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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 (12 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!

It depends.....

by ZoeTX, Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 19:01 (12 days ago) @ steve

If you are looking to introduce YOUNG birds into your existing flock, you probably won't have too much trouble.

However, if you are thinking of adding adult birds, you might have some problems with the alpha position. You could also develop two separate flocks...or they could should they decide to do it that way.

Guinea dynamics are fairly unpredictable as you have noticed. LOL

After I answered this I saw the other posts....

by ZoeTX, Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 19:08 (12 days ago) @ ZoeTX

I think from what you were saying, you are planning on getting keets. I think that you will probably have a sub flock this year with the keets and they will join the original flock when it is mating season next year. That has been my experience.

So, keets will blend into the flock?

by steve, Western Massachusetts, Wednesday, May 17, 2017, 00:15 (12 days ago) @ ZoeTX

Yes, I'm getting 25 day-old keets and selling whichever ones I don't keep. (Sorry for the confusion -- I edited my post to mention that they will be keets.). I expect I will keep them in my house for the first 2 weeks or so, then put them in a fenced off corner in the regular coop that my current flock lives in for a few weeks and then let them out in the coop.

I definitely don't want 2 separate flocks. Right now, all 16 settle into the same 8' wide perch each night,.

But it sounds like you're saying that if they start as babies, eventually they will blend into the existing flock, right?

Since they are growing up in the flock, it's likely they will adapt to the nature of that flock, and not take over, right?

Any predictions as to what might happen if I have 16, give away about 4 of those, and add about 14 of the keets to the flock?

So, keets will blend into the flock?

by ZoeTX, Thursday, May 18, 2017, 16:14 (10 days ago) @ steve

Sometimes it is difficult not to have two separate flocks. It has been my experience that they will just naturally divide themselves into two groups with members being with one flock one day and the other the next. I think this is found most often with larger flocks. I have 30+ guineas. They all come together at the end of the day and sometimes I will see them together during the day and then they separate for a while. LOL

I think keets will fit in if you introduce them to the older birds early and the adults become accustom to them.

I only sold adults one time and when I did, I sold one of a pair, not realizing that they were a pair until too late. The guy was in our house and we were talking after we caught the guineas he was buying. When we went out, there was a female on the crate which contained her partner and she was calling for him. I tried to catch her as I was going to give her to the man to take with her mate, but we could not catch her. She cried for 3 solid days. I felt really bad about doing that.

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