A person on a Swedish chicken forum recently lamented a misfortune that had befallen her, a tragedy which I'm sure a few of you have had the unpleasantness of experiencing: A predator had taken all her chooks but one, a physically healthy albeit as of now completely lonely hen. The owner of said bird put forth the very legitimate question of how long it would be reasonable to let the lone survivor be on her own while the owner tried to find other flock-mates. Naturally, the search for new chickens would be conducted as quickly as possible, but such an endeavor could take weeks if one is unlucky. As chickens are highly social creatures, to the point of the keeping of just one of them oughting to be seen as bordering on animal cruelty in most circumstances, a dead-line was sought. I realized this was beyond my area of expertise. However, I started to muse on the matter: Chickens sometimes wander away from the flock and stay out of their sight for extended periods of time, but I've never experienced such a period going on for more than a few hours. This I took as evidence that a chicken should in most cases not be left alone for longer than that. However, I've had the odd bird getting isolated due to unfortunate circumstances, and in such cases, the outsider hasn't shown any blatant sign of overt suffering, such as loud vocalizing or inactivity. One of those times was when one chicken, from out of the blue one day, got bullied by the rest of the flock. She solved this problem by keeping to herself (we eventually bought her a buddy, which she bonded well with). I also remembered an episode in my childhood years, when mom and dad gave a lone hen to a friend of theirs who had a farm, but no chickens. That chicken seemed to do fine. When we visited her new home some time later, she had grown notably tamer towards humans, which I today interpret as her taking humans as her companions. I was also thinking back to that time when I visited rural Indonesia for several weeks and had the opportunity to study feral chickens. As you might have guessed, those chooks didn't walk around in the standard "1 rooster to 10 hens"-groups we see in our western backyards; rather, their flock composition seemed somewhat random. I remember a group of "teenagers" hanging out together. One particular rooster strolled around with one particular hen in what appeared to be a monogamy strong enough to make any puritan proud. And then there was this other hen, a jet-black one, who always walked around totally on her own. I don't think I once saw her with a buddy during the several weeks I took note of her, and she was an inquisitive lady who seemed happy, as far as I could tell. One can also think about it in pure hypothetical terms. Is it likely that it's common for wild chickens to occasionally get isolated for extended time periods? I think so. Is it therefore likely that they are unendurably miserable during some time of forced loneliness? My guess is not. Or, one could try to draw a parallell to another highly social animal with which we have a MUCH better insight into how well they handle loneliness: Us. Humans crave daily company, and loneliness surely can drive us mad, but most of the time, we can handle quite a long stretch of time on our own. With all of this taken into account, my answer to my own question would be: Several weeks. If the weeks are starting to turn into months, the maybe (but maybe not) I would see it as the more humane thing to do to send the lone bird up to Chicken Heaven. Also, I would see it as depending highly on the circumstances and the individual. Is she nervous or cool? Flighty or tame? Is she in the company of other species or not? Is she cooped up in a boring place or able to entertain herself all day? Is she showing any signs of suffering? Harking back to my human comparison, there exist people who literally want to be alone all the time. What are your thoughts on the matter?