Old English Red Pyle Hen nest building in the wild

by Susan McKeehan
(La Conner, WA)

I am writing a book with a standard Old English Red Pyle hen as a character who runs away from the farmer's chicken coop to a Pacific NW forest. How would she build a nest in the wild? Out of what materials? How long would it take? How far and how high could she fly? How many eggs would she hatch the first time in the tree? I don't know anything about chickens, but I need one in my plot. Could she live several years without being killed by animals?

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Thanks for getting in touch with us. Sorry to be so slow....

Chickens don't make nests in trees, though some can fly up into a tree to roost for the night. This type of chicken could get up into a tree. Even the totally wild ancestors of all chicken breeds nest on the ground. They will usually find a secluded spot, possibly with leaves and pine needles, and scratch out a nest, then pull material to them to create a raised nest. She would probably lay about 6 eggs, one a day for 6 days. During that time she would spend most of her day foraging for food.

There is no telling how long a chicken could survive like this. They are flock animals, so living a secluded life is totally unnatural for them. (Though a broody hen wants to be secluded for the 21 days it will take her eggs to hatch. Depending on the environment and the hen, some hens will not get off their eggs for the entire 21 days - meaning she has to survive off her internal fat stores. "Broody" hens go into a sort of trance which helps them keep perfectly still, burn few calories, and hopefully go unnoticed by predators. If disturbed, they may defend their nest, or panic and take off screaming to find safety. Of course she and her eggs are very vulnerable during this time and newly hatched chicks wouldn't be able to fly up into a tree for safety for months.)

How long any chicken can survive with predators about, depends on how smart the chicken is and how smart the predators are. A hen with chicks on the ground is probably the most vulnerable of all chickens.

Chickens are unable to sustain flight. Their efforts are limited to leaping and attaining height with their wings, and they are capable of using their wings to glide down from a height.

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