the new ducks and established ducks?
First of all, the best time of year to introduce new ducks is in the fall. Their mating season, however, happens to be when most people want to introduce new ducks: spring and summer. That is also when hatcheries sell ducklings.
The reason mating season isn’t a great time to bring in new ducks and ducklings is because the drake, or male duck, tends to be more aggressive during this time. Female ducks can also get more assertive, but it isn’t to the same degree as males.
Wait to introduce new ducks until the ducklings are at least 7 weeks old. And as with chickens, don’t only introduce one at a time. Also, if you have a drake, I recommend waiting until the ducklings are bigger in order to protect themselves.
With that being said, not all drakes will be murderous. However, it does happen. Though, sometimes it just depends on the breed of duck you have. But, if you just have an all female duck population, or only introduce female ducks, this is the best situation.
Most people introduce new ducks on public ground, away from the coop. This is so territorial behavior won’t occur. Or at least will be less likely.
Watch for aggressive behavior. Or signs that your birds are getting stressed. Either are unmistakable. If you have a bird that’s being aggressive or one that’s getting stressed, don’t get discouraged. It might take a few ‘re-introductions’ until everyone is on the same page and ok with the new set-up. You definitely don’t want to rush things.
With our first set adult ducks and then ducklings, we had tried to re-introduce our ducks and ducklings several times. But then we waited for mating season to end, because Kirishima was so out of control. However he never stopped being that way. In the end, we chose the majority over the one.
Sharing a home
After you’ve successfully introduced the new ducks to your existing flock, it’s time to bring the newbies to their new home. You can do this one of two ways. Either let them join the established members in the coop, just as it is. Or you can make a partition in the coop, or run, where they’ll be separated for a few days. Just make sure it’s predator proof and resistant to the elements.
Ducks prefer sleeping outside, in the big wide open, next to a body of water. Even if no one is picking on them. After all, it is their natural habitat. However, if you take care of waterfowl, make sure they go into the coop at night. Because there are predators who will eat them as well as chickens.
A few nights in a row should be all it takes to get everyone used to each other. After that, let all your ducks out to free range together. But preferably when you’ll be available to watch their interactions. If after about 15 minutes, and all looks as it should, and everyone is doing good, then let them be.
Do you notice any feathers?
The only thing people seem to be concerned about is whether or not there is feather loss. Or feather pulling. And if so, they attribute it to bullying. Though, if you observe your ducks, you’ll know whether you have a bully.
I already mentioned that, during mating season, female ducks can be more ‘assertive’. They won’t let the newer ducks around the watering hole, or the wet ground, where everyone else wants to dig for bugs. But the main thing is, that female duck has her eyes set on the drake she prefers.
We have 2 established female ducks. And when we introduced our new ducks and adolescent ducklings to the group, Aizawa, the female Mallard, didn’t care one bit. She still doesn’t. But Bakugo was the one keeping the new ducks away from her water, her bugs, and I suppose, her drake. Aka, the rooster.
This year we have 3 new ducklings, and two of them favor Aizawa, the Mallard. But the third ones still seems to be developing; I wonder if it’s a drake. And so far there have been absolutely no issues. Squirt could care less about the ducklings, and therefore Bakugo could care less. So it made me wonder, are the ducks influenced by the drake’s reaction? Thus far I haven’t been able to discover anything on the subject. However it certainly is an interesting question.
A word about drakes
Drakes can be aggressive both to females and ducklings. So if you have any, as with chickens and roosters, you need to have a proper ratio of 3 or 4 ducks to every drake. Because, if you don’t, it will cause drakes to be even more violent.
Some will even attack and kill their own young. You might not have any issues once you’ve introduced the new ducks to your established flock. But if you do, and you have a drake who is murderous or infanticidal, you’ll have to make a decision of whether you’ll re-home him or let nature take its course.
Quarantine adult birds
If instead you have adult ducks to introduce to your established flock, the main thing you’ll want to add to this list is to quarantine the newcomers first. And that’s to make sure the new ducks are free from diseases and parasites. Quarantine can last anywhere from 7 days to a month. Though, the longer it is, the more time you’ll have to fully know what’s going on with the birds you’ll be introducing.
I hope this helps answer any questions you might have regarding introducing ducks to an existing flock.
When I was very young, I remember my mom made this banana pineapple cream cheese dessert. But I don’t recall exactly where she got the recipe, except it was through a friend of hers. I also know that I loved it. And then I started making it when I was old enough.
