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Flocks of Hens with Jakes

This Turkey Tuesday is about something many of us see during winter – flocks of hens that always seem to have a group of jakes shadowing them. We know that winter flocks are segregated by sex, but like the group of jakes in this picture, they either follow hen flocks or often show up at the same locations such as foraging areas. Why they do this is a bit of an unknown, because “they’re hoping to breed” isn’t the answer – breeding season is still many weeks away and jakes are responsible for very little breeding anyway. Research has shown that within these groups of jakes, some are siblings, whereas some are unrelated. We also know that these jakes were members of brood flocks during summer – in other words, some jakes that are flocked together now spent all summer together in the company of some of the same hens that are now in winter flocks. There’s quite a bit about relatedness and how it influences turkey behavior that is unknown – perhaps these groups of jakes are related to the hens in the winter flocks that they’re following around. Early research suggested this was a possible scenario, and ongoing research will provide more answers. But I’ve also wondered whether these jakes shadow hen flocks because they hope to learn from experience. What better way to learn where quality winter foraging areas are located than to follow around a group of experienced moms who know the lay of the land? Regardless, seeing jakes near winter flocks of hens is a common sight, anyone out there seeing them in your neck of the woods?

© Tes Randle Jolly

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