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26 Sounds that Chickens Make and What they Mean




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.”

Conversation

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!”

This chicken sound is the alarm cackle: They didn’t like the pig in their barn lol

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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Comments

  1. Erin says

    I think you’re missing one!

    Mine growl all the time like they’re broody. They actually just want free food, rather than forage for it. The growl sounds deep & guttural too, like a dog.

    • Bina says

      I’ve never heard mine do it in that situation, but I can bet they’re smart enough to learn to beg lol. What breed do you have?

    • Vickie says

      Erin, we have one that makes that growl like a dog. She happens to be the biggest pet of them all. I was thinking she was sick or something. Glad to know she u just begging. But she is usually getting treats or something when she is doing it. Maybe she wants better treats???

      • Bina says

        Chickens can give more than one type of growl. Sometimes it’s a warning, sometimes it’s more of a pleasure purr like Erin mentioned and sometimes it’s letting the other chickens know that there’s food. This may be one of the last two.

  2. Bantam owner says

    Yesterday, one of my chickens accidentally fell on the other and the hurt made the startled squawk noise. Today and yesterday, the one that got hurt keeps making an odd, deep cluck everytime the other gets near her. Is it because she’s holding a grudge on the other? Is there any way I could get her to stop? I don’t think the noise was on this list.

    • Bina says

      How interesting I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hen do that. She’s probably giving her a warning to stay away. I would just give them some time and see if it gets better. How are they doing today?

    • Bina says

      You could always visit a farm! Or better yet, get some chickens!! Barring that, maybe try YouTube 🙂

  3. Jennifer fielda says

    My rooster is cackling like a hen and one of my hens is cackling. I have not recieved any eggs yet. Why would he do that and what is wrong with my hens they have oyster shells and all the good food?

  4. Hannah says

    About a week ago my chicken got attack by a duck. (Not vary badly but I was still a bit worried) So we’ve built a smaller cage inside the shed for her to stay in. But today I let her out of her cage and let her roam the shed with me in there. She jumped into the feed bucket and started eating the food. She was acting very playful and when I went to take a picture of her. She started making this really loud squeaky sound kinda of like a dogs bark. She didn’t look in pain. So I checked on her and held and loved on her for a while. I was just wondering what that might mean. Thank you.

  5. Erin says

    I have an injured 6 week old pullet that softly trills all day long on the foot of my bed. If I take her outside she dashes under something quickly, then starts to trill again when I’m close. I pick her and she completely relaxes in my hands until she reaches my bed again where she softly trills and preens. Such a sweet sole.

  6. Walker says

    We have a hen who makes a quiet grunting noise, not unlike a piglet, when she’s being patted around the neck while brooding, whether there’s an egg or not. It sounds happy, and she doesn’t ruffle her feathers or show any agitation, but I’d hate to think I’m stressing her. Could that be the broody growl you mention above?

    • Bina says

      No I don’t think so. The broody growl is really like a growl and sounds very threatening. It’s usually followed by a peck!

  7. Corbin Pitt says

    This helped a lot! My 3 silkie roosters and my bantom are always growling when one of my hens jumps off a perch or flies off the porch. Sometimes when a bird flies over as well.
    Good to know its a warning

  8. Peggy says

    I’ve lost a hen and rooster born last year (same clutch) from what I think is upper respiratory issues. The hen had strained cluck — more like a short chirp — for a few days before she convulsed and died. The rooster just had audible breathing when he was roosting (unlike his mom, aunt, and siblings who were silent or contentedly murmuring.) Another hen, older clutch from last year, changed her voice in the last few days and is giving out a random chirp, looking like she might be straining her neck while doing it. Pretty subtle, but I’m not hearing her regular voice any more. I’ll keep an eye on her today, but yesterday she was eating and drinking well. She’s been laying for a few months now, and otherwise healthy. Any ideas? Cause for concern?

    • Serina says

      I’d say most definitely a cause for concern. How is she doing now? If she passes I would suggest sending the carcass in to your state’s lab to do an examination. It usually doesn’t cost very much and you’d be able to find out exactly what’s going on. It sounds possibly contagious which is very worrisome.

  9. Alireza says

    Hi.thanks for ur attractive subject. Excuse me I wanted to know that laying cackle and chicking noise are the same or different?? thanks so much 🙂

  10. Kristen Ramsey says

    My Silkie girl (8 weeks old) spent today meowing. Yes, meowing. Over and over. I wonder if it was due to the sudden hot weather?

