Is ranging distance directly proportional to flock size?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by kie4, Nov 18, 2016.

  1. kie4

    kie4 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 21, 2016
    Malvern, PA
    My Coop

    My flock all sticks together when ranging, we don't have a rooster. Often one hen will get left behind because they're particularly interested in a piece of ground, then will run to catch up. Other times a hen will wonder off, and then come back to the group. They always stay together though.

    When I introduce more hens I understand they will be 2 separate flocks until they are all laying, but once they become one big flock, will the increase in mass of the flock reduce the ranging distance? I'm imagining the flock will become more inert as it grows in size due to the group mentality.

    On the other hand, is there an alpha female who goes wherever she pleases and everyone follows?

    If the latter is the case, then if a limited ranger such as a Wyandotte took #1 in the pecking order, would the whole flock range less?
  2. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Flock Master Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    Hard to say what they're going to do. As Riderunner says, they are living animals so there is no guarantee.
  3. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Ranging distance has more to do with the amount of available forage. The more birds you have, the more forage is needed to sustain the flock, and therefore the further they will range.
    1 person likes this.
  4. kie4

    kie4 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 21, 2016
    Malvern, PA
    My Coop
    good point @junebuggena, for my flock, I'm thinking about a flock changing from 4 hens to 7. They have inexhaustible forage places from the coop outwards.
  5. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    I've been observing chicken behavior for going on ten years, and I haven't seen any difference in range distance between very small flocks and large ones.

    I began my flock with two adopted adult hens and three five-week old chicks. Those chicks would disappear and I would find them hundreds of yards away up the hill in the woods behind my house.

    Now I have twenty-four chickens. Some hardly ever leave the run. Others love the compost piles. A few individuals will wander far away, independent from the flock, doing whatever intrigues them. I had one hen a year ago that wandered up the hill to hang out with the wild turkeys most of the day. When the turkeys moved on, she was content to remain far from the run until I tracked her down and carried her home.

    Chickens are flock animals, but they are individuals, too. You really can't predict what they'll do.
  6. rebrascora

    rebrascora Chicken Obsessed

    Feb 14, 2014
    Consett Co.Durham. UK
    Yes, my main, egg laying, free ranging flock all do their own thing. I do have quite a large mixed flock with multiple roosters though. Some hens are quite adventurous and will happily head off on their own, some prefer to be escorted by a rooster and some don't wander far from the hen house. My other flock that free ranges, a group of 10 bantam siblings, all stick together because that is what they have always done.
    You may find that your new additions, when you get them, always remain a sub flock and never become a united unit foraging together. It is an interesting idea to have a heavier breed as lead hen to restrict them foraging too far, but I think it would be difficult to engineer.


  7. Folly's place

    Folly's place True BYC Addict

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Social dynamics, food availability, available cover, and breed type, all are involved in 'who goes where'. It's interesting to watch patterns develop in your flock! Mary
  8. Adalida

    Adalida Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 21, 2015
    My current flock free ranges farther than my original flock did, but I'm not sure if that's because of their increased numbers or because of other factors. The old girls didn't used to go into the horse pasture, because we had a horse that ran at them and chased them off. That horse is gone now, and the new girls have only known my current horses, who are far too lazy to chase them off. So now they all regularly forage in there, which hugely expands their territory, but if the new girls hadn't started to go there, I'm not sure the old ones ever would have. I think my new girls, mainly the Rhode Island Reds, are more adventurous personalities and more independent and willing to venture into new areas. Then the others follow their lead.

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