If you keep chickens, you will doubtless have noticed that they are constantly talking to each other – and you’ll probably have guessed that they have different noises for different situations.
It’s quite easy to decode chicken language if you know what to listen for – and to help you get to grips with what your birds are saying, in this post, we explain 15 chicken sounds and what they mean.
General chicken noises
Here are some of the most common chicken noises – some of them are exclusively made by hens while others can also be made by roosters.
1. Low murmuring and purring – contentment and security
When chickens are going about their business foraging and pecking for tasty morsels, they stay in constant touch with the rest of the flock by continually letting out a series of low murmurs and sounds that sound very much like a cat purring.
These sounds are a sign that they are content and that all is well, that there is no danger and that the chickens all feel safe, secure and comfortable.
When chickens are out foraging, they seem to be in their own world just getting on with what they do.
However, they seldom move out of earshot from the rest of the flock, and the noises they make while they are foraging help keep them all reassured.
At the same time, it also helps them avoid straying off on their own and potentially finding themselves in danger without the rest of the flock to help.
2. High-pitched scream or shriek – danger from above
When they notice imminent danger, chickens have two very distinct ways of alerting the rest of the flock, and the most urgent is when they see a potential threat from the sky.
A bird of prey can swoop down in just seconds, carrying a chicken away with it, so if chickens notice a danger from above, they let out a high-pitched scream or shriek that tells the rest of the flock to either run for cover or to freeze.
3. Repetitive clucking – danger on the ground
If a chicken spots a danger on the ground, the call is different because the threat might not be as imminent as when they spot a hawk circling above.
In the case of a ground threat, chickens start making a rhythmic clucking noise that becomes faster, louder and seemingly more urgent the closer the threat comes.
This way, chickens can alert each other of a possible danger as soon as it is noticed – and as the danger becomes more imminent, they can also let the rest of the flock know about the increasing levels of the threat.
4. Squawks – caught
Hens squawking means they’ve been caught and need help. However, the same noise can also be made when hens receive unwanted advances from a rooster – in which case, the dominant rooster will quickly arrive on the scene to see off the impudent suitor.
5. Growling and hissing hens – broodiness
If you’ve never seen a broody hen, you might not quite know what they’re like – but as soon as you’ve seen one once, you’ll never be in any doubt again about whether a hen has entered her broody state.
When a hen goes broody, along with the typically aggressive, defensive body language and the fluffing of feathers, you’ll also quickly learn to recognize the noises a broody hen makes.
The most common are best described as growling and hissing, and when you hear them, it’s quite clear that the hen wants to be left alone.
If you ignore these warnings and try to handle a broody hen, she may also make screaming sounds – and may act aggressively toward you, trying to peck you or fight you off in any way she can.
A broody hen growling and hissing is a lot like a dog that’s growling, snarling and baring its teeth – it’s a clear message that your presence is not welcome and that you shouldn’t try to interfere with her.
If it’s necessary to handle the chicken in this state – perhaps to separate her from the flock or to put her in isolation to try to cure her broodiness, make sure you wear thick gloves.
Broody chickens don’t often venture outside, but if they do mix with other chickens while they are broody, they will also continue to make similar aggressive noises to warn other chickens off and to tell them that she doesn’t want company!
6. The “egg-laying song” – an egg has been laid
If you keep chickens for eggs, one type of distinctive sound will quickly become very familiar, and that’s the so-called “egg song”.
When a hen is about to lay an egg, she starts to make a kind of clucking noise that sounds like buk buk buk bukerk – with the emphasis on the last “word”.
She will then keep repeating this over and over again, perhaps becoming louder and more insistent as the egg is about to arrive – and then she will continue to sing the song after the egg has been laid.
What’s really interesting, though, is when one hen starts singing the egg-laying song, the others will then join in as if to offer her encouragement and then to congratulate her once the job is done.
This is why this song becomes so familiar to chicken keepers whose hens are productive layers because each morning, the song will start up as the ladies get on with their job – and the happy sound of this song tells the keeper that fresh eggs are ready and waiting to be collected.
However, there is also another time when chickens will make a similar noise and that’s when one hen has taken another hen’s favorite nest box.
In this case, the clucking will be a little more aggressive and is designed to tell the other hen to leave the nest box – especially if the squatter is a lower-ranking hen in the flock.
However, this rarely has the effect of evicting the offending hen, so usually the second hen just goes into the nest box and sits down next to the other hen, squashing her.
This may finally convince the first hen to leave, in which case the complaining hen will stop clucking since she has got her own way.
7. Clucking – hens interacting with chicks
The classic noise that we associate with chickens is actually the noise hens make when interacting with their chicks.
Even while hens are sitting their eggs before they hatch, they start this clucking noise, and when the chicks emerge, they are already well used to the sound of their mothers.
From the moment they emerge from their eggs, the constant clucking from their mothers makes them feel safe and reassured.
Later, as they begin to explore their new world, two variations on their mothers’ clucks can then help them remain safe under their mothers’ protection.
A constant low-level cluck from a mother hen is a message telling the chicks to stay close and not stray off on their own while a more insistent buk buk buk type of cluck tells the chicks that there is food to eat.
Common Chicks noises
Chicks also respond to their mothers with chirps – and although their “vocabulary” is more limited, it’s still possible to work out what their chirps mean. Here are some of the most common.
8. Soft chirps – happy chicks
Chicks making continuous soft chirps are signaling that they are happy, safe and content. This is the equivalent of the murmuring and purring noises adult chickens make when they feel safe.
9. High-pitched chirps – distress
More high-pitched chirps from chicks mean they are in some kind of distress. Usually, this will mean that they are hungry or cold.
10. Rapid high-pitched chirps – fear or surprise
If the high-pitched chirps are rapid and more urgent, it means the chicks are frightened of something or that they have been startled.
11. High-pitched screams -when removed from mother
This is the kind of noise chicks will make if you pick them up and take them away from their mother. Often, the only way to get them to stop is to put them back.
12. Energetic chirping – excitement
Although it can be difficult to tell apart from distress or fear chirping, energetic chirping can mean the chicks are excited about something – perhaps because they are about to receive some food.
Common Roosters noises
Roosters can make a lot of noise, and some of their calls are specific to them. Here are some of the most common.
13. Crowing in the morning – wake-up call
Among the most famous of all chicken noises is the rooster’s morning call – and that’s just what it is, a wake-up call to tell the rest of his flock that it’s time to wake up and start another day.
14. Crowing at other times – several meanings
Crowing can also have several other meanings. Sometimes, roosters crow to mark their territory or to assert their dominance. If you have several roosters, the dominant one will always be the first to crow, followed by the others.
15. Low-pitched call – food is present
When a rooster locates food, he alerts the rest of the flock by making a low-pitched call.
Sometimes, roosters have been known to make this call when no food has been discovered just to attract more hens.
However, once he tries this on a few times, the hens quickly get wise to him and stop responding to his calls!
Listen to what your chickens are telling you
Learning to understand the different noises chickens make is important since it can help you work out what they want so you can meet their needs – and now, with this post, you should easily be able to recognize 15 of the most common!