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Hens Have No Friends…

23rd May 2013

Do hens have friends?

Our understanding of the social life of animals is important to be able to maintain their welfare and allow them to adapt to the domestic environment successfully.

Animals often exist in groups in the wild to help cope with predators or minimise aggression between individuals, and good relationships between individuals may help to reduce stress and enhance positive welfare.

Hens have been shown to be able to recognise other flock-mates, but it has not yet been established if they have ‘preferred’ flock mates.

Hens were observed over eight weeks, to see where each individual spent the majority of its time in relation to other individuals and to assess which hens associated with each other most frequently. The study showed that hens do not appear to have other ‘preferred’ hens and had no preferred perching place in relation to other hens.

The authors suggest further research to examine if this may be specific only to the experimental set up used in this study and to ultimately ensure that the social requirements of hens are met in captivity.

Abeyesinghe, S.M., Drewe, J.A., Asher, L. et al. (2013) Do hens have friends? Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 143: 61–66.

(Abstract courtesy of RSPCA “Science”).

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