Hen behaviour

Hens are inquisitive, beautiful creatures. Learn more about what hens like to do.

There are many things that hens naturally and instinctively want to do but can't do in a barren battery cage, leading to the intense frustration and suffering.

Dust Bathing

Why it is important for a hen

  • When they have access to soil or litter, hens will dust bathe every day, often for long periods at a time.
  • Dust bathing involves hens crouching down and using their wings to throw dust through their feathers before standing and shaking off the dust.
  • Dust bathing cleans and maintains feathers, removes oil build-up, parasites, and helps regulate body temperature.Scientists say that hens appear to enjoy this activity - a dusty hen is a happy hen!

What happens when hens are denied this natural behaviour in a cage?

  • Hens that are denied the ability to dust bathe become frustrated, have feathers in poor condition.
  • Caged hens will try and go through the motions of dust-bathing even in cramped cage conditions.

Laying eggs in a nest

Why it is important for a hen

  • Hens have a basic and instinctive need to lay their eggs in a quiet secluded place: what we call a nest.
  • Hens like to be able to lay their eggs around the same time each day and will go through the same egg laying routine every day. This can include walking around, sitting in the nest, standing up again, scratching around before they're comfortable to settle down and lay.

What happens when hens are denied this natural behaviour in a cage?

  • Hens denied access to a nest become restless and frustrated.
  • Abnormal behaviours they exhibit include: increased clucking, pacing and going through the motions of nest building.
  • Hens endure this frustration every day they are confined in barren cages.

Perching - hens perch with their flockmates

Why it is important for a hen

  • Hens love to perch and will compete with flock mates to get a perch.
  • Perching helps hens feel safe from predators so they can sleep easily.
  • Perching also keeps hens warm.

What happens when hens are denied this natural behaviour in a cage?

  • Hens are restless and don't settle in a place that feels unsafe.
  • Hens suffer from weak bones because of osteoporosis and lack of exercise.

Comfort behaviours

Why it is important for a hen

  • Hens need space so they can stretch, preen their feathers, flap their wings and move around.
  • Hens like to have space so they can chose where they spend their time.
  • Space, perches, litter and nest boxes allow hens the freedom to exercise.

What happens when hens are denied this natural behaviour in a cage?

  • Cages are so small that birds can't engage in simple, comfort behaviours like stretching and flapping their wings.
  • Lack of exercise due to restricted space exacerbates bone weakness which can result in fractured or deformed bones.