Chicken Friendship

To someone not familiar with chickens it looks like the birds just mill around. Actually, despite the constant going hither and yon, they are hanging out with their friends. It becomes obvious when you take the time to watch a small group of hens that each chicken is selective as to who she wants to spend time with.

Usually, in a backyard flock of various breeds, hens that look alike form cliques. For years my two black Australorps, Twinkydink and Blackie, were inseparable and showed no interest in the other chickens (except to chase them away from what was theirs.) The expression “birds of a feather flock together” is true in a coop! But, there are always exceptions as the dynamics between the Gems illustrate.

There are twelve Gems, all 16 months of age, and they have been together since they were 3 day-old chicks. In the mix are seven different breeds.Two are Rhode Island Reds, named Garnet and Ruby. There is only one Welsummer, Jasper. You’d expect Garnet and Ruby to be friends, but that’s not the case. Jasper and Garnet are friends.

Yesterday, I let the girls out for an outing. Jasper and Garnet ate grass by the chairs.

Garnet moved on to the back meadow. Jasper followed.

They foraged together for awhile. But then Jasper moved off to the flower bed.

Garnet looked up from eating seeds on a weed. I’m alone! Where did she go? (The answer is, only a few feet away, but like a toddler, a chicken can snap from being happily busy to feeling abandoned in a span of a few seconds.)

Garnet hustled after Jasper to join her best friend the clover. Together again.

Are there any unexpected friendships in your flock?


  1. Loved the story and pics. Is the baldness at the base of Jasper’s tail due to molting?

    • The baldness is due to her best friend plucking out feathers and eating them! Jasper seems to like it. It looks awful but there’s no blood or even any skin damage. Impossible to stop as both hens think that the behavior is fine.

  2. This summer we added in three new pullets – they had been together since day 1. It’s been about 6 months and the three littles are as tight as ever – they are rarely every apart. Our little white pullet, Zillah is a white rock and she occasionally likes to hang out with Andy our White Langshan rooster.

    Penfold, my American Game hen, has always been a bit of a loner – but I’ve noticed lately she’s been pecking about with the other two littles, Quigley and Danger. The three of them have nothing in common looks wise.

  3. Weird friendship would have to be our Ancona ducks, they spend as much time as they can with our Turkeys. Very funny to see the 5 of them sleeping in the shade, and looking for food together.

  4. I have 3 pullets that are attached at the hip, A Mottled Houdan, White Americuana and a Speckeled Sussex and these 3 are my trouble makers and not ever far from eachother. Another odd friendship I have is 2 Buff Orpingtons a Mallard Duck and a White Pekin duck these 4 are always close even when the ducks are swimming the the Buffs are rite next to the pool, and at night time in the hen house the buffs will sleep down on the floor with the duck… What was very funny was I bought the ducks at like a few days old and brought them home, and My Black Silkie (who has since passed) just hatch and Australorp chick, and I just put the ducks in with her not quite knowing what would happen, well the ducks completely imprinted on her, At first she protested but after a couple days she gave in…. White pekins grow in rapid speed so with in 3 weeks the white pekin was twice her size and would still follow her all over like a needy toddler. When Fluffy the black Silkie was killed there was an obvoius sadness in the duck, you would just look at her and she looked so pulled into her self and with drawn, she is getting better now but she still has a sadness about her… So I definately thing I have had some unlikely or odd friendships…

  5. As a novice chicken keeper of just over a year, this has been one of the most interesting aspects that I’ve noticed about my birds! Peach, the Buff Orp and Poppy the Silver-laced Wynandotte are fast friends, but Poppy openly despises Mango, the other Buff Orp! We also have one hen who definitely enjoys her alone time. Whenever I call them in and do a head count inevitably there will be one missing. After a bit, she”ll come bursting out of the bushes from another area of the yard.

  6. Tough Rhode Island Red has a soft spot for Jasper. Thank you for the post Terry. About the bald spot, is that where the chicken has the oil gland for preening?