  11. Stacey says

    My grey Americana hen (almost a year old now) makes a screeching noise throughout the day; almost sounds like a pig screeching. Eggs have been laid (and it’s not a clucking noise) and the other two hens (a white Americana and a RIR) are both out with her. Food is filled. Water is fresh. Why is she screeching??

    • Serina says

      Is it really loud or kind of quieter? They do a sort of contented screech but it’s more gentle. Feel free to send me a recording!

      • Stacey says

        It’s loud! I’m upstairs inside my home and can hear it. More in the afternoon. There doesn’t seem to be an option to attach a recording here. Is there an email to which I can send an audio?

  12. DogWranglerGone2TheBirds says

    I spent my formative years with chickens and had a small flock of mature birds about 12 years ago so I’m not entirely inexperienced. However my new flock of young birds contains one feathered friend, which makes a sound, that uncannily resembles, the baa’ing of a baby lamb. I’ve yet to identify which particular bird, in my mix and max menagerie, is the culprit.

    Any idea’s what she may be trying to communicate? (I’m assuming it’s a she, with straight run birds, it can take a while to know.) I just hope she doesn’t start Wool gathering…. (awful pun I know, but the sound is genuine.)

  13. joel isom says

    Why do so many not respond when you ask them questions trying to diagnose their chickens??? Must not be that important. Regardless good work Serina and Bina.

      • Stephen says

        Hi Serina, I’m wondering if you may be able to help me please. I dont know how to post the sound I have recorded but my wifes Silkie chick/chicken is making a bleating kind of sound every 10 minutes or so all day, even into the evening now and its 9:30pm. We thought it maybe her going broody but she has not started laying yet, any thoughts? and how can I post the sound? Thankyou

  14. Judy says

    Hi… I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants ever since my neighbor gave me a 6-week old cochin chicken 2 months ago. Sshe roams free in my backyard when I work back there (which is all day). We have a large dog kennel which we turned into a pen with a perching bar and her food and water, which we cover at night. Before she goes to bed, she jumps up on her pen and does some serious cuddling in my arms for an hour or more. When she’s in my arms she makes these soft trilling sounds (kind of like gargling) while I softly talk to her. When she’s out, she makes those familiar sounds like bwa bwa bwa. Can you tell me what these 2 sounds mean? Also, why does she run from me all day even though she looks for me to cuddle in the evening? Thanks!

    • Serina says

      It sounds like she’s a happy chicken 🙂 The soft trilling sounds are contentedness. She’s making happy noises as she cuddles with her human. The familiar bwa bwa bwa is her happily looking for food and exploring the world around her. You’re doing a good job! As for running away from you, well a happy chicken needs to explore the world and at the end of a long day, she likes to end it with a cuddle!

  15. jennifer says

    My 8 month old rooster was attacked by a loose dog. He has mild injuries. I kept him inside for 24 hrs. I put him out today w the others. He’s staying a way he seems like he’s on alert. Should I bring him back indoors. I am cleaning his wound twice a day just worried

    • Serina says

      I’m sorry to hear that happened. Dogs are the biggest nuisance for chickens. I would definitely bring him in or at least separate him. The other chickens may attack and kill him if he’s weak. Let me know how he does!

  16. Jim says

    My neighbor has chickens that squawk incredibly LOUD for no reason. They almost sound like honking geese on a rusty hinge. This isn’t let me out of the coop noise… This is all day in cycles… Working from home it is incredibly annoying.
    WHY do they do this? I’m trying to work w/ my neighbor but noise is noise. This is a community w/ 1/4 plots… Not a farm.
    Did I mention they are LOUD!?

      • Serina says

        They’re probably laying eggs. One hen starts to squawk and sets all the rest off. He could try putting some sound proofing up. It’s not that expensive. Even hay bales layered around the coop would do wonders for lowering the sound.

  17. Jon says

    I think this article would even be better if every point has an audio sample next to it, just for auditory reference purposes. Thanks for this though! Helpful!

  18. Lilah says

    I have a question, my mother told me of a sound one of our chickens made. She said it sounded like a honk, totally un-chicken like. what could it mean? Any ideas?

