Animal Behavior

Behavioral Ecology

What is meant by the phrase “pecking order”?

Pecking order refers to the dominance hierarchy (or the relative ranking) of animals within the same species. For example, flocks of chickens actually do have a pecking order, which is where this term originated. The chickens establish their pecking order by using their beaks, and in most cases, a group of chickens quickly reach an agreement, and thus each hen will know her status within the group. In the case of chickens, “status” determines who gets the best food and treats, and who gets to sleep in the prime spot on the roosts. The phrase has also been adapted in human figures of speech—for example, in business, it often refers to one’s position within the company.


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