Furthermore, there are several ways to make this recipe, as well as different fillings. And it’s a deceptively rich dessert with all of the layers: bananas, pineapple cream cheese, and chocolate, topped with whipped cream. So, if you have a sweet tooth, this is a very satisfying dessert.
Ingredients for Banana Pineapple Cream Cheese Dessert:
1 box of Nilla wafers
1/2 stick of melted butter
8 oz package of cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), room temperature
1/4 c white sugar; 4 TBSP white sugar
1 can crushed pineapple (drained), reserving 1/3 of the can
~5.9 oz package (or family size) of instant chocolate pudding
2 c whipping cream
1/2 c chopped pecans or almonds
1 small jar maraschino cherries, drained
Instructions for crust:
First, crush Nilla wafers and combine with 1/2 stick melted butter
Then press wafer mixture firmly in bottom of 9X13 pan and chill in refrigerator for 10-15 mins
Instructions for banana layer:
Slice bananas and add to crust layer
Then refrigerate pan with crust and bananas while preparing fillings
Instructions for pineapple cream cheese layer:
First, mix cream cheese, remaining 1/2 c of butter, and remainder of sugar together with blender
Next, add drained, crushed pineapple, and blend in thoroughly
And then spread onto banana layer and refrigerate
Instructions for pudding layer:
Prepare instant chocolate pudding according to directions
Moreover, when it’s set-up, spread it onto pineapple layer and refrigerate
Instructions for final layer of banana pineapple dessert:
With mixer, beat whipping cream and 4 TBSP white sugar until stiff peaks form
Today I’m going to talk about hens adopting chicks. But not just about broody hens, though that will be brought up too. I’ll also discuss when there’s a broody hen that hatched chicks and another hen decides to co-parent with that hen.
Will Broody Hens Adopt Chicks that are Not Their Own
The first question we’re going to try to answer is Will broody hens adopt chicks that are not their own? Technically speaking, none of the eggs a setting hen is on are really her own eggs. Not long ago I covered the topic of broody hens. But when the eggs hatch, the broody hen then becomes the new generation’s mother, in effect.
However, some people have tried fooling a broody hen by placing chicks from elsewhere under her. And they’ve succeeded in getting the hen to adopt the chicks. I can also verify that it works.
2019 was our first year we had success with broody-hen chicks hatching. But only a couple of days later a chicken snake got one of the chicks. And it devastated Davis, our broody hen. She was scared, and her remaining chick was lonely without its sibling.
So we went to the feed store and found one that looked the most like the chick we lost. We weren’t sure what Davis would do. We reasoned that it would be a 50/50 shot either way. She would love it or hate it.
We brought it straight out to her, in daylight, prepared to rescue it at any moment if she rejected it. Davis sniffed the store bought chick and walked away. She knew it wasn’t her baby. But at least she didn’t kill it. Her remaining chick, on the other hand, immediately gravitated toward the bigger, store bought chick. They became inseparable. And over time Davis started treating the imposter chick like her own.
It is best to make sure your hen is broody before attempting to fool her. And it’s recommended to introduce a chick or chicks to the broody hen at night in the coop. Although, we didn’t and it still turned out ok. However, the hen we tried to fool is one of the sweetest hens we have. I doubt I would try this during the day on a hen that doesn’t have as nice a disposition. Read this for more information on introducing chicks to a broody hen, if you’re interested.
Will a Non Broody Hen Adopt Chicks?
So what about non-broody hens adopting chicks? Strictly speaking, no, they don’t. Though, some people believe that you can encourage a hen to go broody. But whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. My birds do not have problems going broody. In any case, the hen would no longer be non-broody if you made conditions favorable to broodiness. And the result was that she turned broody.
What do I even mean by the word co-parenting? Well, the dictionary basically describes co-parenting as the sharing of parental responsibility. This is actually in reference to human children. However, it can certainly apply to chickens as well. Because, when there’s a co-parenting hen, that is exactly what she does. She helps the hen, who did the work of incubating and hatching the eggs, raise and take care of the chicks.
But I bring up co-parenting in a blog about hens adopting chicks, since that is essentially what the co-parent is doing. The co-parenting hen adopts the chicks as her own. She did not labor for them, and yet she treats them as her own.
The first time I saw this behavior, it was in Soundwave, Megatron’s hatchery-mate. When she first came to us, she was the tiniest hen we had. Although, she was one of the meanest hens and took every opportunity she could to abuse the hen on the bottom of the pecking order. So, naturally I was surprised when this mean hen started displaying maternal instincts.
