Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Who rules the roost?

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 . . .


  1. Oh my! Heavenly chicken noises, I love them to bits and wish I could have my own. You are a lucky girl!

  2. I loved the sound effects too! how soothing!

  3. That was lovely, I'd love my own chickens, they're gorgeous creatures. I found your blog through cottage smallholder, I'll check in again. xx

  4. Now it's posts like this that make me wish my speakers worked!
    I have a chookie post, too, and have just given readers a link to this one.
    Your under gardeners are lovely.

  5. I loved your video clip of your chickens - such a comforting noise they make. I've wanted chickens for a long time and this may have finally convinced me!

  6. Celia, what a thoroughly interesting post. Well, you knew it would be since I enjoy hens so much!


  7. What beautiful chooks, and I loved hearing them on the vid. I was led here by dinahmow, so pleased to find two chooklovers on the one day.

  8. Your under-gardeners have the best names. It was fun watching the video of them - please post more of them!!

    I am still chuckling at your comparison of London underground riders and commercial hens. That was a good one!

  9. Your chickens are gorgeous. Love the video.

    I always feel sorry for the hen at the bottom of the pecking order.

  10. Interesting what you say about the tallest hen with the biggest comb - my hen Yoko is a VERY tall bird with a massive comb. It almost looks like a crown! And yes, she is well and truly the big boss.

    I remember when we first got them and they were sorting out their pecking order. Being an ex-batt, Pattie didn't realise that she could get away from the pecking, but I was there when she realised she could get away from it - what a revelation! They all get on very well, with the pecking order only becoming apparent once in a while, usually when there's a tasty morsel in sight. I remember Number 2 Commander pecked Yoko by accident, and I swear she looked a bit horrified when she realised what she'd done. Yoko was VERY non-plussed.

    They tend to pair off too, with Maureen and Pattie in particular being best buds. Love the hen noises too, it's so soothing isn't it.

  11. This is very funny.
    I want to know if you are giving Phoebe the right emotional support that she deserves!

  12. So funny that pecking order and also so true :) I've noticed same kind order of female horses. Every year mares will select the boss - usually the biggest horse wins just by her size.

    Stallions has different kind of rules.. well, but they are boys so.. :D

    Happy Easter to you and your animal friends :)

  13. Hi, and thank you for all your comments, I enjoy reading them!

    Toffeapple and Matron - the girls are very talkative, especially Sylvie.

    Hello Pixiedust - welcome to my blog!

    Dinahmow - I've enjoyed your bluffers guide to hen-keeping post. Thank you for linking.

    Gina - hens can be addictive - but they are great for de-stressing!

    Diane - there's something very calming about happy hens!

    Carol - thank you for visiting, I've had a quick peek at you interesting blog.

    Kate - I love filming the hens - so there will be more movies!

    CS - the pecking order can be ruthless - Phoebe has has one or too viscious pecks, but she has got more confident and knows now how to avoid trouble.

    Hi Lucy - aren't they interesting to observe. I notice our girls go about in pairs too.

    GBVC - I make sure Phoebe gets lots of attention (when Ruby isn't looking!)

    Quu - it must be interesting to watch groups of horses. Hens behave very differently if there is a cockerel in the group!


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