Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Fresh-Frozen Chickens

The following description of the effects of an unusual meteorological event on domestic chickens is excerpted from History of Weather Observations: Indianapolis, Indiana, 1861—1948 (.pdf), by Glen Conner:
The motivation for the earliest weather observations in Indianapolis is unknown. It seems certain to have been a scientific interest in meteorology. It may have been a natural curiosity about the environment or a desire to be part of the Smithsonian Institution’s climate network that served the public. Or, perhaps, it was to understand a recent weather event such as the one that the Indianapolis Sentinel reported that caused roosting chickens to freeze hanging upside down. They reported that on New Year’s Eve 1863, the temperature was about 50° F and raining when the chickens flew up to roost in some orchard trees. On the following morning, New Year’s Day of 1864, the chickens were found, “upside down, hanging by their claws to the twigs, frozen hard and stiff.” During the previous twelve hours, the temperature had fallen seventy degrees to a morning low of twenty degrees below zero. It was reported that fifteen Confederate soldiers being held prisoner at Camp Morton froze to death that same night and twelve others were found frozen on a train that was delivering them to the Camp.
One can only wonder what effect this severe winter weather had on wild bird populations.

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