At first I thought, maybe she’s going to kill the chicks that Davis hatched. However, over the course of a few days, she’d cuddle with Davis and allow the chicks to sleep with her. And soon Soundwave was spending her days with Davis and the chicks, trying to teach the babies how to forage for food.
I’d never heard of chickens doing this before: Assisting broody hens raise chicks. My mother-in-law, who’s had chickens for at least twice as long as me, has never had a hen co-parent. She never heard of it either until I brought it up to her 2 years ago.
Since our first experience with co-parenting hens, we’ve witnessed it happen two more times. And one hen is a repeat co-parent. She helped raise a chick last year. And this year she assisted one of our Easter Eggers with a clutch of 3 chicks.
Plo, the hen who’s co-parented twice, actually starts out broody first, before she co-parents. And throughout her co-parenting, she acts broody, though she isn’t mean like the hen who did all of the work. But when Soundwave co-parented, she never acted broody at all. She was just slowly drawn toward the chicks and Davis, until she was helping Davis out.
There isn’t a lot of information out there about this phenomenon. But I think it’s amazing that these birds, which normally aren’t close like this, would raise chicks together.
If you have backyard birds, have you ever witnessed this behavior yourself? I would love to hear your stories!
Chickens can, and do, lose feathers from time to time. And most of the time it’s nothing to worry about. However, it’s always a good idea to inspect your flock to determine where the feather loss is coming from. Are all of the birds affected? Is it general feather loss? Or is it only in one spot on a few birds? We’ll cover all of these questions why chickens are losing feathers.
Chickens Losing Feathers Due to Molting
In another post I covered the topic of molting in detail. But I’ll go over some quick points. If your backyard flock is molting, it typically affects all of the birds. It also can affect any part of their bodies. Some chickens completely lose all of their feathers, while others might only lose the ones around their faces and tails.
Also, molting usually occurs in late fall and lasts about 3 months. There are some breeds that can molt in the spring as well. However, it isn’t as drastic as the fall molt. So, if your birds are losing feathers at some other time, chances are good that it isn’t molting causing the feather loss.
If your backyard birds are molting, the most important things you can do for them are
to feed them a higher protein feed with 20% protein.
don’t handle them much, because they are sensitive due to feather loss and new growth.
keep the stress low and don’t add new birds during this time.
and be sure to have plenty of clean, fresh water daily and proper air ventilation in the coop.
Feather Loss on a Chicken Because of a Broody Hen
Another common reason for feather loss is when you have a broody hen or hens. A broody hen is a hen that stops laying eggs, and instead stays on a nest of eggs all day, several days to weeks long until she hatches some chicks.
With a broody hen you will not see a lot of feathers all over your yard. Because it’s restricted only to that one hen. Or hens, if you have more than one broody hen. The feather loss will also be confined to the coop, since the broody hen won’t leave her eggs. And the feathers will usually be missing from the hen’s chest, where she plucked them out herself, to make a proper nest for her clutch.
If you have a broody hen, and don’t want to break the broodiness, the most important things you can do are to
separate her from the rest of the flock by putting a partition wall made of chicken wire in the nesting box she has chosen.
provide fresh, clean water and food daily.
and give her access to frequent bathroom breaks.
If you don’t want your hen to be broody, then you can break it by completely separating her from the flock. You don’t want her to be able to see them, or vice versa. And try to keep her in a room or area that is well lit.
Chickens Losing Feathers Because of Parasites, like Mites or Lice
Another cause of feather loss in chickens is from external parasites like mites or lice. Usually it presents on the bird’s back where they have been over-preening and plucking in order to get relief. There will be other symptoms if mites or lice is the cause of feather loss, like reduction in egg production. And the birds will also have pale combs and wattles.
If you suspect that external parasites are the culprit, you can check the bird’s vent area for scabs or signs of inflammation. Many people claim that you can’t see mites. However, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes you can see them on the feather shafts or on the undersides of where your birds roost at night.
Lice also can typically be seen on feather shafts. However, they also migrate toward the vent area as well. If you pull back your bird’s feathers from her vent, often lice will be seen, trying to hide.
If you have verified that you have a bird with lice or mites, then the most important things you can do are to
treat your whole flock immediately or as soon as possible with Ivermectin. (0.2 – 0.4 mg per kg topically at their shoulders where they can’t reach and once more in 2 weeks.)
you can also use petroleum jelly on your birds’ legs to smother leg mites and prevent eggs from hatching. However, this will need to be done a few times to make sure the parasites are all gone.
finally, you can prevent external parasites by keeping the coop and run clean and by providing your birds areas where they can dust bathe. We also add food grade diatomaceous earth to the coop and dust bathing spots.
