lack of social structure in a large flock

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by centrarchid, Mar 14, 2011.

  1. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Last Saturday I had the opportunity to converse with lady that raises chickens free range (no confinement). We chatted for a couple hours enabling observations of behavior. Population of birds estimated at about 100 individuals with about 75% being hens. Multiple breeds in mix and with exception of games, all started as chicks less than a year ago. Area ranged appears to be approximately 10 acres with multiple building being focus of range. According to lady, the birds roost all over place in multiple buildings. The range also supports sheep, some cattle and a some confined hogs. The area appears overgrazed. The birds did periodically venture away from buildings but would return whenever a hawk flew over which was multiple times during my visit. Most birds appeared to be in poor feather.


    Interesting take point is how her birds behaved in comparison to mine. Her birds moved about more or less as individuals spread almost uniformly about range. Hens did not appear to associate with specific roosters with exception of a couple hens hanging with a gamecock. My birds move about in tight flocks, each centered on a rooster. My roosters not part of such flocks move about alone usually some distance from small groups as roosters in charge of groups drive them off.

    I think my birds have more predator worries but also food may be less limiting.
     
  2. tazcat70

    tazcat70 I must be crazy!

    I am not sure what you are trying to say.

    Up until recently I had about 40 chickens all running together. Of that there were about 6 roos. All of the roos that were running with the flock are young, less than a year old. There are older hens and then pullets that are about the same age as the roos. About 1/2 are blue or black. The rest are browns and reds with 2 splash hens. I am telling you this so that you have some idea about the demographics of the chickens.

    What I have noticed is that the girls will flock to the roo that lets them know about yummies, or things of interest. If the roos do not do this, the girls could care less about the roo. They would just go off in small groups or even by themselves. The birds that stayed together were birds of the same/similar color.

    Now last year, when I had an older roo, who knew how to take care of his girls, they all followed him, and stayed close to him. They trusted him to take care of them.

    I have not (until yesterday) had any major deaths due to predators. No hawks that I am aware of, (yesterdays attack was a loose dog.) So I do not know how birds who have a lot of hawk/owl attacks act.
     
  3. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Quote:Birds of individual I was speaking with were scattered all about interacting almost randomly. My birds move about as discrete units with groups hen consistently following specific roosters. My hens will not approach a tidbitting rooster that is not their harem leader. Point being made that patterns of association vary greatly between her and my flocks.
     
  4. tazcat70

    tazcat70 I must be crazy!

    I see. I haven't really been around anyone elses chickens so I bet it was really interesting to see the differences.
     
  5. Dixiedoodle

    Dixiedoodle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 14, 2007
    I only have 11 girls/no roo. I find it interesting that when my flock is free ranging, 99% of the time, the flock will be scattered thru out my yard in breed pairs... It always makes me think---Birds of a feather really do flock together!
     
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Quote:It was extremely interesting. Lady's pasture was dominated by exposed soil. Looked to me like a given hen when coming off with chicks would be like a barn cat with as many fathers as kittens. Parentage within my flocks much more predictable and where parentage is a result of cuckholdry, you can still accurately guess who the daddy is.
     
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Sep 19, 2009
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    Quote:Mine flock together by feather (actually by brood) when young but when breeding groups setup the associations do not seem to be so strong. Some sisters stay together but rooster they associate with not to predictable.
     

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