The Great Chicken Disaster of 1952

There’s a reason chickens are mostly kept inside in Westray. It’s because of the great chicken disaster of 1952.

On 15 January 1952 winds reached twice hurricane speed and, across Orkney, any loose animal or vulnerable roof was separated from its owners and dumped unceremoniously out to sea.

The total damage across Orkney was £512,213, 7 shillings and 3 pence. That’s the equivalent of £12,262,293.75 in 2023. It’s the chickens which are most remembered today as, being lighter and more mobile, they were the most frequently lost. Cattle which were tied down occasionally became airborne in the force of the continuing blast. Chickens? Well, they were lost forever.

The total losses were:

  • 86,679 hens lost and 7,154 hen houses destroyed
  • 529 agricultural buildings fully or partially destroyed
  • 1,664 agricultural buildings fully or partially unroofed
  • 243 domestic houses fully or partially demolished
  • 1,247 domestic houses unroofed

Here’s an advert from The Orkney Agricultural Journal about the supremacy of Westray eggs:

Westray Eggs

My friend Kim has arrived with some and I have to agree.

Westray Eggs - The Hall of Einar

They are wonderful. And I haven’t had to think about egg grading or other atrocities once.

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