Predator Attacks that are Causing Feather Loss
Sometimes predator attacks will leave no evidence of the crime. And others will leave behind feathers. At times that might be all you see. In one of my other posts I described how one of our Ameraucana hens was attacked by a hawk. More often the hawk doesn’t leave behind its prey. Although, in this particular case, the hawk dropped our hen.
Another time our neighbor’s dog got one of our broilers. We didn’t have feathers in our yard; they were scattered all over his. If you suspect an animal attack, first inspect your birds for missing feathers on their backs or tails. They will act scared and could be in their coop hiding, if there was a predator attack. Also, check for any injuries and open wounds.
Once you’ve determined that your bird was attacked by a predator, and it’s still alive, the most important things you can do are to
separate her from the rest of the flock in a safe and comfortable environment with fresh, clean water and food.
keep stress to a minimum, because she is scared or even possibly in shock.
clean the wound by flushing with warm sterile salt water or 0.05% chlorhexidine.
and, if your bird was bitten by a predator, call a veterinarian to get an antibiotic.
Feather Loss Due to Over-mating, or an Aggressive Rooster
The final cause of chickens losing feathers is due to aggressive, or over mating, by a rooster. Thus, you will not see feather loss in roosters if indeed mating is the cause. Because only the roosters get on the hens in order to mate.
Sometimes this type of feather loss can start out in a small patch near the tail feathers. However, if left untreated, the spot will only grow. It can get so bad that the rooster pulls the hen’s skin, and then the hen is in danger of infection.
Most of the time, when I’ve considered this type of feather loss in our flock, it has usually been the hens on the bottom of the pecking order. Not always, but most of the time. And then there are the times when the roosters will have a favorite hen. And consequently, she will get entirely too much notice.
You can determine if over breeding is the reason for the feather loss just by whether or not you have any roosters. And if you do, then observe your backyard flock. Or, more specifically, your rooster. Watch how he interacts with the hens. Does he have a favorite? Is he rough? Does it always seem like one hen is getting way more physical attention than the rest?
If you have a hen with feather loss on her back caused by over mating, the most important things you can do are to
examine your hen for broken skin. And, if there isn’t any, you can invest in saddles for your hens or make some yourself.
if your hen has broken skin, clean the area with warm sterile, salt water, and add either Battles Gentian Violet spray or Blu-Kote to the wound. Both treatments look similar when applied.
assuming the wound is large and in danger of infection, rather than using Blu-Kote or Battles Gentian Violet spray, you need something stronger. Povidone-iodine is an over the counter, broad spectrum anti-microbial that’s recommended in these cases. Which you can find at WalMart or on Amazon.
in case you have to treat your hen for a wound that requires an anti-microbial due to broken skin, you need to keep the rooster away from that hen. You can accomplish this by keeping her in a separate spot, not entirely isolated from the flock. But possibly where you keep your broody hens. This way she can heal without continually getting re-injured.
monitor her progress and call a vet if she doesn’t show signs of improvement.
to prevent feather loss on your chicken’s back due to over-mating, make sure you have the proper hen to rooster ratio. Most people agree that no less than 10 hens per rooster should be the absolute minimum.
and, safely trim or file your rooster’s claws.
Sometimes you will have the proper ratio of hens to roosters, and still one of your hens might get feather loss on her back. We currently have 27 hens with 2 adult roosters. And 7 juvenile chickens with 3 juvenile roos, which are not mating yet, thankfully.
Our second rooster has now chosen a couple of senior Ameraucana hens and a couple of Easter Eggers as his favorites. And the EEs backs are torn up. Thus, we’ve locked him in chicken jail so the girls’ backs can heal.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Please feel free to comment or ask questions!
If you read my blog, you know I live in Oklahoma. And because I don’t live in a city, we are on one acre in a neighborhood of 1-5 acre lots. So we do get wild animals. Though, maybe not the ones you might tend to think of when you hear or read the word ‘wild’. This post of Cute Animals is actually going to be about cool wild animal pictures.
Also, for today’s post, I’m only going to focus on one animal. Which means that the pictures I’m posting are all of the same bird, a juvenile Mississippi Kite.
The Kite had its home in one of the trees on our property. But we found it one day outside, under our Silver Leaf Maple tree.
We thought that was strange, that it was just standing under the tree. So we went to check it out.
