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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chicken Chatter

I have been amazed about the sounds that come from our flock. Sound is incredibly important in the beginning of a chick's life. They begin in the eggs, before they hatch. Momma hen and chicks cluck and cheep at each other as she incubates and turns the eggs and when they hatch, she knows them and they her, by sound. And once they lay eggs they have a particular egg song (which sound to me like they are complaining about passing yet another egg).

I will be the first to admit I am a total nerd about the flock. And making audio recordings of your flock is pretty nerdy, but I just can't help myself.

From the moment they arrived on our doorstep (via USPS) they were chirping away (listen here). In fact, their chirping never stopped (except when I played the recording back to them and they were all silently watching the recording).

Now they seem to talk to each other, but it isn't quite a clucking yet. Sometimes it's close to a purr mixed with a little growl. They don't quite sound like chickens to me, but we still have a couple of months to go from pullet to hen (and from cockerel to rooster). Sampson, the roo, is also vocal, but no attempts at crowing yet. They talk to us when we go outside with corn (aka chicken crack) in our hands, when we pick them up, when they realize the group has walked away from them - basically they chat whenever some thought comes into their heads. Pepper was sure to let us know how she felt in isolation (it sounded like a grumpy fussing) and she was quiet when we walked away. But my favorite chicken conversation happens at dusk when they decide it's time for bed. Chickens can't see in the dark, so as the sun sets and it slowly turns from night to day outside, the chickens head toward the coop. About 20 mins before dark they will all be settled in the coop for the night but the process takes about 10 mins from start to finish. One chicken heads up the ladder and finds a roosting spot, then another heads up and finds their spot. By the time the fourth or fifth pullet is in the coop the birds are fussing for the best spots (in this case "best" means closest to the opening, which seems silly to me - the opening is the most dangerous in regards to predators, but then again, I have to remind myself, I am not a chicken). We hear louder talk and flapping of feathers as more go up. One of the Buff Orphingtons is always last up (that's Goldie or Hawn) and then they quiet down and are pretty silent for the night. I love watching them go up - Brian calls it our chicken TV. One night I set up my iPhone recording in the coop before they started the ritual (keeping my fingers crossed that no calls came in and that no chickens knocked it down). The recording is 10 mins long from first hen climbing the ladder to the last settling down. You can listen here but unless you are a total nerd (like the author of this blog), you might want to jump in the middle and listen to a min or so.


  1. Hi! I'm a backyard chicken keeper too, here in Arlington. I noticed you had a couple of roosters. Oh you outlaw you! I wondered how that was working for you - if your neighbors complained, if you lived in mortal terror of the code inspector, or if it really was not as big a deal as everyone made it out to be.

    Good luck with your birds! Fun blog!

  2. Dear Julie,

    Thanks for your comment. We have been very lucky with our roosters - they are yet to even attempt crowing. At the moment they're about 5 months old. We never intended to get roosters (we were supposed to have female chicks only from the hatchery). But we want to be good neighbors and I really dread the day they start crowing! We have some friends with crowing roosters who are yet to be caught, but I would be horrified to receive a letter from the city. My grandfather has advised me to eat them before that - he says they'll taste better before than later. For now we're just putting off the inevitable. Do you have roosters?