Rooster Pecking Order Explained

If you own a flock of chickens, you may have noticed some roosters fighting. Sometimes, hens may even join in on a fight. Some chickens have left only the scraps after feeding time, having to peck around for leftovers. All of this is because of the pecking order. What is the rooster pecking order?

The pecking order is a natural process that chickens have, and they work it out amongst themselves. This order is known as a social dynamic. It determines the status of every chicken in the flock and influences many chicken activities. Roosters also have a pecking order.

Roosters have a very particular way of asserting their dominance in their pecking order, and if you have chickens, you may find it very interesting to know all about it. Continue reading with us as we explain the rooster pecking order!

Do Roosters Have A Pecking Order?

The pecking order significantly influences most chicken activities, such as drinking, feeding, egg-laying, crowing, roosting, mating, and even when it comes to dust bathing.

The stronger roosters of a flock are ranked at the top of the pecking order, while the physically weaker or submissive chickens are ranked lower. Alpha roosters are usually at the top of the pecking order, and they are the healthiest of the flock.

They will often take on their job as the head of their flock. Roosters, who are the flock leader, have to look out for the rest of the chickens, including hens.

They will watch out for predators, find treats for the chickens, mate with whoever they want, and chase other roosters away from the hens.

When it comes to the roosters and cockerels, which are lower in the pecking order, they won’t typically mate or crow with hens when the higher-ranked rooster is close by.

The higher-ranking roosters also get to eat more, while the lower-ranked ones will either move out of the way or wait until they have had their food.

Roosters with higher status have the choice of where they will roost, leaving the other roosters and hens to take whatever they can get.

How Do Roosters Establish Dominance?

A rooster has to establish his dominance and prove he is in control to keep his flock. A rooster’s primary role is to protect, mate, and provide for his flock.

To do this, a rooster has to be able to effectively communicate with the other roosters, as well as hens and chicks. He also has to fend off any predators and threats to his flock.

While a rooster crowing in the distance during the mornings might sound nothing but a noisy alarm to us humans, the rooster is busy delivering the vital information to his flock.

When another fowl, animal, or even person tries to enter this rooster’s territory, he will crow in an attempt to show that he is the highest-ranking, in other words, dominant bird.

What Influences The Rooster Pecking Order?

Some things could disturb and change the pecking order completely. This is when you might notice some chickens fighting with one another.

It is usually nothing to worry about, but if the following may have taken place, you can be sure there is an abruption in your chickens’ pecking order:

Personality And Breed Affect The Pecking Order

The biggest influencer would be a chicken’s personality. Assertive breeds, known as Rhode Island Reds, might be higher up in the pecking order than a Polish or Silkie chicken.

Silkies and other calm-natured breeds will almost always be at the bottom of the pecking order when placed with other breeds.

Even the larger chickens, such as Brahmas, could be subordinate to a more assertive yet smaller breed.

Some breeds are so assertive that they can’t be kept together in a smaller area with other breeds. Malays and Asils come to mind when we think of such small but mighty breeds.

Health Affect The Pecking Order

Weak or sick chickens will always be pushed to the bottom of the pecking order. You, as their keeper, might not even realize the earliest signs of a sick chicken, but its flock mates will know immediately.

Chickens tend to try to hide any weakness or illness from you, as well as their flock members, in order to be able to remain with them and the safety they provide.

In the wild, sick or disabled birds will be shunned from the flock and possibly be killed, as they represent a threat to their entire flock.

A sick chicken becomes the responsibility of the rest of its flock members, and chickens do not tolerate this.

Roosters And Hens Affect The Pecking Order

In the world of chickens, the rooster will always rule. This rooster is dominant, and all the other chickens become submissive to him.

However, this does not mean that the most dominant rooster will always get what he wants. If a hen does not wish to submit to him, she will not, and she won’t ever have to mate with him.

A rooster will significantly influence the pecking order because he is the one that keeps the peace within the group.

It is his job to settle any fights and quarrels between other chickens.

If a rooster is absent in a flock, there will be a hen who rules her flock.

New Chickens Will Affect The Pecking Order

If you introduce new chickens to an existing flock, it can soon turn into a mess. All the new hens will be regarded as threats by the existing flock, regardless of how young or old they may be.

They are seen as competition for resources, and chickens may get aggressive. This is why you have to introduce any new chickens slowly.

Once the new chickens have been accepted into their new flock, the more assertive ones will try to climb up their social ladder as quickly as possible. They will likely get pecked at.

Death In The Flock Will Affect The Pecking Order

When a flock member dies, it could cause a complete reset in the pecking order. If the rooster were high up in the pecking order, there would be adjustments.

Usually, this only lasts for a few days. However, if the rooster were at the bottom of the order, it would not cause as much disruption in the flock.


The rooster pecking order may seem complex at first, but once you know their primary rules, you will very soon become accustomed to it, and you may even be as lucky to see it happen in your flock.

Chickens are truly more complicated than we may think, and they are not as clueless as they look!