And, as we approached, the Kite got alarmed. Because, being a wild animal, it wasn’t used to being around humans.
Therefore, after getting gloves on and a towel, my husband was able to pick it up. Yet, the Kite was still scared, and started screaming.
Though we couldn’t see any outward injuries after inspecting the bird. So we surmised that, perhaps it fell out of its nest, because it was too young to fly.
It was understandably scared, however, within a couple of weeks, it either got attacked by a cat, a dog, or its parents tried helping it. And it ended up getting a serious wing injury which further prevented it from flying.
My husband nursed it back to health, both by catching and buying insects for it. Thus, we learned a lot about Mississippi Kites from this juvenile wild bird.
My husband eventually taught it how to fly. Or helped it learn. But its parents were never far away. We even got video footage of one of the parents bringing food to its offspring.
It finally left when all of the other Mississippi Kites left, migrating to South America for the Winter last year.
Have you ever had an encounter where you’ve helped a wild animal? Hopefully not one where a wild animal was trying to hurt one of your pets or livestock. Your comments are appreciated.
What is typical pecking order behavior in chickens? And how do you know if your birds have a successful social order? If you have a backyard flock or are even fairly new to this, then you most likely have seen this behavior. Where the birds will chest bump each other, flap their wings, puff themselves up in order to look bigger, and often times pull feathers out as they peck one or several birds.
If you’ve observed this in your birds, where they seemingly pick on each other for no cause, they aren’t necessarily being mean. Because they aren’t like us. They don’t understand between good and evil, right and wrong. But the chances are high that they are displaying what is called the pecking order.
SO WHAT IS THE PECKING ORDER IN CHICKENS?
The earliest use of pecking order referred to chickens displaying their supremacy over each other. It includes pecking and was used in the 1920s by a Norwegian zoologist to describe their behavior.
Pecking is just one aspect of it. However, it does certainly capture the essence of the phrase. Because, the birds in charge, or ahead in the hierarchy, will peck the ones lower down the totem pole to keep everyone in line.
The behavior isn’t just limited to pecking though. Or to adults. If you have an established flock, you might not see a lot of aggression. At least not any more. Because they’ve settled their class structure for the time being. But if you add new members, or get chicks, then you tend to see more activity that we would consider ‘mean‘ but are perfectly acceptable to chickens.
As I mentioned earlier, they can puff themselves out and chest thump each other. Typically this occurs with birds of similar rank and size. An adolescent rooster, who just got introduced to the flock, won’t necessarily challenge the established rooster for dominance of the flock. He doesn’t even have his spurs yet. No, he will wait submissively until he’s bigger and thinks he has a chance against the bigger roo.
The same goes for hens. The more accepted, older hens will put the younger, newer ones in their places quickly. And those hens will, likewise, work out the hierarchy between themselves. Depending upon the breeds you have can determine if they will ascend to top dog position; some birds aspire to rule, it seems, while nobody wants to be on the bottom.
WHY IS THE CHICKEN PECKING ORDER IMPORTANT?
The purpose of the pecking order for chickens is simply to keep order. If they didn’t have a class system, it would be chaotic in the backyard. So, if you only have one chicken, you aren’t going to have a pecking order. Or see much pecking order activity. Although, once you get more birds, they will quickly establish their social order. And normally it’s the most socially dominant hen in charge, unless you have a rooster.
If there is just one rooster, he’s in charge. And then the most socially dominant hens, working out their own class system between themselves. Though, if you have two roosters, it’s usually the most aggressive one who’s boss, unless one of them is young. And then the young rooster is somewhere in the mix; he can be just below the boss rooster or even under the oldest hens. We still only have two roosters, and they are still the ones in charge. But, after them, it’s the most dominant hen or hens.
When Cass, our first real rooster, died, and Megatron became the boss, he was very eager to do his duty. Although, our two boss hens, Fives and Echo, had a thing or two they wanted to teach him before they would allow him to take over.
They were never mean to him before; they never had a reason to prior to this. However, when he assumed a new position, and a very important one at that, I can well imagine that the two sisters had some very momentous things they wanted Megatron to understand. He was maybe only a year old, and they were old hands at this, raising chicks and wayward roosters. They were better suited to protect the flock than the last rooster, and they knew it. So they weren’t about to let some upstart waltz in their flock, acting like he knew what he was doing, when he didn’t.
