Hens definitely have the right idea. As soon as light levels lower, they down tools (or simply stop scratching around) and strut off to their cosy coop for a long night’s rest till it brightens again in the morning. Before I get carried away, I must remind myself that this is not so much a sensible lifestyle choice but is simply due to the birds’ inability to see in the dark, but I can’t help respecting the flock’s harmonious relationship with nature’s rhythms all the same.
I imagine offices in all four corners of Britain – especially Scotland where it’s twilight a good deal earlier than down south – are feeling the effects of shorter days and longer nights the way Country Living HQ is. Our Soho premises are like a scene from Shaun of the Dead, Simon Pegg’s comic film about zombies. We could all do with an extra hour or two snoozing in the mornings and us commuters are facing the fact that we’re also now getting home in the dark and will be till spring 2012. Yikes.
This also has further implications for those henkeepers among us – we simply don’t see feather or beak of our chickens during the week. When I opened up the pophole this morning, there was no sign of Audrey and Mabel. They weren’t ready to get up – it was 6am and inky-black outside. They looked at me, their tiny eyes shining out from feathery pom-pom heads, as if I was mad. Then at night they’re already snug in their nesting boxes (as non- perchers, they sleep in the straw-lined boxes) and I only glimpse them when I lift the lid to collect those all-important eggs. Naturally, the supply is dwindling as the hens only lay in the light, but I scraped together half-a-dozen for my Country Living colleagues.
So you only see your flock at weekends if you’re a country-dweller-city-worker type. Everyone’s been battling with an overwhelming sense of fatique and the urge to hibernate – or simply mimic the no-nonsense poultry approach to autumn. Given that it’s dark by 7.30pm lately and light only by around 6.30am, if we took our lead from our flocks, we’d be benefiting from a whopping 11 hours of sleep. I’m seriously considering giving it a go at the weekend.