"Right away, I figured out that "pecking order" isn't just a figure of speech: they adhered to a strict social system, with each hen taking her turn at the feeder, and corrective nips doled out to any chicken that stepped out of line." Susan Orlean, "The It Bird," The New Yorker, September 28, 2009.
These feathered friends belong to the lavender farm where Jacqueline works. Aren't they beauties? That pom-pom hat! They are truly free range and can be found all over the property, cavorting with small children, assorted felines and odd dogs. They have quite the personalities and like to lay their eggs secretly in bushes and under trees where you are sure not to find them.
In Estonia we lived (as in, inside with us...) with a flock of fourteen baby chicks that turned into ten. Chick mortality, and chicken mortality as a whole, is apparently quite high. What was strange was that the babies knew when one was going to die, and would help the process along. After several small chicken deaths, I decided to give special attention to the next chick who was doing poorly. I held it in my hands, warming its feathers. I put it in a special box under its own heat lamp. I tried to hand feed it. But the little creature resisted, and squeaked to rejoin its mates, so after a period of quarantine I relented - nature is nature, after all. As soon as it was back with the flock it began to burrow itself under the others, literally throwing itself at the feet of the other chicks in a ritualistic death throw. The flock in turn began stepping on the tiny chick, assuring its timely demise.
Talk about pecking order.