You may have heard of chickens dying while attacked by a dog or a predator, or perhaps from fireworks. Not by any obvious physical injury, but simply out of fear.
Chickens can die of fright as with their very limited ability to defend themselves, they are vulnerable to a number of predators, hence, any situation that frightens or scares them can also shock them or stress them to death. Chickens are hardy birds, but fragile internal organs like the heart can take but so much stress and once the stress level peaks and the heart is damaged, death is indeed possible.
Although stress and shock can be debilitating for chickens, it does not affect all chickens in the same way. Some chickens may be sensitive to a specific stressor and succumb to a heart attack whereas others may survive. There are countless stories of owners finding one or two dead chickens in the coop after a bad thunderstorm, while the rest seem fine.
Based on my talks with numerous chicken owners, most keepers have at one point or another witnessed sudden death in chickens with no external symptoms when they were exposed to the following:
- Thunderstorm and Lightning
Although, it is difficult to keep chickens from keeling over because of a heart attack when exposed to an extremely stressful situation, there are certain measures that you can take to keep the stressors away from your fluffy flock.
Thunderstorm and loud fireworks are uncontrollable factors; you cannot stop a thunderstorm or keep fireworks from ever going off, but unfortunately, they can have an adverse impact on chicken’s health. They may die of a heart attack or go into shock or even become paralyzed with fear.
Predator attacks is a controllable factor. You can take measures to keep weasels, raccoons, and other predators out of the chicken run.
When it comes to uncontrollable factors, the focus should be on keeping the chickens calm whereas, with controllable factors, you should try to alleviate them as much as possible.
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How Do You Keep Your Chickens Calm?
Chickens are nervous birds as they usually are prey, not predators. Chickens are not smart enough to calm themselves down in a scary situation (heck, neither are we a lot of the time), so the responsibility ultimately falls on the keeper to take steps to eliminate or at least decrease the impact of stressors on the flock.
Here are a few steps that you can take to keep your chickens calm amidst loud thunderstorms and fireworks.
You can use natural herbs or store-bought supplements to keep your chickens calm.
Lavender has a calming effect on chickens; so, it is a good idea to put that to use.
You can also purchase different calming supplements like Chill Out by Global herbs or Rescue Remedy. They soothe the nerves and keep chickens from experiencing extreme fright as fireworks go off or thunder strikes.
If you want to take extra steps to keep the loud noise from getting to your flock, you can try sound-proofing the coop.
This is very difficult to achieve as chickens need the ventilation and with good ventilation, you cannot make a coop sound-proof. But you can try to reduce the impact by using temporary Styrofoam insulation.
Insulation will not deaden the noise entirely but definitely cause less distress. Make sure your chickens have proper ventilation in the coop for the night.
If you keep the light on in your coop for the night, do not make this abrupt change and turn off the light as a precautionary measure. But in case, you keep the light off, do not turn it on thinking it will help the flock calm down.
In case of fireworks, and lightning, try to light-proof the coop. Flashes and lights will make chickens aggressive towards each other and cause distress.
Using sheets on windows to keep the lights from getting inside will help your fluffy flock in these hard times. So be proactive and cover the windows to limit any light from getting inside.
All That Jazz
When something troubles the fluffy flock, poultry keepers get creative and go to any extent to keep chooks safe.
A fun way to help your chickens is to get some classical music playing inside to mask the external thuds. Set it on low volume.
Farmers also keep battery radios inside to cancel the outside noise. Get your chickens listening to classical music as they get through the night swaying.
Talk to Your Neighbors
If your neighbors are planning to have a bonfire night or a large display of fireworks, it may help to have a little chat with them about it.
Talking to them about your chickens being frightened will help eliminate the chances of having rockets fired into your garden.
In the morning, make sure to clean your garden to keep your chickens from eating the debris.
How to Keep Your Chickens Safe from Predators
The Internet is full of stories of chickens keeling over from heart attach after a predator broke into their safe space. Therefore, it is important to make your coop predator-free in order to prevent chicken fright. Here is a story from a poultry keeper who witnessed chickens dying of fear of a weasel:
“Recently lost my entire flock to a weasel attack. However, two of the birds (a Red Star and a Delaware that were buddies) crawled into a small little area outside the coop and hid there until the weasels left. Their little hiding space is covered by grass. Both of them died right where they were hiding without any lost feathers or scratches. I assume their hearts just stopped. It’s the first time I have ever witnessed an animal scared to death.”
– Dcchicken from Maryland
The key to keeping your chickens safe inside is to predator-proof the coop. Even if the predator attacks only one chicken, there is a chance that a few others may get scared to death, literally.
Here are a few tips to keep pesky predators from getting to your flock:
- Galvanized hardware cloth is your friend. Chicken wire is not effective when it comes to cats and raccoons, but hardware cloth does the job.
- Some predators can dig their way into your chicken enclosure. Keep them out by burying hardware cloth at least 18 inches deep in the ground. This will keep the coyotes out.
- Raccoons are able to open latches easily, hence, they can easily get into your chicken coop. Installing locks will keep the chickens safe from raccoons’ clever scheming.
- Big predators like bobcats and bears can be kept out with the help of electric fencing. If you have some in your area, electric fencing is a good investment when it comes to your flock’s safety
- Lights around the enclosure will keep predators wary of the area. Some keepers also use battery radios to scare the predators. These predators usually attack at nighttime; hence, lights can prove to be somewhat effective in keeping them off your property.
- Try to collect eggs on time as eggs can lure the predators into the coop.
Chickens are hardy birds with fragile hearts. Many keepers have witnessed sudden deaths of many chickens and the reason is mainly loud noises, thunder, fireworks, and predators.
Fear can also affect the chicken’s egg production as a frightened chicken may lay soft shell eggs or may not lay any eggs at all. Give your chickens some time to recover.
If you witness that any of your chicken is paralyzed with fear, take them to a safe place and provide them with electrolytes (not Brawndo’s) till they recover.
Take all the preventative measures that you can take and when things seem totally out of control, do not give up hope and get frustrated! Stay positive and keep your flock safe.