What weather most un­set­tles a chicken?

Your Chickens - - Contents -

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.


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!

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