Will this evening be harmful to my hens? URGENT


In the Brooder
11 Years
Mar 27, 2008
Okay, this may sound crazy, but bear with me.

My three hens are in trouble: I live in the city and my evil neighbours called Animal Control on me (we have a history of enmity not even related to the chickens, it's a long story...). I have one month to relocate them, or find a way to squeak past the bylaw. I am working on that through various channels. This is not my question though, this is just some context.

I work in media, and heard through my grapevine that a young artist who is crashing our city's Nuit Blanche festival (this is an all-night art event with various outdoor and indoor art spectacles taking place across the city from sundown through sunup, and is modelled on similar events in Paris an Barcelona), is looking for hens to use in a performance-art piece he is doing.

He wants to put them in a clear Plexi glass van (the kind used for advertising promos), and write something to the effect of "Where does your food come from," and talk about the issues facing small-scale farmers, and the increasing industrialization of our food production chain etc etc.

I want to loan him my hens so that I can write about the event in the newsaper and thus gain some media play to their plight (facing eviction due to an unfair bylaw that penalizes me for raising my own pet hens for eggs, as part of my lifestyle which includes growing my own backyard veggies in the city, etc etc), in the hopes that this may help me change the local bylaws in my city, and put the issue into the newspapers again, for other backyard hen raisers in other Canadian cities.

My question is this:
If three hens who free-range and forage in a small urban backyard (with a variety of flower beds and under-tree areas) during the day, and who spend the nights in an indoor coop inside a shed (with some ambiant light coming through the shed windows since my neighbours like to maintain roughly 500 watts of high voltage light on their property!) were to be driven in a cube van all night long, would this harm them?

1-They have not been in a car since they were chicks, although the van would drive slow;
2-There would be dim lights in the van, but ambiant light through the Plexi walls would exist. I would be onsite and order people not to take flash photography;
3-If we do this, I'll lay either sod or carpet on the floor of the van so there's comfortable traction and a softer floor surface, add bales of hay, and set up a roost in case they want to use it when the van is stationary at one if its stops (I think it will stay at a stop for 30 minutes to an hour). They will have access to water and food. I'll also "build up" a corner with some cloth or something so it can be a dark corner they can retreat to if needed.

There is no doubt in my mind that the hens would probably rather be at home sleeping, but given the situation we are in (the order to remove them, my desire to publicize the issue and work with this artist who is actually staging this as part of a larger documentary looking at the issues surrounding factory farming, avian flu, and the way current local bylaws penalize ethical consumers who choose to humanly raise their own well-treated hens as part of a local-food movement), I sort of feel like this might be one fabulous chance for publicity. Not for me--I'm no aspiring Lindsay Lohan--but to the plight of my family hens, and to the bylaws that penalize backyard chickens. I think it brings attention to the issue in a novel way, to a new audience who might not read about these issues in, say, the news section of the newspaper.

So: do you think being out in unnatural light in a see-through van from sundown to sunup would harm them? The greater good I think justifies some lost sleep for them, but if it could potentially really traumatize them, that would not be worth it. But don't battery hens deal with 24-hour light? And this is just one night. Help!

They are Rhode Island Reds crossed with Columbian Rocks and are very healthy, gregarious and outgoing birds. They are so-so on the friendly front. Affectionate with me, and merely curious or tolerant with others. Not intimidated by strangers.

Put it this way: if it merely annoys them a bit, it's worth it for the greater good. But if it could actually harm them -- no, not worth it. Your thoughts? (I have a few days to decide.)

Thanks for your help. I know this is a weird query.
I think it would be something they might have bad dreams about later in the week, but I don't think it will harm them irreparably. It's just a few hours of their life.

Their egg-laying may stop for a bit because of the disruption in sleep, etc., but I think you could live with that.

Sod on the floor of their cube would be great.

Best of luck with your effort to keep your girls.
Thats a really good cause and the girls will do their bit for it!
Yes they will probably stress out a bit/lot but it wont kill them, they may stop laying for a few days. Just keep checking in on them and say hello so they know that you are still there and havent abandoned them to this really weird place.
Just watch for any signs of stress like extended breathing etc.
Im sure they will be fine, i see your point though with the extended lighting, perhaps he can try some red light globes as well.
Im sure someone else will offer their views.
Good luck and well done, and also I really wish you a good outcome with the neighbours and animal control.
I agree, they should be just fine! They might like seeing the rest of the world for a day! Consider it their vacation, they just cannot really explore. I say go for it and write your story. Go chickeys go!
Yay! for crashing the art shinanigans and promoting real life instead!!!

Your girls might take a day or two to get back to "normal", but hey, wouldn't we all if we stayed up late and weren't used to it?! They'll be fine and doing a great deed! Let us know how it all goes?
why plexiglass instead of wire mesh? Also I agree with chickens being fine after a day or two but how would they react to a dog on a leash barking at them ?? Sacre the bejesus out of them? Would they have a place to hide if need be?
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I would think they should be fine with the set up you described. I have 9 of mine at a County Fair, in little cages with lots of people walking through and gawking at them.
I am sure they will be a little sleep deprived but fine.
I personally would never subject my birds to undue stress such as that which you are suggesting. Especially in such and extreme act. You cannot predict what onlookers actions will be, and you cannot predict what your friend will do in the heat of the moment.

And if your already concerned because animal control has been called on you, why are you allowing them to be put in the spotlight? Your city officials are already in opposition to the birds apparently, and something of this sort could certainly harm your case more than help it.

If I were you, I would forego the spotlight, and concentrate on finding a safe home for my birds until I could challenge the law properly.
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You know it's gonna freak them out, but when they get back home they should be fine. I say give your neighbors oleander tea in a lovely gift basket. Plastic cups though - no one wants glass shards in their feet after they fall over dead.

I know, I know, twisted sense of humor here.

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