  7. Our three Welsummers stick together through thick and thin, although one of them is rather unintelligent and always runs the wrong way when startled …

  8. My Mille fleur d’uccle bantam and white frizzle cochin bantam have always been best friends. Every year when Pomi the frizzle starts molting Millie plucks out the pin feathers on her tail and back and eats them like your chicken friends! Unfortunately the feathers get broken and there is bleeding and Pomi is visibly afraid of Millie if she gets too close during this period. The last two years I have had to separate Pomi until her new feathers grow in. The bulk of the feather eating happened in the morning when they were confined in the coop before being let out. When I saw her pin feathers coming in a week ago I started getting up just before dawn and opening the coop door so they can go into the run when they wake up. So far so good!

  9. Jasper moving on, Garnet looking up “Where’d you go?” Your pictures are so illustrative!

    With my 5 hens, in their small temp coop, I see one being ostracized. Other than that, there is not the room to see pairs forming. However, I do see the expressions on their faces. All are intelligent, and each has a unique personality. One bully. Oh well!

  10. I have three young bantams this year- 1 D’anvers and 2 bantam Easter Eggers that my daughter calls the Three Muffcateers. They are a very tight group. I do worry, though, I have one 2 1/2 year old standard Easter Egger and a Light Sussex who have always been best buddies but the Light Sussex has been slowly failing this summer. She was never particularly robust, but she’s just not herself anymore. It’ll be very hard for my Easter Egger when she goes. It’ll be interesting is my EE takes a new best friend or becomes a loner.

  11. In our flocks, birds of similar colors are usually together. This year it was the dark Partridge Rocks and the Black Jersey Giants. When adding birds, I look at color to avoid having singletons, as they tend to be the picked ones.

    This color preference also extends to other animals. Horses in a herd tend to class by color. This is not always true, just generally.

  12. Our daughter purchases a mallard duck at the local feed store where she attends college every year. Duck comes home at about the 8 week mark for summer vacation. This year duck comes home and I housed “him” with a chick that had an eye problem and 3 guineas. Talk about an odd flock. They are now around the 16 week mark and still friends. Although duck can’t roost at night he tucks himself under the leg of the roosting ladder to be close. Duck also “postures” to our younger rooster. Funniest thing to watch . . . only wish I knew what Duck was saying and why the rooster pays no attention to him what so ever. Duck will feel the pull of the wild late October and one day he will fly to start his Duck life and leave the chickens and the rest of the farm animals behind . . . or maybe he will stay where life is protected, food is plentiful and chickens and guineas are his best friends . . .

  13. I have a white leghorn that is 5mths old and a white leghorn (named Kellogg) who is over two. The pullet hung with the other pullets until she started laying (way ahead of the other pullets of course) she then befriended the other white leghorn. They hang in the yard together and roost right next to each other and heaven help a hen who blocks the path to each other at roosting time, I witnessed the beat down last night first hand.

  14. My girls are racists!!!! The buffs hang with each other, the Barred Rocks do the same. The gold laced wyandotte hates everyone. LOL

  15. I do not have any chickens but I sure do love reading about yours.. They look so plump and healthy!!

  16. I added two pullets to the flock this spring, and they’re total BFFs. Peaches and Shark (this is what happens when an 8-year-old does the naming) will actually groom and fluff one another, roost together, eat together, dust bathe together, no matter where they are in the yard they’re never more than 2 feet apart.

  17. Dear Terry,
    I love the hen cam and I have to admit that I’ve become obsesed with the girls.
    I love to sit and watch them as they go about their simple lives, completely oblivious to the world’s problems.
    Do you think it’s weird to live vicariously thru a chicken?
    Keep up the good work!

    • You are not the only one! I’ve heard from many perfectly normal people who say that the HenCam is their window to sanity :) Watching chickens is like going to the beach – the ocean is always changing and busy, and yet the overall experience is calming. Enjoy my hens!