Sunday, September 23, 2007

odd sounds from the coop: can hens crow?

This morning started like any other... the sky had just started getting light when I woke up the first time. I could here the girls out in their coop making their usual morning clucking sounds as they stretched their legs while pacing their run. Content that all was okay with the world, I drifted back asleep again for what must have been a half hour or so before being woken up by what I can only describe as a distressed squawk from one of the girls.

"Ah HA!" I thought, "this must be the sound they make just after laying an egg." As I lay in bed thinking what I'd do with this fresh egg, there was another squawk, followed shortly by a third, sounding more distressed than the first.

I jumped out of bed and ran to the window to see what was going on. I could see one chicken in the run (ZsuZsu?), and I could make out the shape of another inside the Eglu (Sophia?), so why the alarm?

Then I saw ZsuZsu stand on tippy toe (or whatever the chicken equivalent is), extend her neck toward the sky and belt out a horrendous (kwaaaaaaaah!) as she extended her head out and back.

What the heck?

Then she did it again so I was sure I hadn't imagined the first one before settling down and starting to pace the run again. Sophia emerged from the Eglu and joined her pacing the perimeter and I decided it was time to go investigate.

There was nothing wrong inside or outside the Eglu or run, and no egg in the nesting box, so what had I just seen?

Could it be this wonderful run of eggs (three days with, three days without, then another eight days with) has been thanks to just one hen while I've had a rooster in the coop with her?

Has all my confidence we've got two hens been misplaced? And all this time I'd feared Sophia was the cockerel when instead she was indeed the pullet? Oh the horrors.

Now, what ZsuZsu did this morning sounded in no way like a prototypical cock-a-doodle-do, but maybe she's working her way to a multisyllabic crow, starting with the initial kaaa?

So maybe I've just seen my hen crow? While ZsuZsu and Sophia aren't the same body type, they're close enough that I think ZsuZsu's just a little lighter because Sophia's the dominant one and therefore eats more.

Digging around the web via Google led me to this spirited discussion from 2005 on iVillage GardenWeb debating do dominant hens crow? And it would seem they couldn't agree. I'm heartened by seeing so many folks attesting to their dominant hens crowing, but I'm discouraged by just as many others asserting that hens never crow, ever.

Any other backyard chicken farmers out there experienced your hens making a crowing type sound? Linda? Laura? Granny Annie? Brad?

In the meantime, I'll keep hoping for a double-egg day to further allay my fears there's a rooster in my hen house.

42 comments:

brad said...

Our chickens are just starting to make clucking sounds, so I don't know if we're going to have a crower. Like you, I have read that sometimes the dominant hen can take on the role of a rooster, including crowing, but supposedly that is rare.

Granny Annie said...

Oh yes, I have many that crow because they are.....ROOSTERS! The sound you describe sounds just like the squawky sound I hear when roosters first begin to speak. LOL This shall be interesting to follow. Perhaps you shall make fowl history.

Laura said...

I've got a hen that's really loud in the mornings. Wouldn't call it a crow exactly, but similar to what you describe. She's my dominant hen, top of the pecking order. She greets every day with great enthusiasm - to the point that I keep expecting a neighbor to complaing. She's also 1/2 barred rock.

I'd wait it out and see. Have you had 2 eggs in 1 day yet? Do they both have downy butts? Maybe post a couple new pics of them and we can give our opinion?

Linda said...

My dominant hen, Maisy, makes a "kwaaa" sound all the time. It's not very pleasant sounding and I wouldn't call it crowing. However, she is VERY vocal and makes this "kwaaa" noise a lot. It seems like her way of attracting my attention; I'm sure she's hoping for a yummy snack that I happen to have like a juicy bug or some greens. I have no doubt that Maisy is laying, however. I've seen her on the nest box and can recognize her eggs pretty easily. I can tell the eggs of all my girls apart because they are related to their feather color. While all of them are Red Stars, Maisy is the darkest colored and lays the darkest brown eggs. Selma is the lightest colored (she has lots of white in her plumage) and lays the lightest colored eggs. Betty's color is sort of in between. All of them will occasionally stand up and flap their wings a bit. I think it's their way of stretching. Just like every once in a while when they're out of the run they will dash around while flapping their wings. I think it's just their way of having fun.

ThomasK said...

Thanks everyone for weighing in!

We listened again this morning and heard nothing. Hopefully Saturday's outburst was just a one-time activity on ZsuZsu's part. No two eggs in a day yet, but we're consistently getting our one-a-day.

The weekend was surprisingly wet (our first real rain since May) so I didn't get the pix I was hoping to. In any case, both the girls have downy butts, so am hoping they are just that: girls.

