If you’ve ever thought of chooks as just egg laying machines, think again. These clever birds are full of personality. Three RSPCA Approved farmers share details about their life with hens and what chooks are really like.
If you’re ever spent any time watching hens go about their daily business, you’ll know they’re fond of exploring and investigating their surroundings.
“Just like humans, hens are curious about their environment,” says Morry Wroby from Happy Chicken Eggs in Victoria. “To keep ours entertained, we provide activities and toys, plus we’ve hung colourful chains and CDs from the roof – they love bright, shiny things.”
“They’re very inquisitive,” agrees John Rohde from Rohde’s Free Range Eggs in South Australia. “If you go into the shed, they’ll come right up to you.”
John recalls a time when the curiosity of his hens was actually caught on camera.
“We had a Seven news reader in here to do a story on free range,” he remembers. “She was wearing bright coloured shoes and the chooks just wouldn’t leave her alone, it was hilarious.”
Hens also really enjoy interacting with each other.
“They’re fairly social, they like to be together,” says Stuart Andrews from Forage Farms on Queensland’s Sunshine coast.
But not only do hens like spending time with each other, they can also become quite fond of hanging out with humans too.
Morry from Happy Chicken Eggs has some great stories about the friendly hens that reside on his farm.
“Whenever one of our farm managers is down at the farm, they love accompanying them as they tend to their jobs,” he says.
“We have one chicken named Joanne who has made best friends with one of our farm managers. She’s often found perching in the tree outside his house, and they spend time sharing breakfast together. Another has learnt to get over the fence and make her way to the office, where she sits by one of our managers as she does her job, watching her work on her computer.”
They love to play
For RSPCA Approved farmers, it’s important that their birds have the autonomy to do what they like. As well as exploring and spending time together, most hens also enjoy playing.
At Happy Chicken Eggs, the farm is filled with toys and play structures to encourage the hens to get active.
“Their favourite structures are those where they can gather and play together in groups,” says Morry. “And when they’re indoors, they enjoy pecking, pushing and chasing balls around the place! And even playing with marble mazes.”
For Stuart at Forage Farms, giving his hens plenty of space is key to giving them the freedom to do their own thing.
“The birds have plenty of space for dustbathing and looking for insects and grubs,” he says. “They can do what they want, and it gives them a bit of choice.”
The great thing about life for layer hens on an RSPCA Approved egg farm is that they are given the space and freedom to be themselves – this is great for hens and great for consumers!
Hens in battery cages
While the birds on these RSPCA Approved farms are able to live their best lives, not all hens are so fortunate. More than 2 out of every 3 Australian layer hens are currently confined to barren battery cages. Without the space and opportunity to play, socialise and explore the world around them, these birds live a miserable existence.
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