Pecking Order

Harmony Is Hard To Find, Even In The Chicken Coop

The term, ‘Pecking Order,’ comes from studying a pattern of social organization within a poultry flock in 1921. It became accepted as an accurate observation of chickens by those raising them.

Every member of the flock is on a hierarchy ladder. There is a line of dominance with one bird at the top, a rooster, or a hen if the flock is without a rooster. Next are the dominant birds of the flock, the older, stronger birds.

Chickens peck each other to maintain social standing within a flock. Each bird pecks another lower in the scale without fear of retaliation and submits to the pecking by one of higher rank.

The pecking order starts when chicks are around six weeks of age. Chicks will begin rushing at each other, bumping chests and flaring feathers. At this early age, chicks are into intimidating their mates. By the time they leave the brooder, they will have established a pecking order among themselves.

Often, the pecking order works, and there is harmony within the flock. There is a danger, however, if any birds are added to an existing flock. The older birds will be very suspicious of new members and can become very violent toward them.

The pecking order can have a dark and deadly side because as chickens peck and intimidate each other; things can get out of hand. The farmer needs to make sure the birds do not get a taste of blood. If the pecking leads to an open wound, the wounded bird may become attacked by the other hens as they become cannibalistic. The taste of blood can result in many needless deaths.

Harmony and peace are fragile in the hen house and in our lives. The desire and need to be the person in charge can lead to absolute havoc. People want a line of dominance. Knowing who is in control and who holds power is desirable. We find a pecking order in families, schools, businesses, sports teams, churches, all levels of government, etc. It can mean harmony and much needless strife.

In the Bible, we are told in Mark 10:30-45 that two disciples, James and John, wanted to be next to Jesus in his authority as the leader in Jerusalem. They thought Jesus would become a king in Jerusalem, not crucified there. So, they wanted to be one on his right and one on his left when he came into power there. Jesus said that his Father, not himself, assigned the places on his right and left.

Jesus called his disciples together and taught them about seeking to be at the top, ruling over others. Jesus said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

“The Chief characteristic of Christian leaders is humility, not authority, and gentleness, not power.” John Stott from the Gospel and the End of Time

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