Flock leader?

NHMountainMan

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I'm curious about how to identify flock leader behavior. I started letting my 16 week old pullets out of their run over the weekend. They are still confined to an approx. 200'x200' electric net area. The ladies really seemed to enjoy the access to new territory!

This was my first time observing "flock dynamics." I was looking to see if any one seemed more bold or adventurous or who was more cautious and guarded. As I'm probably over concerned with predator loss (I know its likely to happen), I noticed that they didn't seem at all concerned. They spread to all corners of the area. None seemed to be watching the skies for threats. Their heads were down and they seemed very relaxed.

I've read that a flock leader will emerge that will seem to be more cautious. Are they too young for that behavior to begin? Is it a learned behavior that will come after we've suffered a predator loss?
As we are planning to cull some of the flock in the coming weeks - I want to make sure the leader doesn't end up in the freezer, as I'm planning on letting them free range.

Thx as always.
 

Mrs. K

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Nov 12, 2009
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I have too read that, but never had it really show up in my flock. A rooster, a good rooster, will do so. A lot of people swear that a rooster is just a speed bump, but my biggest problem with free ranging is daytime predation, and when I have a year old rooster, a good one with my girls, that predation nearly drops to zero.

If you decide to pick a rooster for this purpose, contact local chicken people. What you want is a rooster that has been raised in a multi-generational flock, with a rooster and older hens. One that is close to a year in age and is so nice, they could not quite cull him.

A rooster will change the dynamics of your flock, the girls will look to him, not you for treats. When you approach the coop, he should be the first to see you.

But I have had chickens with and without rooster for more than a dozen years, and I have never had a leader as a hen.

Mrs K
 

chrissynemetz

Psalm 91 ❤
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Dec 19, 2013
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I have to agree with @Mrs. K Every flock leader I've ever had has been a rooster. I've had some very good hens, but none that I would really call a leader.
I've always had an adult rooster in my flock, so maybe that's why my hens never stepped up. :idunno
 

NHMountainMan

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I have too read that, but never had it really show up in my flock. A rooster, a good rooster, will do so. A lot of people swear that a rooster is just a speed bump, but my biggest problem with free ranging is daytime predation, and when I have a year old rooster, a good one with my girls, that predation nearly drops to zero.

If you decide to pick a rooster for this purpose, contact local chicken people. What you want is a rooster that has been raised in a multi-generational flock, with a rooster and older hens. One that is close to a year in age and is so nice, they could not quite cull him.

A rooster will change the dynamics of your flock, the girls will look to him, not you for treats. When you approach the coop, he should be the first to see you.

But I have had chickens with and without rooster for more than a dozen years, and I have never had a leader as a hen.

Mrs K
Thank you Mrs K. As you mention, there are many who say that a hen may assume the role of leader, which is why I asked. My Bro-in-law, a life long farmer with lots of chicken experience, agrees with you - only a Roo. There seem to be a lot of conflicting opinions on the forums. I'm the type to ask tons of questions than make my own decision and live with the results.
He gave me 5 chicks that are now 6 weeks old. The are in a small pen inside the run. I think 3 are cockerels. I'm planning to integrate them in about 2 weeks, after I send 8 of my flock to the freezer. I'll go from a dozen to 4 pullets, then allow the 5 new ones lose. Then I plan on watching the cockerels to see how they mature, and cull them all in a few months, unless one looks promising. So you think that plan can work?
 

NHMountainMan

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Usually, she's the first one out of the coop in the morning, and the last one in at night. The first to peck somebody else to get out of their way when food is involved. Usually the first to start the alarm call when they spot something suspicious.[/Q
Thank you. Any thoughts about how I'm planning to integrate a cockerel after culling 2/3 of my existing flock?
 

NHMountainMan

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Feb 25, 2019
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Curious.....Why would you put POL pullets into the freezer?

Not sure what POL means. As for reducing the flock - I need the protein. Following cancer treatments, and now I'm in remission, I cannot process iron in my diet so I need a very low iron diet. That means no beef, and I usually will have a freezer full of venison, occasional moose. So - low iron means no more hunting other than duck and wild turkey.

Raising chickens is really based on my desire to eat "cleaner" food that I can control. So I bought dual purpose chicks. I opted not to go with meat birds as I didn't even want to go with an unnatural cross. Though I may do crosses next year.

Aart- you've taught me so much. What is POL and why did you ask? What mistake am I making?

Thx as always.
 

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