Lee said...

I've had the same thing with my barred rock. But I've only noticed it once and when I woke up to the noise as if we were under attack, I ran outside thinking I was going to be chasing away a cat and there was nothing out there. Victoria is definately a female and made a sound that you've been describing. If she was a dog, she would have been howling.

Epiphany said...

We have a small flock of Pekin bantams...& they're definately all girls (they all lay an egg a day at the moment). The smallest girl "crows"...not a cock-a-doodle-doo but more of a kwaa-kwaaa-kwaaa. Mornings & evenings seem to be the favourite time to be noisy but she does it on & off all day. Every single day. Funnily enough, she's not the dominant hen but she is the smallest. I'm worried the neighbours will complain but so far we've been lucky - they looked after them while we were on holiday & fell in love with them...but who knows how long their patience will last. I'd love to know if there is anything you can do to lessen the noise (besides getting rid of the offending chook, which I don't want to do).

ThomasK said...

Hi Epiphany, welcome to Urban Chickens!

I'm unaware of anything that can be done to quiet a loud chicken. Our Sophia can still be quite noisy (comparatively), but there's no pattern to it.

Given there are dogs in the neighborhood that seem to bark nonstop for hours on end, I take comfort that our chickens are much quieter than the canines. If someone were to complain (no one has), I'll use the opportunity to talk about animal noise overall in the neighborhood so our girls don't get singled out.

Oh, and I'll make sure the offended party gets a few eggs to help win them over, too :-)

Epiphany said...

Hi again & thanks for the welcome :)

I thought you might like to know that we solved the problem of the "crowing" in the (very very) early morning.

It seemed to be related to light. As soon as we brought the girls inside, into a dark room, they wouldn't make any noise in the mornings. This wasn't an ideal situation (for us or the girls). Their coop was far from being light-proof, so we made some modifications & now it is...& now we get a lot more sleep!!

Interestingly, since we modified the coop, the main squawking culprit makes less noise during the day as well...& her egg production has picked up. It would seem even chooks need a decent lie in in the mornings :)

laeger said...

well this morning i heard a crowing from the front porch. no big deal if you have roster but I don't. The chick that was doing the crowing was not my dom hen either, she is the lo man on the totam poll..lol...She has crowed the last three mornings, it's not a rooster crow but it's dern close. oldest daughter said this morning she went on for ten min.

kcervant said...

We have 3 hens and EVERY morning they crow. I haven't figured out which one it is, or if it's all three. It's pretty loud and wakes us up every morning around 7:30 and keeps on going until 10.
It sounds like a rooster but a little less harsh. The only thing that stops them from doing it is if I call at them, feed them special treats or give them something to keep them busy (start a hole for them to dig in, etc.)
I'll try modifying their home to keep out light like another poster suggested... but otherwise, i'm at a loss. There is very little space between the chickens and ours and the nieghbors house. i'm worried they're getting pissed off....

oh btw, they are definately HENS. any more suggestions of how to deal with this?

Sharon Handy said...

I am having the same problem with my dominant hen (we have two hens total). She is LOUD and makes the most annoying kind-of-complainy crowing; this morning it was just before 6:30 a.m. You can easily hear it at the opposite end of the house with all the windows closed. We thought it was related first to "let me out of this run," but we started leaving their run open. Then we though it was "give me food," but lately I think they've been foraging most of their food and don't come running for the bowl. Perhaps it's the light issue.

I'm wondering, however, how much longer it can go on before the neighbors turn in a noise complaint; one has no AC and has their windows open all the time. Yikes.

Marsi said...

The short answer is: Yes, hens definitely can crow. I think the reason some insist that they do not is because they must either 1) have roosters AND hens, and since their roosters crow, the hens don't feel the need to exercise this hidden gift, or 2) have discovered some wonderful, docile breed that is content to cluck and scratch. We have three hens. They are 16 months old. Up until three weeks ago they all laid almost every day, and we were "harvesting" about 18-20 eggs per week! Life was good. Then, about three weeks ago, our Faverolle began brooding. She has decided it is time to be a Mothen Hen. Since then, our other two chickens, a Speckled Sussex and a Black Australorp are getting up at the crack of dawn and making a huge variety of extremely loud and obnoxious noises, which after much bawking and screeching, end with, yes, a CROW. It is not quite as clear and piercing as a rooster YET, but it sounds like this: CAW-CA-CAW-CA-CAW!! I haul myself out of bed at the first indication that the circus is starting, and throw food scraps at them, wet their yard down so it is more interesting, give them scratch--ANYTHING! But nothing works. I'm not sure how much I want to invest to darken the coop, and how would I darken the door area but still allow them to get out in the morning (they make a worse ruckus, earlier, if I lock them in). I would welcome any and all suggestions, as this morning my husband said, "GET RID OF THEM!"

