Confronting the question “Do Hens Have Friends?”

Do hens have friends? The question finally got a good, hard academic look-see, resulting in this study:

sabeyesingheDo Hens Have Friends?Siobhan M. Abeyesinghe [pictured here], Julian A. Drewe, Lucy Asher, Christopher M. Wathes, Lisa M. Collins, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 143, no. 1, January 15, 2013, pp. 61-66. The authors, at the Royal Veterinary College, the University of Nottingham, and Queen’s University Belfast, UK, report:

“We investigated in detail the existence of dyadic preferential associations in small groups of domestic laying hens. Spatial and temporal associations were examined in two contexts (day activity and evening roosting), within 8 identical pens of 15 laying hens over 8 weeks. Little aggression was observed. Social network analysis was performed to investigate correlations in who associated with whom using weighted degree (number) and binary (presence or absence) data for shared resource areas and proximity to other individuals…. Most dyads were never observed roosting together and, although some apparently perched together frequently, the low number of nights perching and proportion of nights spent together indicates these findings should be interpreted with caution. Overall, we found no convincing evidence of dyadic preferential relationships expressed by close active and resting proximities. Further work is required to confirm whether these findings hold true in other experimental contexts, are affected by social experience and if they hold in common with the progenitor sub-species.”