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Spying On Chickens At Night

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Strategically placing a nightcam to spot animals is something we’ve done before. Back then, the goal was to find out what was causing the racket under the roof (mice) and the added bonus was discovering who left all those hairs behind in the sofa (the dog).

This time, we’re facing a potential new problem. One of our chickens is losing a lot of feathers, and quite rapidly too: each morning I find a bunch of small and bigger gray ones in their nest. The chicken in question shows bald spots on her neck and various other places of her plumage. It’s not entirely gone and looks weird: most of the pens are broken off, leaving big stumps behind instead of beautiful—and more importantly, in this weather, warm—feathers.

It could be no problem at all: chances are high it’s just because of the chickens molting season where the current plumage gets traded in for a thicker variant. This process could take up to six weeks, and during it, the “bald spots with broken pens syndrome” is entirely normal.

However, it could also be the result of excessive plucking due to various mites, fights between the chickens, or other animals such as hedgehogs that creep into their pen at night and nibble away. We just wanted to be sure. hence the nightcam to the rescue:

All The Single Ladies!

Gotcha Gray One in the back, stop scratching that itchy spot! Hey, wait a minute, why aren’t you ladies in bed yet? Come on, shoo, time to go to sleep, night-night:

Soft kitty warm kitty little ball of fur...

All right, that’s much better.

The cam recorded a bunch of videos and stills where nothing much happens: the blink of an eye, the occasional bristle of a feather, the taking over of the watch shift, the pushing around until everyone sits comfortable in the same tiny bed as the temperature outside drops to -2° C.

No unwanted outsiders. Not even a single mouse.

Just to be on the safe side, we recorded for a few days. No worries, of course a full consent was given by shaking paws—I think they opted for a Creative Commons share-alike license. Here’s the three of them cuddled up together in one big chicken feather ball the night before:

Catching some Zzzs.

I think the one in the back is standing on the edge, there’s little space back there! That’s supposed to be the egg-laying section but I guess they misread the sign.

Anyway, it also answers another question: is there a fixed place to sleep per chicken? The answer is clearly no: the Gray One slept on the right side on day one and on the left side on day two. We did observe consistency in the sleeping starting place: each night starts out in the small section on the back of the chicken pen until The Chief—the one with the biggest comb—decides to move.

It’s also The Chief who takes up the responsibility to guard most of the time during the nights: the most open eyes found in the images were hers. It’s quite the burden to lead a pack of three women, you know?

The plucking behavior of the Gray One at night is consistent with typical behavior shown during molting season. In the 2.1 GB recorded files of each night, there wasn’t anything else worth mentioning, so I guess we can leave them alone and look forward to a shiny new pack of feathers very soon.

I wonder what else we can use that cam for?

tags icon nightcam chickens

I'm Wouter Groeneveld, a Brain Baker, and I love the smell of freshly baked thoughts (and bread) in the morning. I sometimes convince others to bake their brain (and bread) too.

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