  19. Dorris says

    We don’t have chickens but the neighbor across the street does. We have cats. Lately one of the chickens has been in the yard. When I get home she just slowly walks out of the back yard making a low sound. I tell her it is just fine to stay but she goes to the front. When I look out the window she is in the back again. My husband found eggs in the hay we had out for the cats when it was cold. They were broken. She is the only one that comes in our yard. We have a fence. The cats don’t bother her. She always leaves but comes back. My husband says when he clears the hay he bets she doesn’t come back. What do you think?

    • Serina says

      Probably not. She’ll need another nice comfy place to lay eggs. You could always leave the hay though. She sounds entertaining!

  20. Ryan Thomas says

    Like many others here I have 8 chickens total 1 serama rooster, 1 bantam hen, 2 Rhode island reds, 2 black sexlinks, and 2 ameracaunas. Im pretty sure that it’s I know for sure 1 of the RIR are making a noise that is similar to a goose mixed with a duck. Like a honk/ quack noise and kicks and claws when you try and hold her. I don’t want any of my ladies to be afraid of us, we do have 4 children and a dog. I know for sure our dog has never hurt them or even tried to, in fact he’s afraid of them. Anyway I’ve looked and looked and researched and I’ve found nothing please help me make my birds happy. Thank you

    • Serina says

      Some chickens may never warm up to humans. I guess there’s introverted animals as well as humans. But you could try just keeping her around you a lot. If she’s around you often enough she may get used to you. You could also separate her, take away her food and come in a few times a day to feed her. She may associate you with food and develop a more positive attitude. You could also condition her by giving her a treat like a cricket every time she walks towards you. You could just sit in the pen and toss it to her anytime she even turns or steps towards you. Over time she should get closer and closer as she figures it out. Good luck!

  21. Lee Kasian says

    We just moved and for the last few mornings Henny has been making this sound that at first I thought was a loose belt on the ac! It lasts for a few seconds and she’ll do it every few minutes. I go check on her and she seems fine. Maybe she’s trying to kind of crow to get my attention and make sure I’m up?

  22. Rdz666 says

    My chicken whose name is brownie , respond to his name when ever i call him… he’s a baby now he respond with small lil sweet sounds even in deep sleep … he knows my touch my hands my feet .. he likes me to be around him .. he makes panic sound when he doesn’t find me around .. so i guess you re bit wrong about chickens psychology… bcz he understands the acts .

    • Flip Flop Ranch says

      Submissiveness I’d say. They either are afraid or just saying you’re the boss! Since you love them I’d guess the second. Chickens are where we get the term pecking order from lol!

  23. Heidi Roberts says

    Stumbled upon this brilliant article. Been keeping various chicken breeds for over 15yrs. I’ve currently got a little blind 3 week old chick and it’s little friend living in a cage in my living room. I took them both home from work as I was worried the Blind chick would be bullied or killed by the flock. As the chick is blind it’s incredibly vocal all the time when not asleep and I found this article extremely helpful in understanding what it needs from me as it’s decided that I’m it’s mum. I recently purchased the main book that was written by the author of this article as it is such a useful guide to raising Chickens. My blind chick calls out to me when he/she sits on his/her perch which is very low to the ground but the chick thinks it’s about to fall off the edge of a cliff. Once I pick him/her up I place him/her under the heater plate and he/she makes little tiny peep peep cheep cheep Happy noises which is so cute to hear. When he or she is ready to go out to the coup in the garden I hope he/she will adapt ok. I shall make everything very low to the ground and just keep him/her with her cage friend instead of with my other flock of four where he/she might get bullied. If he/she turns out to be a cockerel then I shall have a whole other headache entirely and will need to figure out how to build a sound proof ventilated sleeping box before the neighbors complain. Fingers crossed they are both gonna be females but I’ve got a sneaky idea they are both going to be males knowing my luck especially as I’ve fallen in love with them both especially the one with no eyes.

  24. Brett says

    As much as I am a chicken lover, this article is kinda pointless without recordings to demonstrate the sounds. I have 9 different breeds and they are all a little different. My naked necks for example are the most talkatave chicken I have ever encountered. My Plymouth Rocks are a bit “not right in the head” with one of them refusing to risk jumping down off her perch in the morning (she flies up there). She will just sit there and wait for me to lift her down and will stay there all day if no one gets her down. How my chickens ended up so bizarre is anyone’s guess but perhaps they simply take after me 🙂

    • Flip Flop Ranch says

      Recordings would be a great idea. I’ll have to work on that. I do find that animals take after their owners a bit so that’s possible lol! People often comment on how laid back and calm our animals are for the most part and that definitely describes us.

