Posted by ESC on December 15, 2000
In Reply to: Phrase posted by Q on December 15, 2000
: What does "Pecking Order" mean? Someone said it refers to the concept of "chain of command" and couldn't offer more than that.
PECKING ORDER - Pecking order refers to how chickens establish dominance. Chickens can be quite vicious. If a chicken has a small wound with a spot of blood, it must be removed from the flock. Otherwise, it is in grave danger of being pecked to death by the others.
From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997): "The famous study made by biologists W.C. Allee in the 1920s establishes that the pecking order among hens has a definite prestige pattern, hens, like many humans, freely peck at other hens below their rank and submit to pecking from those above them. Hens rarely peck at roosters in the barnyard, where the rooster is the cock of the walk, but it was widely believed in the 17th century that they often pulled feathers from roosters below them in the pecking order."