Written by Gail Damerow of Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens

Chicken Talk

Researchers have shown that there are at least 24 different sounds chickens make and maybe as many as 30. While chickens don’t have nearly the vocabulary that us humans have, and their chicken brains don’t allow for abstract and deep conversations, they are still a very vocal and conversational critter.  And if you pay attention, you can learn to understand and speak their language too.

Baby Talk

Pleasure peep-A soft, irregular chirp that says “I’m here and all is well.”

Pleasure trill-A soft warbling sound often used when settling down for a nap that says “Life is good.”

Distress peep-A loud, sharp tweet that says “I’m so miserable!”  Usually due to being hot, cold or hungry.

Panic peep-Loud and insistent peep that says “Help me!”

Fear trill-Loud, sharp repeated sound that says “Don’t hurt me!”

Startled peep-Sharp chirp that sounds as startled as it is meant to be.  It says “Whoa!”

Mom talk

Cluck-Short, low-pitched and repetitive sounds that says “Stay close.”

Food call-Short, high-pitched and staccato tuck-tuck-tuck that says “Come get the food I just found!”

Hush sound-Soft, vibrating errrr that sends chicks running for mom’s feathers or flattening silently to the ground.  It says “Stay put, there’s danger.”

Lady talk

Laying cackle-A hilariously annoying sound that sounds like the hen is REALLY proud of her egg laying accomplishment and wants everybody in the entire neighborhood to know it.  It says “I just laid an egg and I rock.”

Broody hiss-A snake like hiss often accompanied by fluffing of feathers and a dirty look while the hen is sitting in her nest box.  It says “I’m warning you to leave me and my eggs alone.”

Broody growl-Much harsher than the hiss and gravelly, the broody growl says “Leave me and my eggs alone or I will destroy you.”  It is often accompanied by a hand peck as you are trying to collect eggs.

Singing-Usually rapidly repeated notes with some amount of randomness.  Similar to someone happily humming as they go about their business.  It says “All is well.”


Contentment call-A low pitched, repetitive sound made by hens and roosters when out and about that says “Let’s stick together.”

Nesting call-Used by a hen in search of a nest or a rooster trying to help (although his choice is rarely accepted).  It says “here’s a good nest site.”

Roosting call-Loud, low-pitched and rapidly repetitive sound made at nightfall.  It says “Let’s sleep here.”

Rooster talk

Food call-An excited, rapid tuck-tuck-tuck that says “I found food!”

Courtship croon-A low rumbly sound made as the rooster circles the hen while flicking a wing on the ground.  It says “Nice feathers.”

Flying object alert-A chirruping sound made as the roster looks skyward.  It says “There’s something up there, but I think we’re ok.”

Startled note-A short squawk with the intensity, volume and repetitiveness determined by how startled the rooster is.  It says “What was that?”

Crowing-No explanation needed. It says “I’m the boss here.”

Predator alerts

Caution call-Quick, repeated notes when something potentially dangerous is spotted.  It says “Pay attention.”

Alarm cackle-An insistent repetitive cackle Kuh-kuh-kuh-kuh-KACK! It says “I sense danger!”

Air raid-A loud warning sound made typically by a rooster.  All chickens will run for cover.  Interestingly, too many false alarms will result in chickens ignoring the air raid signal.  It says “There a raptor in the sky.  Run for cover!”

Help me calls

Startled squawk-A moderately loud cry by a chicken that was just pecked or otherwise slightly injured.  It says “Ow!”

Distress squawks-Loud, long repeated cries by a chicken that’s been captured and is being carried away.  Occasionally, this may trigger an attack by a rooster or other hen.  It says “Let go!”



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