|The Witching Hour.|
The days in the henhouse are almost always completely predictable. The girls (when not free-ranging outside) spend a good amount of time in their chicken mansion laying, clucking and eating. The youngsters -- three juveniles (two roosters and one hen) -- hang out in the chicken run and get along great. It's every bit the bucolic country scene you think you'd see with a flock of chickens. Scratching and preening. Laying and clucking. It's lovely.
But then at around 4 pm, something goes awry. Suddenly the pecking order starts getting reinforced by both young and old. Feathers are ruffled. Feelings are hurt. Arguments ensue. I've noticed it especially with the youngsters -- everything is good until late afternoon, and then all hell breaks loose. The roosters fluff up and become offended with each other. The young pullet is offended by both the roosters. No one gets hurt or anything, but it's just a tense time and everyone seems to be at the end of their patience.
The odd thing is, the same thing used to happen to my son when he was an infant. From the time he was a month old to when he was just over a year old, 4 pm signaled what my husband and I called "The Witching Hour." Our son became restless, cranky, whiny and generally difficult. It didn't matter if he had a full belly, clean diaper and had just woken up from a nice nap -- he was miserable from about 4 - 6 pm. Those late afternoons took all the patience I had as a new mother. I got through it, but it was not easy.
Senior Centers apparently have a similar problem. They call it "sundowning." Elderly patients, especially those in memory care facilities, have a marked decrease in rationality, cognition and reasoning ability starting in late afternoon, about sundown, hence the name. Caregivers dread this time of day because it's when their charges tend to try and wander away, or irrationally argue things, or just become intractable over something reasonable, like asking someone to eat dinner or brush their hair.
So what is it about that time of day that both humans and animals seem to do badly with? Is it a drop in some crucial hormone or chemical? Is it a primeval fear of encroaching darkness, a discomfort with the dying of the light?
Whatever it is, it's definitely real, and no less prevalent in the henhouse than in the senior home. I've even noticed I have a tendency to sometimes get a little short-tempered and anxious at this time of day.
The Witching Hour. Not just for witches, apparently.