Animal Friendships

Stories of “unlikely” friendships between animal species have been made into at least a half-dozen books, which all appear to be selling well at bookstores. Stories of chimps and tigers, tortoises and hippos, a dog and a pig. They’re sweet. They’re cute. But why are people surprised? Why do people think that animals only relate to others like themselves? Certainly, if you have a mix of animals in your life, even if it’s just a cat and a dog, you know that they are in a relationship (albeit not necessarily loving – even brothers and sisters can have rivalries.)

Just look around you. Or look here. Yesterday, many people commented on Candy’s regal stance in the center of the HenCam coop. (Well, as regal as one can be when one’s throne is a purple plastic kitty litter box filled with sand.)

Candy enjoys the company of the hens. In the morning she hops over to their pop-door, waiting for them to come out. During the day she watches their comings and goings from the top of the ramp in her hutch. Candy is their leader. Not a rooster. But their leader, just the same.

Candy and the goats are friends, too. Once in awhile, I let Candy out into the goat pen to have a hop-around and to eat the fresh grass. When I first did this, the goats wanted to treat Candy like another goat, with head-butting play. Candy did not like that idea, and she clearly communicated the rules of the friendship to the boys. I saw it happen, and I’m still not sure how this was done. Bunny ESP? Pip came up, ready to head butt a “hello, let’s play,” when he stopped in his tracks. I happened to be there, at the moment that this agreement was reached and snapped this photo.

Have you seen Candy at dusk, over at the fence, saying goodnight to the boys? In the summer, they hang out there on warm nights and converse. It’s an evening ritual.

It’s not only domesticated animals that have interspecies animal communities. The Beast was well aware of huge, old bullfrog that lived in her pond (it died this summer at the grand age of ten.) The wild animals, too, interact with each other. Karen Pryor has written about these animal communities, specifically her observations of birds, in an essay in her book Karen Pryor on Behavior.

Of course, we humans are also a species, and we have relationships with many other animals over our lives. I find this as wonderful and remarkable as any story about a chimp and a pigeon.


  1. Thanks Terry for today’s story. Animals can teach us so many wonderful lessons.

  2. Inter species relationships are a wounderful thing to observe. We have 15 Jacob sheep ewes,3 Llamas,3 cats,and 6 Buckeye chickens that share the same barn and fields. They all get along and sometimes even play with each other. The chickens did however teach the barn cats that they are the “Ladies”, and will not put up with behavior of cat hunt bird!

    Terry I love your post and your fantastic pics!! Thanks

  3. I thought that Ronald Reagan was the Great Communicator but I think that Candy has taken his place.

  4. Both times when I looked in yesterday, the black and white speckled hen seemed to be glowering at Candy. The second time the small white one had joined the b/w one. They were definitely “not amused.” However, in the pic you got, the hens look like they’re ladies in waiting to the queen!

  5. Great Lesson……It is all about taking the time to observe what is really going on around us. Our animal friends have it all figured out…so who is really smarter?

  6. That Candy surely gets around, and her travels cheer my day. As I write, she is back in the litter box hanging out with her chicken pals. Dozing seems to be on her agenda today rather than lording over a treat, She seems to be the glue that holds your place together as she hops about, first looking for her adults in the morning and then wandering from spot to spot, animal to animal, during the day. I just love her.

    • You are rights, she is the glue. She is very elderly, so she does doze a lot, but just when I think that she’s out of it, she lets me know that she’s still in charge.

  7. That rabbit is some kind of Svengali. It’s all mind control, I should be very careful if I were you.
    It is such a joy and a privilege to be able to communicate in even a small way with another species in their own ‘language’.
    Apparently cats only do that high pitched squeaking and meowing because we talk to them that way – in the wild they only grumble and chirrup at each other. And if you narrow your eyes at your cat, it will respond in the same way; turn your head away then look back and it will narrow its eyes and turn away. This is why cats always go to people who don’t like them, by turning away you’re showing deference so the cat will approach. When one of mine has been aggressive or has climbed on a shelf I don’t want it on, I put my face close and stare hard. It only needs doing once, I find, or you can add a short, quiet, hiss. We both have to learn the other’s boundaries, and it’s so pleasing when it works without anyone losing their temper.
    Animals don’t seem to bear grudges. Although I imagine they are all over my shelves as soon as I go out.

