Living with Native Hens
This distant relative of the domestic hen is found only in Tasmania, being distributed throughout the State except for the west and south-west. Their ideal habitat is short, grazed pasture and damp pasture near streams with grassy vegetation for nesting. Unfortunately, the fondness that native hens have for clover and legumes may bring them into conflict with some farmers.
Problems and Solutions
Native hens can be a nuisance to some farmers by grazing crops such as peas and beans, and to a lesser degree cereal crops. Additionally, native hens may foul pasture and watering points with their faeces. Overall however, the damage done to crops by native hens is insignificant to that caused by other grazers.
How to Live with Native Hens:
- To reduce grazing and fouling of crops erect fences around small pastures, high value crops and water bodies. As native hens are flightless and do not dig, fencing offers an effective barrier. Rabbit-wire netting is ideal for this purpose. Hurricane deer fencing can also be used, with the added benefit that it will keep out other grazers such as Bennett's wallaby and pademelon.
- Native hens are as typical of our bushland as seabirds are of our beaches. Their noise is simply part of the semi-rural or bushland setting.
Roles and Values
- Through their grazing, native hens regulate the growth and distribution of native grasslands.
- They are an important prey item for many predators including Tasmanian devils, marsh harriers and snakes.
- As an endemic species with unique and interesting behaviour, the native hen is of significant value to Tasmania.
- Researchers from throughout the world travel to Tasmania to study their unique social structures and behaviour.
The Tasmanian native hen
is a protected species under Tasmania's legislation. This means it is an offence to take or have in possession a Tasmanian native hen unless authorised by a permit. Permits can be issued to landowners to take protected wildlife, including Tasmanian native hens, in specific circumstances to prevent the destruction of crops. However Recreational Game Licences are not issued for the taking of Tasmanian native hens.