A year ago we collected our new hens from Hens4Homes, we selected four lovely 'point-of-lay' birds with slightly different feather colouring and drove home with them in a cardboard box on the back seat of the car. Since then they have supplied us (and family, friends and neighbours) with the most delicious eggs – in return they collect donations for EACH.
Kirsty at Hens4Homes correctly predicted that the darker of the Maran Cuivre birds would be 'head girl' because she was tallest and would have the largest comb. This would make her most resemble a cockerel and in the absence of a man to take charge, one of the hens would take on this role. Hens in large commercial flocks don't form heirachial groups –- they keep their heads down, avoid eye-contact with others and get on with what they have to do (a bit like commuters on the London Underground). But hens are still jungle fowl at heart, so when they are in a small group and allowed to behave naturally they instinctively sort out the 'pecking order' – and that's exactly what it is . . .
It's a bit like that classic comedy gem The Class Sketch from The Frost Report. But as long as they stick to the rules no-one gets hurt and a token peck is all that's needed for Ruby to remind the others that she is in charge. I'll let the under-gardeners demonstrate . . .