What weather most unsettles a chicken?
What weather spooks hens?
This is a miserable time of year, and one of the most miserable things about it is the weather. Rain, snow, hail, sleet and freezing temperatures. Everything is grey and drab. There are no insects, few plants and really nothing to interest a chicken at all. Nevertheless, my flock troop out of the chicken shed every day and do their usual rounds. Snow doesn’t stop them, nor cold, nor mist, nor drizzle. The one type of weather that does find them sheltering in the barn is wind.
Why don’t chickens like the wind? A quick lesson in basic physiology helps to clear the mystery up.
CENTRE OF GRAVITY
A chicken’s centre of gravity is just below the top of its hips. Its body is slung between the hips and has a good, steady stance. When standing or walking in normal conditions a chicken is stable and unlikely to tip or fall. If you think about it, you have probably never seen a healthy chicken fall over. Chickens are well-balanced birds. All this changes, however, on a very windy day. Chickens may be compact birds with a low centre of gravity, but they have prominent tails. Effectively, the chicken has a great big sail stuck to its rear, and once the wind hits it the chicken is immediately shoved off course and struggles to maintain control. The low centre of gravity means the chicken is unlikely to be pushed over, but it will find it increasingly hard to steer. Cockerels and hens struggle equally – although a cockerel’s tail is larger, the feathers are longer and floatier and don’t offer so much wind resistance. Hens have smaller tails but their tails are dense and they have a lot of wind resistance. This is why chickens do not like to cross an exposed yard in high wind, even on a warm spring day.
There is a solution to the problem of being hit broadside by the wind, and chickens are aware of this. If you watch chickens on a blustery day, you will notice that they tend to turn their backs to the wind. While this helps keep them in a straight line, the wind pushes their feathers aside and effectively blows straight up their bottom.
All things considered, it’s not really a surprise that chickens prefer to stay inside on windy days!
Chickens prefer to stay inside on windy days
ABOVE: Chickens sheltering from the wind beneath a tree BELOW: Here comes the wind!