Best Friends Forever
One of the things I really like about chickens is observing the relationships they form with each other and how they interact with each other. Chickens are very social animals, and they form strong bonds with their flock mates. In our flock of 30 chickens, it is very apparent that the chickens that have hatched at the same time and grown up together are more often that not BFFs. Having a BFF means you always have someone to hang out with, but having a BFF is not always as nice as it may sound. Pecking is one of a chicken’s favorite ways of communicating, and there is no exception when it comes to BFFs. I have sometimes wondered if the dominant hen in a BFF pair doesn’t enjoy the relationship a bit more than the submissive BFF, who could also be referred to as the receiver of many pecks. Although I suspect that the pecks bestowed upon ones BFF may be more of a gentle “I love you but sometimes you annoy me” peck than a “get out of my sight right now you silly hen!” peck because when a hen gets pecked by her BFF, she usually continues to remain in the presence of her friend, instead of squawking and running off in the other direction as I have seen many a hen do.
We still have four of our first hens that we raised from chicks in 2010. Rhoda and Raquel are from the first batch of chicks we got, and Rosie and Ramona joined them a few months later. Both of these pairs are very strongly bonded, and they spend much of their day together. Being the oldest in the flock, they dominate the other hens, and they share a love of enforcing the pecking order by pecking pretty much everyone else in the flock, especially at treat time. What’s interesting however, is that even though the four of these older ladies are vastly outnumbered by the younger hens in the flock, Rhoda and Raquel will still not let Rosie and Ramona into their inner circle, and Rosie and Ramona are just as likely to get pecked by Rhoda and Raquel as anyone else in the flock. Similarly, Rosie and Ramona show no interest in expanding their circle of friendship to include any of the other hens.
Many of the hens in our flock we got as chicks in 2012, and there are several other BFFs in this group. What’s also interesting is that within this larger group, the hens of the same breed tend to form the closest bonds with each other. The sweet peas were a great example of this and were pretty much inseparable. The black australorps are another breed that spends the majority of their days together. Unlike the other BFFs, the australorps have allowed a stranger into their circle by adopting Ruby. I was very happy to see this because Ruby doesn’t have any hatch mates to be her BFF. She was one of six chicks we got a couple of years ago of which 4 turned out to be roosters, and the only other female chick sadly died. Ruby is also a black australorp, and apparently that’s good enough for Squeeky 1, Squeeky 2, and Twitchy who have granted Ruby BFF status. The australorps typically sleep side by side on the roost at night. This is contrary to Rhoda and Raquel, and Rosie and Ramona, who although they spend their days together, have decided to spend their nights apart. Based on my observations, I suspect this is due to a disagreement over what is the appropriate number of pecks that should be given to ones BFF while settling in on the roost for the night. Nevertheless, come morning, all pecks are forgiven and the BFFs are back together again.