  8. I read lots of comments about Candy in the sand box on your last post but when I tuned in to the hencam to see for myself it was night time because of our time difference so, I was really pleased to see your photo on this post. Now I can see for myself what everyone else has been viewing so thank you for that.

    But! The photo of Pip and Candy, now that is priceless. What a very sweet picture that is. That must be one of the best animal interaction pictures I have ever seen. I made my husband look at it too and it also made him smile. That is beyond cute! Thank you as always for sharing.

    • I just shared this picture with my husband too! Would love to purchase in a set of note cards!

  9. Terry, thank you for making my heart happy today and putting the smile back on my face. Love the post and love the photos. Been feeling down since Friday but this has picked it up for me. Thank you Candy, thank you to all of you, whether critter or human at Little Pond Farm.

  10. Adorable pictures!
    I saw the most hilarious interspecies friendship last summer- an elderly golden retriever literally escorting a deaf white cat around the neighborhood. I wish I could have videotaped it! They were clearly old pals.

  11. There is a story about a dog and a blind white cat called “The Two Bobbies”..both had bobbed tails when found after Hurricane Katrina. The dog was the cat’s..”seeing-eye dog”. I read that story every year because it teaches about friendship. Love those stories!

  12. You should definitely write another children’s book, this time about Candy and her barnyard friends.

  13. Love it! That look Candy is giving Pip would stop traffic in the middle of Manhattan! Wonderful post.

  14. I love this post! I have six chickens, two dogs and a cat. When i do my yard work is when i let everyone roam. They all meet and greet then go about their business. I always get asked if the dogs try to eat the chickens, if the cat want to eat my chickens and if the dogs want to eat my cat. Nope, all is well but always hard to explain. I must say that the chickens rule this backyard:-D

    Thank you Terri!

  15. Terry do you think you being there right next to Candy when Pip tried to hit butt her might have been a factor ? Or the strange camera so that Pip might have eyed at the last second and it startled him and that’s why he stopped ? Because otherwise I have read of goats hit butting and killing smaller animals like that.

  16. Your article made my cloudy day sunny today! We had a beautiful rabbit who lived to be 12 years old. He always seemed to be such a gentle guy, but that look he would give our dog that would in no uncertain terms say ” you don’t want to know what I’m capable of” was a powerful thing. Wish I knew that trick. People wouldn’t cut in front of me in the grocery checkout, cashiers would be polite, children would obey….

  17. I have seen Candy in the corner of the pen next to the goats and greeting them multiple times. I always wonder what she’s communicating to them and vice-versa. I know she likes Betsey too. It is amazing indeed. Relationships are dynamic and complex no matter who’s involved. I have watched Candy many times waiting for you to come for the evening to give her the expected treats only to disappear when you arrive. I often know what you’re thinking and can imagine what you’re saying [to her] if only there was a mic. I think she gave Pip her “don’t even think about a friendly head-butt” look and that changed his mind. Then again, they are pals.

    • What you probably can’t see on the HenCam is early in the morning, if Candy thinks that I’m a tad late, she rings and bangs the bell hanging on her door. She uses many avenues of communication!

  18. I enjoyed this story, especially the photos. Rabbits and chickens seem to get along well. I have 2 rabbits in my backyard coop with 3 hens. At my brother’s farm, I found an escaped rabbit in the chicken coop. We’ve had miscellaneous rabbits living with chickens over time. Joel Salatin’s “raken” system demonstrates how rabbits and hens can live in synergy at a farm-level scale with the rabbit cages above the hens.