Every pet hen has its own personality. But on rehoming days people often ask for hens that don’t look alike so that they can remember which is which when they get them home.
Hens are really good at changing their appearance when they feather up, and their features start to stand out on day one. For example, a large floppy comb or mottled feathers will often change once they go home with you. Combs shrink down and redden up and feathers come back in different shades.
Even within the flock, hens quickly get to know each other and even more quickly spot a newcomer! An individual hen can recognise up to 80 hens as friends. And it’s for this reason that colony units don’t usually put more than 80 hens in one unit.
Many more experienced keepers can recognise their own pet hens by their mannerisms, the way they walk, how they interact with them and how they behave to each other; however, this often takes time to establish.
Tips for recognising your pet hens for new keepers:
If you are a first time hen keeper, here are some handy tips to keep track of who’s who:
- First off, try using some coloured leg rings. They are easy to put on and allow you to spot different hens easily among the group. Just tell your hens it’s a nice bit of bling for them to show off. One thing to note is that leg rings do need to be checked frequently as hens legs can change as they age (thicken or become scaly). Parasites such as scaly leg mites can also cause the rings to be too tight.
- With the coloured leg rings on you can then start to notice where the hens are on the pecking order which will identify who they are.
- You will then start to notice their personalities. Who is the loudest, who is the most active? Which one wants the most attention?
- It’s also a good idea to look at colouring. Once they have begun to get more feathers, you will notice little differences in their colour. Maybe one has a patch of white or a speckling.
- Hens can often be identified from one another by their combs and wattles. Some hens have large, majestic combs while others have smaller ones. All combs come in different shapes too, so perhaps you could try using this as a way of recognising your pet hens.
- Another tip is to take pictures of each hen from the side and name each picture. This way, you have a photo of what your pet hen looks like and you can compare to the hen in front of you. Use features like her beak or her body shape to help you see the slight differences in your hens. After a while, you will start to recognise them by sight.
How do you recognise your pet hens? What little personality traits make each one stand out? We’d love to hear about all the ways you recognise your hens. You can do this by contacting us on Facebook or tagging us on Instagram with the tag @britishhenwelfaretrust or #BHWT. Or why not tweet us on our Twitter page: @BHWTOfficial.
If you’d like some more advice on how to recognise your hen, as well as different parts of your hens, why not visit our Hen Health page where we discuss important things to look out for in your hens whether its personality or physical symptoms. Or, view our Hen Examination Guidelines where we can show you where to find things like the crop or the wattle. Need some medical advice? Click here to Find Your Nearest Hen Friendly Vet.
If you would like to ask Gaynor a pet hen health question please email email@example.com or call Hen Central on 01884 860084. To support our Hen Helpline we ask for a nominal donation to help fund this service so that we can continue to help your hens.