Matthew said...

I'm in the same boat in Hayward. We're in a pretty "nature-y" part of town, and there are Roosters all throughout the neighborhood (thankfully none too close, but you can hear them across the hills), and 2 months ago our Buttercup hen, Pepper, decided to join in the fray. It's inconsistent at best (most mornings, but not all, and many afternoons), but it's very definitely a "cock-a-doodle-doo", and it's not uncommon in hens, just uncommon enough for us to be bonded together in morning misery... :)

I'm planning on covering her coop completely in a moving blanket, to keep the light out...

...and any crowing in... :)

Ros said...

i have a trio of barred plymouth rock, possible with something else thrown in a few generations ago. The cockeral is a very handsome fellow, and the two females lay eggs eery day now. The smaller one, who is darker looking due to her dark bars being thicker, lays a small white egg as she is only 30 weeks old, and the other female lays a darker brown egg with lilac speckles. The second female also looks just like the male but without the magnificent tale feathers. Two crow, and one clucks. The female makes a juvenile cock-a-doodle-do, lacks leg spurs and tail feathers and has large female looking wattles. The smaller female looks just like it should with no spurs and quite small "red bits".

So yes, girls can crow... i could video her and post that perhaps.

typh said...

I think this is one of those pieces of chicken lore that most people are unaware of. Dominant hens make a LOT of noise. Yes hens "croak" when they lay, but they also do it do establish pecking order. Our Tinkerbel is so loud we had to move the coop close to the house, and even then, it's very very loud. I'd get rid of her but I'm sure one of the younger hens would just take over.

Tax Help Staff said...

Our 1-year-old hen (Blue Andalusian) just started making pathetic, but distinctive crowing sounds. She lays eggs, so can't possibly be a rooster; unless chickens can be both male and female at the same time.

traci said...

We have a beautiful Buff Orpington hen that has "crowed" twice now this week. The "crow" happened about four days apart and started at around 6:45am and lasted till I let the hens out of their coop for the day. I really need to figure out if I have a male or female?? She is a bit aggressive with the other 3 hens, but am thinking she is just at the top of the pecking order? So, if she was a rooster, wouldn't she crow every morning and wouldn't she (he) crow around 5:30ish when the sun comes up?

Shap said...

I'm sooo glad I found this site! We have two chickens we believe are hens, but they both crow, that weird gutteral .."graaaaaaaahhhh" for 3 mornings now. At first my wife woke up to the noise, and said Uh Oh! I think our hens aren't hens.....they are both too young to lay yet - we think - they are now 3 months old - not sure of the breed - nice golden colors - no spurs- so my father in law said I could use my fingers to find if they have one opening or two openings, and I would know for sure. But, I've got to say, I won't do that! I'll just wait a little while longer...

Vicky said...

We have has a nighmare with our Pekin Bantams. My husband got 3 14ish week old hens (or so he thought). One of them started a very distinctive Cock-a-doddle-do and had to be returned to the hatchery, and we got another even younger hen(we hope). Then the next day my suspicions about another chook was confirmed as it let out it's own Cock-a-doodle-do. He is going back tomorrow, my kids are devastated, and we are going to have to get yet another chook, it seems to me that there is no way of telling what you have until they either lay or crow. I am so worried about the neighbours as we are not on great terms anyway, but the chooks are not as noisy as the kids who live on the other side. I am starting to regret ever get the chooks in the first place.

traci said...

sorry vicky. we ended up taking our beautiful buff orpington to an "adoption" barn as she definatly turned out to be a cock. my children were devastated also. however, our 3 remaining hens are as peaceful and zen as can be. bantams are hard, as there is no guarantee of the sex when you get them, but boy are they pretty!

StarkRavingMom said...

Our dominant hen (an Americauna) does in fact crow from time to time.

becky said...

Only just found this. I have two adorable bantam buff Orpingtons-Queenie and Elspeth. Queenie however, is looking and sounding to be more of a Quentin! He is crowing. He has 4 wattles and has always had a look about him like 'so what're you going to do about it?!' He likes perching on my head rather than Elspeth, who is really affectionate, loves cuddles and says 'cluck cluck!'to me after I say 'Love you!'
Queenie may have to go as the crowing is noisy. Poor Elspeth though, will she be ok on her own? x

Meg said...

One of my three chickens has just started crowing. She is at least 3 years old. It got us up out of bed pretty quick, we gave her some food to stop the neighbours from complaining. It is good to hear she is in good company. We live in Tasmania.

martha and dolly said...

