Knowledgebase > Layer hens

Layer hens

Last updated 14 October 2017

Egg-laying hens are highly social animals with complex cognitive abilities, who want to live just as much as we do.

  • Hens can distinguish between more than 100 faces of their own species. In barn-laid and free range egg farming systems, where they are placed with thousands of other birds, this ability is rendered useless.
  • They form complex social structures known as "pecking orders," and every hen knows her place on the social ladder. Again, barn-laid and free range egg farming systems restrict these social interactions and result in distress and confusion.
  • Hens have full-colour vision.
  • Hens love to sun-bathe and dust-bathe. Some free range systems allow for this, but most egg farming in Australia restricts this ability.
  • Hens experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which means they dream just like we do.
  • They have pain receptors that give them the ability to feel pain and distress.
  • Hens defend their young from predators and have more than 30 types of vocalizations to distinguish between threats.
  • Hens are just like human mothers who talk to their babies in the womb—a mother hen begins to teach calls to her chicks before they even hatch.


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