I recently started a new game because I wanted to go more slowly than usual and first completely secure one village with a railway to my home base before running on to the next one. The first village I found will be very difficult to secure because of the terrain. As usual, some of the houses were inaccessible, either half buried in the ground or with entrances 2 blocks above ground level. I fixed them all so they are all accessible to my sweet villagers, but it turns out they are crazy people. In the town center (where the well is) there are huge houses which are completely empty. I even turned one into my storage unit because none of the villagers ever went into it. Instead, they all seem to congregate on one hilly side of town, and 5 or 6 of them always try to crowd into one tiny house up on a cliff which can't accommodate them all. On the one hand, it is easy to find the villagers in this village because they are always in one small area instead of spread out throughout the town, but on the other hand it is a shame to see them in such crowded living conditions.
I thought of destroying the house up on the cliff to get them to move but I don't know if they would still mill around in the same place unprotected from the elements if I did. That would be worse than having them mill around a tiny house. The other option would be to enlarge the house, which would require major terraforming.
Do other players have such crazy villagers? Any suggestions what I should do?
The reason they clump together is because of how a villager detects doors. I think it's around 6 blocks above and 3 blocks below as well as 16 blocks away horizontally, so any doors that villagers can't see are removed from the village. This changes the village center and causes villagers to change where they tend to move, which basically means the village ends up wandering to the north and west.
To prevent the change to villages, you will want to lock villagers into specific areas so they can't ever wander far enough away to not see the doors they're responsible for. This could be as simple as literally trapping them in certain houses or burying them alive, or you could use a series of gated fences to allow them to wander around a little.
16 horizontal is correct, but the villager vertical door detection range is shown here [ "… up to three blocks above or five blocks below the level of the ground the villager is standing on: …." from https://minecraft.gamepedia.com/Tutorials/Village_mechanics]
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WARNING: I have an extemely "grindy" playstyle; YMMV — if this doesn't seem fun to you, mine what you can from it & bin the rest.
This is very interesting, thank you all for the information! I've decided to leave things as they are since it turns out to be quite convenient to know where to find the villagers. But since the terrain is so difficult it will be too tedious to secure the village against mobs. So I've decided to visit this particular village only in peaceful mode, which is my normal mode of play anyway. It is my understanding that the villagers are only in danger of being killed by mobs if I am vicinity. I assume this is true for the new pillagers in the upcoming release 1.14.