I have 2 hens..A silkie named Dolly she is about 1yr old and a Rhode Island Red x named Martha, she is about the same age. I have only had these hens for a few months and they are the 1st I have ever owned. I live in Tasmania and I got them from a farm near Hunoville, my Husband who grew up on a farm, insisted that Marta was a rooster! Not really knowing alot about chickens, I thought "Great, Im gonna have to get rid of her" and I was not impressed with the people I brought them from who told me they were both hens. After a few days I got eggs from both of them, so odviously both hens and my husband doesnt know what hes talking about lol.
About a week ago Martha started crowing!! And is getting louder every morning!! After reading 'Raising Chickens for Dummies' I could only find out that dominant hens can sometimes take on rooster characteristics, especially if there is no rooster around and they have spent time with a rooster before. And after LOTS of research on the net, I have discovered that there are sex change and hermaphrodite chickens!!! I might have to explain this to my neighbours today as she was VERY loud this morning lol

Disc_22 said...

oh thank you all for the comments
i'm a first time chicken owner and have 3 light sussex's. they are about 20 weeks old and two are much bigger than the third. this morning the middle one 'cheryl' made a crowing noise, not quite the same as up the roads cock but it was very loud. i ran outside and 'she' did it again. now i have looked up the tails of all 3 and thought i saw vents - could i have bee wrong? will cheryl become a charle? and a roast dinner?
what age should they be before i expect eggs? i have read the chicken books but they seem a bit hazy on this - any ideas welcome!

natelienn said...

I have three hens who lay consistently (each different color eggs). They are a little less than a year old now, maybe even as young as 9 months. All three of them pick different times of the day to make the horrendous KAWW..Ca.ca..KAWW noise we are all hearing here. They stick their head straight up into the air and squak as loud as possible. It's quite annoying in the morning and I also hope our neighbors don't start to hate us. I got an interesting suggestion from a friend.. maybe they are doing that because it's just now spring time and they are in heat, looking for a mate. Anyone have experience with bringing in a rooster temporarily to make them happy? This may seem cruel but I've been giving them a light spray with the hose every time they do it and they run back into the coop silently after that. I'm afraid this isn't a permanent solution.

DO said...

Our 11 hens have one making that sound. She has just started (3 months old), and we are hoping it's not a rooster. She is so awesome. Very friendly and like a pet, but howles when she wants to get out of her run. I have never heard of hen's crowing, and it is not a real rooster crow...YET.
Has anyone here determined that it is in fact your hen that's making that sound?

travism said...

How about a sound activated baby toy in the coop? One that moves. My 4 Auracauna hens are getting very vocal in the morning. My wife is pressuring me to get rid of them. I dont want to.

natelienn said...

so it's been almost half a year since i last posted. My chickens used to wake me up every morning so that I would let them out of the coupe. Since it's summer and they like to sleep on top of the coupe anyway (yeah, weird I know), I just leave their cage open and let them sleep up there. There doesn't seem to be many predators through my back yard and I'm right in the middle of the city. I know there are at least possums but I think the chickens have managed to find a safe place. The one time someone slept in my back yard they heard the noise and freaked out and woke me up and wouldn't stop making noise until I went out there to sleep next to them haha. So now they only crow when they are hungry in the morning. If you keep them taken care of, they won't crow. It's just for attention.

Lee said...

I have a RI Red hen who has always been a bit strange. She honked like a goose for the longest time, and is much bigger than any of the others including our Leghorn rooster who is the same age as her. A couple of weeks back I heard George the rooster crowing followed by what is best described as an owl trying to mimic George "who who whoooo". Now Abby (the big red ???hen???) crows all the time, even in the middle of the day. She will even run up to other hens and drop her wing, slap her leg, and kick one foot. That's rooster for I'm feeling frisky from what I can tell.
Funny thing is Abby isn't the dominate hen in the yard. I'm pretty sure the poor girl's insides haven't developed correctly and she is stuck in gender limbo.

Binboozin said...

Hi, I am also a first time chicken owner. I have a couple of Rhode IR which after a very long wait finally started laying. The Henny was the first to lay and still does so quite consistently (almost one a day). They are both around 10 months old. Penny however was a bit slow but eventually stared laying a couple of weeks later. She has only laid 5 or 6 eggs then suddenly stopped. She also makes this loud cackling sound that everyone has been describing. Could she be taking on the roosters role? I have also recently introduce 4 bond browns (cross Rhode island red / white) which are about 12 weeks old. This cackle seems to have increased since their introduction. Please advice what i can do and if its normal for chickens to stop laying and take on this role?

rlwalch said...