It was actually quite interesting to watch how they interacted with him. I’m not kidding you, those two old hens tackled my 1 year old rooster. And at first, he fought back, but then, I think he began to understand that he was not the boss . . . yet. It was a demonstration in front of the whole flock. After a while their abuse ceased. And over the next few days the girls eased up on him, possibly giving him instructions on how to take care of his harem, before they too submitted themselves to him.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE CHICKEN PECKING ORDER?
I’ve already mentioned that there will be pecking in a backyard flock. And for an established flock, it’s limited to mostly pecking. In a new or young flock, or one where new members are being added, you will see more serious attacks between members. Although, that isn’t all that it’s about. The pecking order determines when the birds eat, drink, lay eggs, dust bathe, and where they sleep. And in the case of roosters, when they can crow and mate. So the birds at the top of the hierarchy get first and best dibs, while those on the bottom get the leftovers.
If a chicken steps out of line, metaphorically, and eats before they’re supposed to, or is laying an egg when the boss hen wants to, then the boss hen, (or the hen who’s in a better position on the social ladder), will peck the hen who usurped her place and the hen with the lower social standing will get in trouble. I have seen hens drag other hens away from the feed dish or nesting box. They are that serious about their pecking order. And the hen who got pecked usually doesn’t retaliate even if she’s ten times bigger and could crush the other bird.
Currently we only have our rooster as the boss. And since Echo and Fives died, no other hens have risen to the challenge to take their places in guiding the flock. I shouldn’t be surprised, since most of our birds are docile. They’re content with their positions, so long as they’re not on the bottom. You can read about them here.
You know your backyard flock has a successful social order when the boss maintains the peace. Usually that position is reserved mostly for roosters, however a good hen can do this as well. Sometimes a hen or a rooster will step out of line and disturb the homeostasis for only a moment. In which case, the boss will soon take care of it.
If there are 2 roosters, and the younger one upsets that balance, he might end up challenging the boss rooster. That’s what happened in the picture below. Since Megatron still has his spurs and was much bigger, Baby Nay lost the fight. Normally Baby Nay would run from confrontations with his dad. But not that day. For whatever reason, he decided it was time to take the risk.
HOW TO TELL IF IT’S NORMAL PECKING ORDER BEHAVIOR INSTEAD BULLYING
How can you know if your birds are displaying normal social order activity? I mean, it sort of looks like they’re all bullies, right? I admit, for a long time it bothered me how my backyard flock treated each other. But especially how the adults would treat the younger birds.
When we have adolescent chickens, and Megatron gets around them, he makes a special point of pecking them. And it appears really hard. But that might be due to his larger beak.
It wasn’t until quite recently that I realized he’s most likely using his authority as the boss to teach and keep the youngsters in line. And not really being mean and wanting to eat his kids.
When you introduce new members to your existing flock, it will inevitably look like abuse. But especially if you do it too fast, only introduce one new member, or one of the chickens gets an injury or has an abnormality. Make no mistake, the chickens will abuse that bird. And it won’t be just one mean hen. In general, even your sweetest hens will join in the abuse. And you will have absolutely no doubts.
WHAT TO DO IF A BIRD GETS TOO BULLIED
It does happen with the backyard flock; you will inevitably get a chicken who will be the bully. Or you will get a hen who will be the one who gets bullied. We have had both kinds of birds, and both can be frustrating. I want all of our birds to get along. However, that’s not how they are built. They are built to eat, drink, sleep, have chicks, and survive. If there’s a member of the flock who is weaker, they automatically pick on that one. Maybe they’re trying to beat the weakness out of that particular member, but I don’t really think so.
They certainly don’t have human emotions; our complex emotions like feeling sorry or sorrow for something that is weaker, hurt, or sick. They want it far from them. It could be instinctual, because they’re preventing the spread of disease. The time we had Kix, the Wyandotte mixed hen we incubated, (who had a leg that didn’t develop completely), the flock abused her. Though, she learned to hide from the rest of the birds. And eventually the abuse stopped, perhaps because they figured she knew her place.
The times when we’ve had a relentlessly abusive hen, we’ve separated her from the flock. Because the birds like to stay together. And they have their social order established, so if you separate them, totally away from each other, even for a day, sometimes they have to start all over. Which means the offending bird will stop behaving badly, at least for a time.
Another option, which we’ve tried, is Pinless Peepers or Blinders, by attaching them to the hen’s nostrils. They make it difficult for the disagreeable hen to see very much, so that she can’t abuse anymore. Pinless Peepers are also a good preventative for egg-eating and cannibalism. The hens don’t like them obviously, and they can be difficult to put on. Although, once they’re on, they help a ton.
For more information on the chicken pecking order, click here.