Bonfire Night and beyond – how to keep your hens happy this Autumn
/November is fast approaching, which means the night skies will soon be ablaze with the flashing of fireworks and a cacophony of pops, whistles and bangs will be ringing in our ears. Whilst we all love the spectacle of a fireworks display, for chicken owners, the reality can be far from entertaining.
There’s plenty of advice available for calming your dog or cat when the displays begin but did you know that hens can get stressed on Bonfire Night too? As a prey animal, hens are on ‘high alert’ for danger – so naturally, the sudden loud noises and explosions of colour can easily spook them. Even if you don’t live close to an organised display site, the bark of a neighbour’s nervous dog or the shouts of excited children can be enough to put your hens into a panic.
However, the good news is that there are some simple, natural remedies that you can use to help settle your girls in all types of stressful situations. So, whether it’s Bonfire Night, a close shave with a fox or a visit from next door’s dog, our top tips will help keep your chickens calm on Fireworks Night and beyond.
Recognising the signs of stress
Most hens will probably snooze their way through Bonfire Night without too much trouble, but it pays to be vigilant if you think the festivities may upset your flock. Recognising the early signs will help you take preventative measures and minimise exposure to long term stress – which can have an adverse effect on their day-to-day lives.
Nowadays, firework displays aren’t limited to a single evening, so it’s possible that your chickens will experience two or three evenings of bangs and flashes. The shock of loud explosions has been known to stop hens laying or, in extreme cases, to harm other hens in their panic. If your hens are skittish, dart about or flap their wings a lot, they may be feeling unsettled, so keep a close eye on them. Signs of more long-term stress can include abnormal feathering; constant preening; increased aggression and restless pacing for birds that are housed on the floor.
What can you do to help your hens beat stress?
Lavender isn’t just for humans you know, it can also have a calming effect on your hens too. In fact, it’s a brilliant relaxant for your feathered friends, so if your hens are a bit highly strung, place some bundles of dried lavender into their nesting boxes – it’ll act as a bit of DIY aromatherapy and will also keep their house smelling lovely!
You can also try Nature’s Grub Fresh Nest Herbs – the natural oils in several of these herbs and flowers will help to deter mice but are also 100% bio-degradable, free from artificial scent, colours or preservatives and are completely safe, edible and non-toxic, so there’s no worry if your hens take an extra liking to it!
Calming supplements can also be given to help your hens cope – Nature’s Grub Healthy Hen Herbs containing Chamomile and Lemon Balm help to relax your hens, Little Feed Co Peck Pourri that has a unique mix of dried herbs and flowers is made with marigold flowers, chamomile flowers, rosebuds, rosemary, mint, basil, cornflower petals to soothe, or Global Herbs’ De Stress which can be used in your hens’ drinking water.
Try the Radio
Loud noises can upset your hens and interfere with their zen. Whether it’s Fireworks Night or a party next-door that’s making them nervous, having a radio playing in the coop provides a soothing distraction in the form of background noise.
Because they are used to hearing human voices, a radio gives them a sense of security – day or night – even if it doesn’t totally mask the external noise. It has been proven that hens are calmed by classical music, so stick on some Beethoven for the ultimate in chicken relaxation!
Home sweet home
Your hens’ coop is their safe haven, so it doesn’t hurt to take some extra precautions at this time of year to keep them feeling happy. If you can, add some extra insulation (taking care to leave ventilation holes clear of course) to help deaden the noise of fireworks. Bright lights and flashes may upset them so try to ensure that the coop is totally light-proof by covering windows or setting up a screen.