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​Lonesome Historic Site

Science Station 11: Roosting Chickens


Chickens are ground-dwelling birds who like to roost off the ground at night. Lonesome always had chickens; they provided eggs and meat for the families who had to be self - sufficient. Chickens are lively sociable birds whose ancestry goes back tens of thousands of years to the jungles of Southeast Asia. Group composition includes a dominant rooster, one or more hens, one or more subordinate roosters, and young birds. Chickens start foraging before dawn. Perched in the trees, and sensitive to infrared light, they see morning light almost an hour before we do. Roosters crow at dawn and during the day to make announcements ("Here's food!"), sound warnings ("Hawk!"), and keep track of each other ("My group's here; where's yours?”). In the late afternoon, chickens like to forage before going to roost. Though they have excellent color vision, chickens do not see well at night making them vulnerable to predators. Weasels, foxes, raccoons, possums, owls, hawks, dogs, and sometimes cats prey on chickens. At night they need to be somewhere predator-proof coop with elevated perches such as tree limbs and sturdy branches big enough in circumference for a good grip. This particular tree provided chickens with a safe place to spend the night.