Warthens are fiercely proud yet generally gregarious animals. They run in small groups of 4 to 6 adult hens, foraging for food in the coastal hills and high plains of Tanganyika. They graze on short grasses, feed on fruits, and also dig up bulbs, roots, and tubers. Specialized incisors allow them to pluck the growing tips of grass shoots. During dry periods, a warthen uses its feet to dig grass rhizomes out of the sun-baked dirt. Warthens communicate with each other through grunts, growls, snorts and squeals, offering guidance on spiritual concerns and generally assuring each other of their good looks.
Warthens use their plumage as camouflage to protect themselves from predators. They generally don't pick fights. However, if pushed towards confrontation, they will go on the offensive. With short, powerful flaps of their diminutive, yet muscular wings they will hurl themselves at their attacker with gusto, making the transformation from gentle fowl into shrieking, wart-covered missiles.