Hens prefer Bach to One Direction, new research shows

A study by the happy egg co. has reaffirmed the beneficial effect soothing music can have on hens, helping boost their welfare

William Maughan’s hens produce an average 8,400 eggs a day for his Happy Egg Company
William Maughan’s hens produce an average 8,400 eggs a day for his Happy Egg Company

A free range egg brand whose producers include farms from the North East has commissioned new research into the positive benefits of music on hens.

The University of Bristol studied happy egg co. hens for two months, monitoring their reactions and behaviours as they were exposed to music from a range of genres.

According to the findings, hens are intrigued by all types of music, entering the nest boxes 159% more frequently during weeks when music was playing compared to weeks when it was not.

Classical music from composers such as Beethoven, Bach and Mozart proved preferable over pop music like One Direction, while hen in-boxes playing Eine Kleine Nachtmusik laid 6% more eggs than hens in other boxes.

The music, however, did not increase overall egg production.

Isabelle Pettersson from the University of Bristol said: “The study shows that chickens have the ability not only to hear music but to discriminate between different genres, as shown by the fact that some of the birds switched nest boxes, choosing to lay preferentially to the accompaniment of classical music.

“We already know that hens are sensitive to noise and that loud noises of 80 decibels or more can have a profoundly negative effect on them, but it would seem the soothing tempo of classical composition may have a more positive effect.”

Off the back of the findings, the happy egg co. is releasing Top of the Flocks, an album of tracks from British composer Jack Ketch, aimed at boosting hen happiness, relaxation and productivity.

This will be available to download from Facebook and will be distributed to happy egg co. producers, such as William Maughan, who farms near Darlington.

In line with happy egg co. guidelines, Mr Maughan already incorporates a wide range of features to boost hen welfare, including towers to perch on, sandpits for dust-bathing and natural play areas.

Top of the Flocks, he said, would definitely be worth a go.

“This has been done for a long time,” he said. “In the past we’ve had the radio on in the shed to create a bit of background noise, which has a calming effect, lowering stress levels and making the hens feel happier.

“I think there have been studies done on this in the past and it’s something that is at least worth a try.”

He added that, thanks to the efforts of the happy egg co. and others, people were becoming more aware of how creating stimulating environments can contribute to animal welfare.

Rob Newell, head of brand marketing at the happy egg co. said: “We know hens have good hearing and respond in different ways to different sounds. We wanted to see if music could boost their happiness.

“We’ve already developed a range of activities for our farms to ensure our girls lead a rich and full life but we wanted to take this one step further and introduce new forms of entertainment for our flocks.

“The album is already going down really well across our farms and the research will also be used to inform our awareness of how noise can affect laying birds and the importance of providing them with an environment that best suits their preferences when it comes to musical stimulus.”

Composer Jack Ketch added: “I’ve been composing music professionally for more than 15 years, but being asked to create an album for hens was definitely a first! I’ve had a fantastic time working closely with the hens, and spending time on a happy egg farm, to create an original composition they love and respond well to.

“I’ve discovered the happy egg girls have a great musical ear and it’s been a privilege to do something to boost their happiness.”

To listen to or download the album visit www.thehappyegg.co.uk .

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