  25. Deborah Vivona says

    I have a tween hen, that is ‘talking’ to us in a deep throated sound , when she joins us in our sling swing!
    Wish I could send you my video!
    She likes to swing & talk to us!

  26. Floria says

    Hi Serina
    I have a healthy looking old free-ranging farm chook, a golden commet perhaps, that has passed hands a couple of times outliving her mates. In recent weeks we lost her last buddy and she has again been on her own…till we upgrade the pen and yard. It’s a cold winter in Victoria Australia. In this time I have noticed a frequent low repetitive vibrating hum…similar to the settled purr I’ve experienced with chooks who like their cuddles but perhaps slightly softer and higher in pitch. Sounds sad. I’ve been watching for signs of respitory disease: sneezes, arched neck, eyes, other unusual sounds but there are none. She craves company, often waiting at our door and quick to march through given a chance. We chat to each other a bit. She’ll be at my side any chance. Could this just be more chat? …and if so what could it mean? Thanks in advance.

    • Flip Flop Ranch says

      I would guess it means she’s lonely. Chickens are very social and if she has been passed around like that the poor thing probably is craving company just like you said. Any chance of getting her friends soon?

  27. Maria says

    Hi there. My partner and I have two 5 week old chicks which we are keeping inside in a large cardboard box until the weather warms up enough to put them out. Often in the evenings they will get rather unsettled and make quiet but high pitched screaming noises. They calm down after 5 minutes or so. Could this indicate that they are stressed or scared?

    • Flip Flop Ranch says

      Yes it definitely could. Feel free to send me a recording and I can tell you better. Some chicks have a hard time being comforted without a hen. Often a teddy bear in the box can solve that. They have a heat lamp too right?

  28. Mem says

    Hi from nz ?
    We have 3 red shavers. When I first brought them home into our overgrown garden they were blissfully quiet, & content I believe. They were fed a good quality grain & pellet mix, then I made the mistake of also feeding them a family members very frequent & plentiful scraps.
    Well, it seems to me that they became addicted to junk food!
    They complain about the “proper” chook food regardless of which type I buy & leave the actual grain for the birds….very kind of them! Lol. They seem happiest only when they’ve had a good feed of “junk food”.
    By complain I mean they moan! They sound like a typical whining kid, & they do it all day long. It’s loud & driving me nuts.
    I don’t know whether I’m being manipulated, or if my girls are genuinely unhappy!
    I’ve added a bit of raw meat to their diet to compensate for less bugs in their area & ensure a regular supply of greens which they don’t always want, plus I’m still giving them the grain mix.
    Water is fresh, their bedding is kept clean, they have dirt & decomposing vegetation to scratch around in. Intestinal worms are kept at bay with a clove of garlic in the water, & I use a natural powder in the coop to control lice.
    They lay daily.
    HELP!

    • Flip Flop Ranch says

      Lol well it’s totally possible that they’re begging! It sounds like they are well taken care of. Do they make this noise if they don’t see you?

  29. Mary says

    Thanks for replying 🙂 They would start first thing in the morning then quieten down but, if they saw me the complaining started again, & more persistently! Lol.
    I think I may have answered my own question though.
    After I emailed you, I dug over quite a bit of the yard, shifted the coop further away from the house and fenced off a smaller area. And as an added bonus I found out that, when it suits them, they will use the automatic feeder. Consequently there is less complaining, so yeah, I think they were being spoilt brats!
    I emailed you guys because you have a very friendly & light hearted approach. Thank you. 🙂

    • Flip Flop Ranch says

      Wow thank you so much! That’s a really nice thing to hear about our approach. It does sound like they’re feathery princesses! ?? I need to figure out how to allow people to submit videos through the website. I’d love to see them lol!

Trackbacks

  1. […] I’ve never been around when chickens have been slaughtered and plucked, but I can imagine the uproar in the henhouse! Most of them probably happily pecked away their day foraging for food without a worry or a care. “Who would ever eat a chicken?!” (from the movie Home on the Range) Regardless, this old time tune is entertaining to listen to and to play. In the B part, when a fiddler plays it, the 1st and 4th measure are played differently. The fiddler actually plucks the strings instead of bowing the notes. This is called pizzicato. I didn’t notate it that way for guitars because altho’ we have the open E string for the 3 E notes, we have to fret that A note. And, for those who love research, I found an informative website about chicken sounds. LOL http://flipflopranch.com/chicken-talk/ […]

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