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How Will a Solar Eclipse Impact my Chickens and Ducks?

Most chickens will never experience an eclipse in their lifetime - but if they do, how will it affect their eyesight, laying, roosting habits during that time?

Never had a single world event prompted so many questions from my readers as the impending solar eclipse which occurred on Monday, August 21st, 2017. 

Mainly, chicken keepers were worried about how the eclipse would 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 would go to roost during the eclipse.

Since I had no idea, I did a lot of research into how pets respond to solar eclipses back in 2017 before the eclipse that August.  

What I found out was pretty fascinating and I shared it here. I can't believe it's been almost 7 years and we're anticipating another solar eclipse this year on April 8th, 2024! So, I'm updating and sharing this blog post again. 

How Will the Eclipse Impact my Chickens and Ducks?

Since most chickens will never experience an eclipse during their lifetime, much less a total eclipse of the sun (and much less TWO in their lifetime!), this certainly is a unique situation and I didn't have the answers to the questions I was being asked back in 2017.  

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 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 about how an eclipse impacts chickens and ducks. 

Bottom line is: I wouldn't worry too much. 

Question: Will my Chickens or Ducks Be Blinded if They are Outside? 
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. They instinctively know that the bright light can be harmful to their retinas.

And if you raise chickens, you know that it's "tails up, heads down" while they're outside as they search for bugs and worms and yummy seeds to eat.

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 anytime they spot anything flying overhead, 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 it's not a bad idea to keep your ducks indoors during the eclipse. 

Just to be on the safe side. 

I figure there's no sense taking chances. It's also a good idea to keep your dogs and cats inside as well.  Again, no sense taking chances when it's so easy to take this simple precaution.

Question: Should I Keep my Chickens Locked up in their Coop? 

Answer: Probably not Necessary.

If you have to leave the house and be at work or school while the eclipse is taking place, I wouldn't recommend locking your chickens up in their coop all day. 

If you're home during the eclipse, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to try to get them into the coop or at least the run for the duration - which incidentally will be under 3 minutes of totality - although the entire event from partial beginning to end can last a few hours for many of us.

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, panicked, and possibly

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 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.

Observations about birds and other animals during the 2017 eclipse seen to support that theory as well. 

Ours tend to head into the coop during a rainstorm as well, as soon as the clouds start to darked the sky, so I guessed 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!

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. So, no the eclipse shouldn't affect egg production at all. 

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 [updated to report that I couldn't find any results of the study, unfortunately].

Not sure if you're in the path of the 2017 eclipse? Or what time you should be worried about all of this? Here's a great map for you!

Updated for 2024:

And here's the map for the April 8, 2024 eclipse.

Our chickens did indeed head into the coop all on their own as soon as the sun started to disappear that afternoon in 2017! But as soon as the sun re-emerged, they reappeared and went on with their day. Like nothing at all had happened. So, I'm confident the same will happen during this year's eclipse as well.

Further Reading:

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