31 October 2016

Winter Is (Not) Coming

I could have told you, prior to the release of any scientific data bolstering the point, that this past Winter was one of our warmest on record (in modernity). And pray tell, how would I know this other than the fact that I barely needed a coat all season?

Well, first there was my unceasing allergies — it was so mild naughty things kept blooming right on through the Winter. "Winter? We don't need no stinking Winter," said the Flora.

And second, the backyard chickens kept by two different neighbors never ceased laying eggs. You heard me right. This is significant.

Normally, most chickens "in the wild" — as in, those not in an artificial daylight environment commercial operation — will cease laying eggs with the coming of Winter as the days grow shorter and it stays cold and dark for longer periods. However, the seasonal changes were so slight this time around that these chickens never received the necessary cues to wind their biological clocks down. They just kept on ticking all year! Poor chickens!

We know humans have issues galore when our circadian rhythms are knocked askew, so what happens when we reach the point where the chickens don't come home to roost?

It's this week's "Sign of the Apocalypse".

NOTICE: This post is a reblog from (the now defunct) castlemodern.tumblr.com. It was originally published 24-Mar-2016. Post may have been edited or updated from its original text.
Author's Note: The above post is the reason I moved CM to a platform with full commenting features. I admit the post is a bit tongue-in-cheek --- I had recently read Sports Illustrated's Sign of the Apocalypse blurb, after all --- but really... the post garnered several "notes": one is someone pointing out there are chicken breeds which lay eggs year round so it wasn't due to climate change and another is someone reposting it to his tumblr with the addition of this little tidbit: "Chickens' egg-laying cycles respond to light cues, not temperature cues, as far as I know. People who want their..." 

I wanted to respond but had no desire to keep reblogging the post merely to make a comment. In my opinion, there wasn't an easy way to start a back-and-forth discussion on tumblr. I needed to rethink things and eventually decided to move my website to a different platform so that I would be able to engage readers, discuss, and even argue points in-line.

My comment is this: 
Climate Change is an important topic to me; however, even though global warming has been observed to interfere with the normal lifecycles (and breeding cycles) of various bird populations, I honestly didn't believe that one or two cases of our neighborhood's chickens laying eggs year-round meant the world would implode tomorrow. The post is mostly an interesting observation that all the neighborhood chickens, though different breeds, were oddly in sync and not be having normally. (One neighbor has kept chickens for over 20 years and has never before recalled her chickens not stopping laying eggs in Winter.) More data would need to be collected to determine causation, obviously. 
My second point is a direct response to the comment above regarding light cues vs temperature cues being the key to chickens' egg-laying cycles. Have we forgotten as much basic science as this? Light and (heat) temperature are often nearly interchangeable. Light has an inherent temperature gradient. Light cues include temperature cues by default. (Oversimplification, yes, but apparently it's needed.) 
If you think chickens do not respond to temperature changes or that said response can affect their ability to lay eggs.... urgh! Be very afraid, World, for we are actually doomed.

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