“Pecking orders” have transcended the barnyard. A well-run metaphor, though not a dead metaphor, exactly, but verging on cliché to the point of let’s call it a palliative metaphor, pecking orders name the hierarchy performed within a flock. Hen one, hen two, hen three, etc.; they behave as though they know who is first, who is not. Something appearing pecking-order-like plays out when the coop door opens in the morning and down the ladder they hop. Similar patterns show up with eating, whether crumble or pellets or treats.
But pecking orders also change (indicating they might be communicable, even rhetorical, though that’s not today’s trajectory). They are more contingent than I think they tend to be credited with, especially when pecking orders are invoked as shorthand explanation for human hierarchic structures, like those one might find in a workplace. I’m relatively new to shepherding chickens, but at least for this Wonder Hollow mixed flock, pecking order is never as strict as a higher ed org chart because the flock is holarchic.
Holons, from the Greek for “whole,” hearken to synecdoche and also to network studies, for they are simultaneously part and whole, these structural-organizational alternatives to isolable, part-parsed groupings. The holarchy has no top and no bottom. Connections are varyingly lateral. With this, rank may be a temporary function of sequencing, but the sequencing is not reinforced by strict, enduring power skews. Rank gives, reshuffles, holding on to repeatable patterns while bending to mood, moment, and context. Holarchy is, in this example, observably friendly. Today Tiny Honey eats first, Lightfoot second. Tomorrow, Bitumen is first, Big Sweetie is next. Etcetera.
The flock as super-organism is more important. This, I suppose, is a lot like faculty shared governance. Cup an ear to all voices. Let mutualism guide. What is best is not dictated executively by a top bird who has not (whether not ever, or not yet) listened. Granted, I am fusing frames and playing a bit; chickens are not administrators, nor faculty. But the point is that the phrase “pecking orders” does not bear fidelity when lifted from the gallusphere and plunked into non-avian organizational structures, except when those organizational structures are guided by mutualism and cooperation of a larger magnitude. “Pecking order” strains against hierarchy because the flock’s well-being is paramount.