Mark and Donna consider themselves patriotic Americans. They put flags out in their yard on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and they always attend the local fireworks display on Independence Day. They enjoy lighting sparklers with their grandchildren and waving them around to make designs in the twilight of each July Fourth evening.
Mark and Donna don’t, however, enjoy when their neighbors set off fireworks. “The sound scares the [edited] out of our hens,” Mark complained. “It takes them almost a month to calm down and start laying again.”
Chickens & Fireworks
Most people know that animals easily spook at the sound of fireworks. Just Google the words “fireworks” and “animals” and you’ll get pages and pages of links to sites discussing the terror that fireworks instill in pets and wildlife. The Thunderworks company pretty much based their business on selling anxiety-reducing pet “shirts” for use during fireworks and thunderstorms.
I can’t find much information online regarding chickens’ (or livestock’s, for that matter) reaction to fireworks, however. We know our birds do indeed suffer stress due to such conditions as overcrowding and overheating and that any type of change—a new coop, a new flock member, a new pecking order, you name it—triggers anxiety for our chickens.
I know from personal experience that my hens’ egg production drops after every major thunderstorm. It takes them about a week to rebound. It was a reasonable assumption that chickens would also react negatively to the sound of fireworks … but I needed to double check.
“Egg production in hens can definitely be affected by fireworks,” stated Dr. Michael Hoffman, DVM, an Army veterinarian with years of experience dealing with poultry. When I asked if chickens could die of fright, Dr. Hoffman noted that he was unfamiliar with any research or studies indicating so but that he supposed it was possible.
Read more: Prevent stress for happy, healthy chickens.
Fortunately, we’ve never had to deal with our birds’ reaction to fireworks. Small livestock farms and military combat veterans surround our property. Nobody in our area sets off fireworks out of consideration for both groups.
Well … until this year. At about 8 PM on July 4th, a deafening boom shook our house and sent our cats scrambling for safety under our bed. Outside, our ducks jumped about and flapped in a panic and our chickens charged for their coops.
Explosions continued, one every half hour, until past 1 AM.
The fireworks were so deafening that they felt as if they were being set off just outside our bedroom window. I could only imagine what the nearby veterans—our next-door neighbor to the north and our neighbor across the road—must have felt. My husband, Jae, an Army veteran, was none too pleased.
We discovered early the next morning, after failing to coax our chickens out of their coops, that our brand-new next-door neighbors to the south spent the night setting off the fireworks. For reasons I still don’t quite understand, they set up their fireworks in their backyard near our shared property line, just yards from our bedroom window.
When they started setting off fireworks on the 5th, once again sending our poor cats scrambling, I decided to pay them a neighborly visit. As I suspected, they wondered why nobody else in our area set off fireworks and grew quite contrite when I explained about the combat vets and the farm animals (and the location of our bedroom).
What to Do
If your birds suffer due to nearby neighbors setting off fireworks, consider the following options:
- Talk to your neighbors. They might not know that fireworks adversely affect animals and, hopefully, upon learning that they unintentionally frightened your flock, they’ll cease fire… literally.
- Contact your municipality. Your village, town or city may have ordinances that restrict or prohibit fireworks or loud noise. If your fireworks-loving neighbor violated any of these, take note and contact your local authorities.
- Check your state’s regulations. Many states have laws specifically pertaining to the harassment of livestock with fireworks. Michigan state law, for example, prohibits a person from discharging or using fireworks to intentionally harass, scare or injure livestock and delineates days and times for discharging fireworks. If your neighbor violates state law with their fireworks, contact your closest state trooper station for assistance.
- If possible, temporarily sound-insulate your coop in preparation for Independence Day. Surround your coop with stacked hay or straw bales, taking care not to stack the bales to such a height that they become unstable. The bales may not keep out all the explosive noise but they will filter and reduce the scary sounds, thereby reducing the stress caused to your flock. Once the 4th has come and gone, you can use the hay or straw as litter and bedding.
It’s been half a month since Independence Day, and only one of our hens has resumed laying. Fortunately, I remain secure in the knowledge that our new neighbors will respect the silence our area observes on the 4th (and other firework-friendly holidays and events).
I can only hope the same can be said for Mark and Donna.