How Will the Eclipse Impact my Chickens and Ducks?

August 20, 2017


Never has a single event prompted so many questions from readers as the impending solar eclipse which will occur on Monday, August 21st, 2017. Mainly, chicken keepers have been worried about how the eclipse will affect their flock, concerned about their chickens possibly going blind from staring up at the sun, and to a lesser extent, curious about whether their chickens will not lay on that day or go to roost during the eclipse.
Since most chickens will never experience an eclipse during their lifetime, much less a total eclipse of the sun, this certainly is a unique situation and I didn't have the answers to the questions I was being asked.  Even doing some googling, it seems there's lots of speculation surrounding eclipses since they aren't all that common. And as we all know, any type of scientific research is kind of sparse when it comes to chickens!
Fun little factoid: I actually had chickens back in 1979 when the United States experienced its last total solar eclipse! I do remember making some kind of DIY eclipse viewing apparatus with my Mom out of a shoe box, but don't remember how our chickens reacted. I even called my Mom last week to ask her, but she didn't remember either.
So I started doing some digging and found some answers to your burning (pun intended!) questions. Bottom line is: I wouldn't worry too much. If you have to work tomorrow, I wouldn't recommend locking your chickens up in their coop all day. If you're home, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to try to get them into the coop for the duration - which incidentally will be under 3 minutes of totality - although the entire event can last a few hours for many. 
If you normally free range however, I would suggest keeping your chickens in their run tomorrow. One thing that might happen is that the unexpected darkness could panic and confuse your flock, and they could become disoriented and possibly lost. And of even more concern, short as it will be, the darkness could possibly rouse some nocturnal predators, such as owls, which could pose a threat to your flock. 

Question: Will my Chickens Be Blinded? 
Answer: Not Likely

Chickens, and other animals both domestic and wild for that matter, don't generally spend much time staring up at the sun. So there's little chance that they will choose the moment of the eclipse to stare skywards and harm their eyesight. 
Ducks, on the other hand, do often turn an eye to the sky, and there's no telling how the wild birds will react (I've read the darkness might even draw out bats), which could cause our ducks to turn to look upwards, so I think I will be ushering our ducks indoors during the eclipse. Just to be on the safe side. I figure there's no sense taking chances.  We will also make sure our dogs are in the house along with our cat. Again, no sense taking chances when it's so easy to take this simple precaution.


Question: Will my Chickens Go To Roost? 
Answer: Most Likely


As we know, chickens automatically head to bed when it starts to get dark, so I have every confidence that the chickens would just put themselves to bed as the skies started to darken. Ours tend to head into the coop during a rainstorm as well, so I was guessing that the chickens would take care of themselves and hop onto their roosts at the onset of the darkness. Of course, it will be so short, that they'll just get settled when it will get light again and they'll re-emerge, likely scratching their heads at how short that night was!

My theory seems to be sound, at least according to an interesting story I read about Thomas Edison. In 1878, the year after he invented the phonograph, Thomas Edison traveled to Wyoming to view the eclipse and had set up his telescope in an empty chicken barn. As the story goes, when darkness descended, the entire flock of chickens descended on Mr. Edison as they frantically returned to roost!

Photo Credit: National Park Service


Question: Will the Eclipse Affect Laying? 
Answer: Not Likely


The short period of darkness probably isn't long enough to have any effect on your chickens' laying cycle. Plus, this time of year, with shorter days and the molt season starting, who's getting many eggs anyway, right? 

So that's what I found out about Monday's eclipse and its potential impact on our flocks. After the event we should know a bit more about how it applies chickens thanks to a study being conducted by the University of Missouri that involves cameras set up in a hen house. I would also love to hear your experience and observations after the event!


Not sure if you're in the path? Or what time you should be worried about all of this? Here's a great map for you!

Further Reading:
https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-who-what-where-when-and-how
https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap170819.html
http://www.jstor.org/stable/27857989?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/blogs/how-does-solar-eclipse-affect-animals
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/08/animals-react-total-solar-eclipse-august-space-science/
http://www.audubon.org/news/how-weird-will-wildlife-get-during-2017-solar-eclipse
https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/19/16171952/solar-eclipse-animal-behavior-hippos-bees-bugs-bats-birds

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