I have written before about pecking order and how it impacts the interactions of the hens in a flock. Tonight I am writing about how removing birds also impact flock dynamics. Chickens are animals for whom change is unwanted and upsets life dramatically. My flocks are always a little in flux as each year there is a period of time while there are two flocks; the flock who stayed over the winter and the chicks born the spring of this year to replace them. Butchering is another thing that upsets a flock because we remove elements of an established flock.
Though we butchered hens that had been broody and out of the flock for over a month this year the members of their flock noticed immediately they were missing today. The reminder of the old flock was looking to make peace with the littles. They were often found today wandering together. The old girls were hanging out in where I would expect to find the littles and visa versa. The other thing I noticed today is that the hens are unsure they are allowed in the nest boxes. After weeks of fighting to get into the boxes and the broody hens hogging the space to lay eggs, the remaining birds seem to be unsure that it is ok to approach the nest boxes now that they are all empty.
We still have five more hens who need to go and so I am guessing that this flock will be in lots of upheaval for weeks to come. We are currently at 11 and need to be down to six by the time the snow flies.