Holly has told me that chickens can’t see in the dark but I’ve never really experienced their night blindness first hand. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to see and last night I got to experience the humor that accompanies a chicken that has been caught out in the dark.
Since Holly had to work an evening shift last night, I was responsible for gathering the hens at dusk and putting them in their coop. Normally they will just go in by themselves but Holly recently moved the chicks out there so the bigger birds aren’t able to get into the coop on their own. I guess that’s their punishment for pecking at, and generally being big jerks to the chicks.
It was about 9:30 when I remembered that I needed to put the hens away. It was obviously dark by this time so I turned on the deck light and started wandering the yard with Emma looking for two blind birds frozen where they were when the sun went down. I eventually located them underneath the deck stairs roosting on a scrap piece of lumber. We picked them up and carried them over to the coop without incident. They knew something weird was happening since they were all of a sudden floating through the air but they couldn’t see what exactly was going on. Both birds seemed very confused which had both Emma and I laughing.
I opened up the door to the top part of the coop and placed the bird that I had in my hands in the nesting box. She refused to move farther into the coop. There was a small amount of light coming up through the door to the bottom part of the coop but it apparently wasn’t enough to allow her to see where she was going so she did what chickens do in the dark: she froze. I gently shoved her in enough to get Emma’s bird into the coop but that one also needed some shoving. So we were there staring at two chicken butts belonging to birds that were blind and terrified of the dark. After a few more gentle shoves on their tail feathers, I was eventually able to close the door, but just barely.
I learned two things from this experience: first, chickens are in fact blind once the sun goes down which is pretty funny. They reminded me of my sister’s cat that had her whiskers cut off. That cat refused to move too. (I think that she was afraid of walls.) The second thing I learned is that it’s really easy to catch a chicken in the dark. If you’ve ever chased down a chicken, you know how hard they can be to catch. They run erratically and are very fast. When it gets dark though, they just sit there. They don’t even see you coming! I guess that’s why foxes attack hen houses at night.
I think that in the future, if I have to catch a chicken, I’ll just wait it out until the sun goes down. That way, I don’t need to look like a fool trying to catch a bird that doesn’t fly. Sly like a fox…