Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Peeps, Clucks and Cackles: Translating the Urban Chicken
Chicks start peeping about 24 hours before they're ready to hatch so as to tell its mother and siblings it's getting ready to break out of its shell. The mother hen listens for the peeps to understand how much longer she needs to stay sitting on the nest (since some of the chicks are stillborn inside their shells).
The web of communication gets even more sophisticated once the chicks follow their mother out to forage and explore with peeps and clucks serving as a call-and-response to keep track of the flock.
Later in a chicken's life, their vocabulary expands to include nesting calls, egg cackles and "here's food" songs among many other sounds from the coop.
To learn more about each of these sounds, Karen Davis published a wonderful guide to Chicken Talk. although it originally appeared in print in 1994, everything she's written is still true today. She does a great job helping us understand the noises chickens make whether they're in your backyard or down at the farm.