I to am new to owning chickens. I bought 8
They are 12 weeks. I have a beautiful black
Frizzle Cochin bantam. I want to post a photo
If I can figure that out. She started crowing
A sick sounding crow just Like you all describe
And the place I got them from wants them to be
Older before they replace any, because they
Claim hens can crow etc. This frizzle has very
Bright red comb and waddle and it's larger
Than the photos online I have seen. She is not
The roost ruler as I have 4 full size chickens
And 2 other silkie bantams. If I can post photo
Your help would be great as to roo or not

eieio said...

I know the original post is old, however, I have an Old English bantam hen that tries to crow and does a pretty decent job at it. I have seen her and caught it on video early one morning. She is without a doubt a hen. She is the size of a pigeon and lays little eggs. I have seen her lay these eggs too! The rest of my flock are large hens. She is not the lead hen or the oldest but she will get up on a branch, flap her wings, stretch her neck and "kaw, kaw, kaw" imitating a rooster. She started doing it before we got a rooster and has done it while we had the rooster.

candan said...

We have 9 hens and 6 chicks. We used to have two roosters but their crowing started to bother us so we got rid of them. Now that the roosters are gone our hens are really distressed. We always had one hen that would make loud noises but it was not at all a crow. The "mother" of the chicks is very responsible and even got in a fight with our dog to protect her babies. Now we have been hearing her make weak but rooster like noises. We suspect she is trying to reassure everyone that they are safe even without a rooster but the event still surprises us.

candan said...

We have 9 hens and 6 chicks. We used to have 2 roosters but their crows started bothering us so we got rid of them. Now that the roosters are gone our hens are quite distressed. We always had one hen who made loud noises but they were far from a crow. The "mother" of the chicks is very responsible and she showed that many times by attacking our medium sized dog to protect her babies. Now she is making weak crowing sounds and yet we are a hundred percent sure she is a hen. We suspect that she is trying to reassure everyone that they are safe even without their loyal roosters but the event still surprises us.

Chelsea said...

I have three hens - about 2 years old (I got them when they were already a year old and laying). A couple of weeks ago, the meeker hen (she's actually the middle hen - subordinate to the alpha female, but picks on her sister - a RIR who goes broody quite often) started doing an extremely loud pathetic attempt at a crow. She's still laying eggs consistently, so I don't think it's an injured ovary - more likely just trying to exert herself. She does it around 7:30am, after I've let them out in the yard, and for no apparent reason. She sticks out her neck and flaps her wings - so I know it's a crowing attempt. They all make tons of different noises - including the egg bawk, the grouchy "let me out for some treats", the high-pitched scream that sometimes means danger and sometimes means they're happy, etc. I've tried to become the "dominant hen" to get her to stop, but it doesn't always work (she does give me some pretty funny looks though). She doesn't do it every day, so there's no rhyme or reason. When she starts, I usually just let her into the house (or pick her up quickly), so as to muffle the noise since we have neighbors nearby. Carrying her around seems to help a bit. I work in the day, so am hoping it's only a once a day occurrence (most likely). They're very tame hens and interact with us constantly, so I think it's partly due to that...I've created a monster. My next trick will be to lock her in the broody buster in the morning while the others are out and I'm getting ready for work. Fingers crossed.

Karina said...

I have a lovely Golden Sebright Banty hen. She is the best later of my three hens. I have an her, an Easter Egger & an Orpington that comprise my backyard flock. This morning I took a video of my banty hen welcoming the morning with a harty cock-a-doodle-do for approx 15 minutes. This wasnt a squawk or squeak, but a full fledged crow. I have posted the video on my Facebook page for any nonbelievers and am thinking of posting on youtube. Search - soverikari

Mrs. Green Toes said...

I just learned this morning that yes, hens certainly CAN crow!!! And since I have close neighbors, I am hoping this is not an every day occurance!!!

7quails 3chickens said...

ok i have a video on you tube that shows my chicken crowing like a roster check it out,http://youtu.be/IoZXB_SU1ao If you want to skip the sun rise go to 5:40min when she starts crowing like a roster lol http://youtu.be/IoZXB_SU1ao

7quails 3chickens said...

ok i have a video on you tube that shows my chicken crowing like a roster check it out,http://youtu.be/IoZXB_SU1ao If you want to skip the sun rise go to 5:40min when she starts crowing like a roster lol

John said...

I know that hens crow. At one time we had several hens but through attrition we are down to one. She is a Barnevelder and lays eggs on a regular basis. She also crows just about every morning. At first, it sounded like a distress call but over the last several months she haa learned to belt out a very decent sounding crow. Though, it is not as loud as a rooster's.

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