Time for a nap

Your Chickens - - Ask Our Experts -

QI’ve been spend­ing time amongst my hens and I’ve no­ticed that they some­times close just one eye for a few sec­onds at a time whilst the other one is open. There doesn’t seem to be any­thing wrong with their eyes but I’m cu­ri­ous as to a rea­son they do this.

AJulie Moore says: Your hens are ac­tu­ally tak­ing a quick nap. Chick­ens have the abil­ity to sleep with one eye open and the other closed. Dur­ing this form of sleep, uni­hemi­spheric slow-wave sleep (‘USWS’), half of the brain gets a rest whilst the other re­mains awake and alert for preda­tors.

A chicken’s brain is di­vided into two hemi­spheres. Each eye is at­tached to the op­po­site hemi­sphere, i.e. the left eye is at­tached to the right hemi­sphere and the right eye is at­tached to the left hemi­sphere. Chick­ens can be asleep and awake at the same time!

USWS en­ables chick­ens to sleep and be alert for preda­tors at the same time.

Ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tific stud­ies, chick­ens are able to make be­havioural de­ci­sions as to whether they keep one half of their brain awake or al­low both halves to sleep. Chick­ens seem to be able to use USWS at will. When they are sleep­ing in a more risky sit­u­a­tion, they will in­crease the pro­por­tion of their sleep with one eye open and half their brain awake.

Chick­ens have the abil­ity to sleep with one eye open and the other closed.

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