The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Flock dynamics

RoosterWhat happens when you merge three chicken flocks together?  Lots of excitement!

To refresh your memory, the forest pasture had been home to our broody white cochin and her foster son for a couple of months while our three oldest hens lived together in one tractor and one younger hen lived alone in another tractor.  The youngest hen's sister currently lives in another tractor until we find time to turn her into sausage --- she developed some sort of egg-laying problem that can't be solved and she isn't worth feeding through the winter. 
Two hens, perched on the fence
I rushed the move to pasture a bit because I felt bad about the hen living all by herself in a tractor, but at first our loner seemed to have been better off in solitary confinement.  The mother hen and her son teamed up to go after the newcomers until all four lived in fear (and were cut off from the food.)  While the three oldsters had each other for moral support, our youngest hen hovered on the periphery and went so far as to fly out of the pasture in her efforts to escape harassment.

That was the status quo for a few days, until I decided to open up the other coop door to let the chickens use both pastures.  Our old hens are about ten times smarter than the others, so they figured out right away that they could pop into the coop on one end and out the other end into a tyrant-free paradise.  I started feeding the three wise hens in their own pasture, and the other three birds in the broody hen's pasture.

Rooster and hen sharing foodA week after flock merger, our poor loner was out of the pasture again, and this time I decided to pop her back into the wise hens' pasture rather the other one.  This small decision seems to have changed the entire flock dynamic --- a couple of hours later, I discovered the rooster in the wise hens' pasture, lording over four hens who all got along just fine.  Maybe he knew how to change pastures all along, but saw no reason to follow along after middle-aged biddies?

Our rooster's regard seems to have flip-flocked our youngster's status from loner to flockmate.  The wise hens used to peck at her when she got too close, but under the rooster's reign, the pasture was full of serenely scratching hens.
Chicken forest pasture
Meanwhile, the mean white cochin hardly seemed to notice that her son had defected.  Will she eventually make her way into the popular pasture?  Will she maintain her rank at the top of the pecking order once I merge all of the chickens back into one pasture to plant winter wheat in the other?

I can't imagine why I would need to watch TV with so much drama right in my backyard.

As you can see, our homemade chicken waterer is at the heart of our pasture plan.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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And your backyard drama is much more interesting, entertaining, and educational than TV!!!
Comment by Sheila Sun Oct 17 21:06:06 2010
I had forgotten you were a fellow anti-TV person. :-)
Comment by anna Mon Oct 18 07:09:50 2010

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