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Flock dynamics when adding new birds to a stable flock (Behavior & Training)

by steve, Western Massachusetts, Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 12:10 (192 days ago)
edited by steve, Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 20:47

I have a flock of 16 birds. About a year-and-a-half ago they lost their very effective alpha -- very protective but nice to the entire flock -- to a predator. That was in the winter, and it didn't even seem like a new bird took his place for a year. They just kind of wandered around all last year, without seeming to have any cohesion or direction. I've never really seen that except 5 years ago when briefly I only had 3 birds once and they didn't seem to know what to do with themselves.

Now, they seem to have a newish alpha. A smallish pearl gray. He's pretty nice. Not really aggressive to anyone in the flock.

I'm planning to introduce about another 10 birds to the flock -- all keets (I will probably keep them separate for 2+ weeks and then put them in a fenced off area in the main coop for a few weeks after that). I may even get about 15 keets and sell a few of my existing birds.

I'm wondering if this will change the fundamental "vibe" of the flock. I've seen some flocks that are very violent, some that are super disorganized and effectively, frankly, kind of stupid (and easily picked off by predators), etc.

The current flock may be largely offspring of that very gentle alpha that I lost 1.5 years ago. He was a jumbo and the most amazing bird I've ever seen: Never saw him pick on another bird once; and he would literally run all over the yard if a flock member was missing until he brought that bird home. It was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen in Guinea fowl. It was actually like having someone else hired to take care of my birds.

When he died, the flock acted as traumatized by it as I was for months. Now, they are very mellow and seemingly content.

So, I do really want to add to my flock, but I'm wondering if maybe the current flock is happy b/c they inherited these genes from that jumbo alpha. Am I going to introduce some whole other unknown into the flock that might make them aggressive? And if I do add so many, will that fundamentally alter the flock's nature, or maybe even result in the current alpha being "dethroned"? Should I get the 10 but also make sure to keep the 16 I have to keep my current flock in the majority? If I get rid of some of my flock, should I make sure it's only a small number, or something like that?

Maybe these are stupid questions, I don't know; but even having Guinea fowl for 6 years now, some of these kinds of behavioral and genetic variables are still a bit unknown to me!

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