Sometimes when I’m writing these posts I forget that many of our readers are new to chickens. Or maybe want chickens, or are simply interested in chickens and are still in the learning phase of their venture. I’ve had chickens for more than half my life which makes me really close to the subject and many things that seem obvious to me, might not be as obvious to someone who’s just starting out. I had an “aha” moment about a week ago when one of my readers asked: Do roosters only crow in the morning? Evidently, she has an opportunity to add a rooster to her small flock, but is worried about noise. She thought that if the crowing was done by late morning, her neighbors might not mind the noise.
Unfortunately, to answer her question, no…they do not just crow in the morning. When I first got chickens I too believed this. In fact, it was part of the persuading factor in talking my mom into letting me keep a rooster. But when our young cockerel started spouting off at all hours of the day and even the odd crow at night, especially when we would come home late and the headlights of the car would shine through the coop window, we thought…maybe it’s a phase. Maybe it’s only because he’s young and confused, or maybe we just have an odd overzealous roo. It wan’t long before his brother started his own version of cock-a-doodle-doo…morning, noon and evening that I realized (much to my mother’s dismay) that the classic rooster crow that wakes the farm for another day, doesn’t stop at sunrise…the nursery rhymes fail to mention that!
Roosters crow all day long. Some more frequently than others. Our roosters right now are what I would call moderate crowers, kicking things into high gear in the spring. They’ll go an hour or two without a peep and then one or two will go off. I’ve had bantams in the past that won’t give it up and go on and on all day…personally I think it’s a size complex. What they lack in size they make up for with noise.
Different things seem to stimulate a crow. Usually perching up somewhere high always warrants an announcement. I notice they give a few extra flaps of the wing and then sound off. Other rooster’s crowing usually sets up the scene for a vocal competition and you might get a round of calls from all the boys. In the evening, as the roos are rounding the girls up to go in for the evening, many crows will be heard. Other things like loud noises, being fed, mating, sun rise or even a flashlight at night in the coop can send them off.
Roosters lower in pecking order will often be discouraged from crowing by other roosters. More than a few times some of our younger roos will attempt to crow only to get chest punted by one of the older boys cutting him off short. This behavior is important for pecking order within the flock and tells the young rooster where he belongs among the other males.
A young rooster will also work on his crow and fine tune it (usually) by the end of his first year. When they first start out, they sound like they’re dying. Many of the early attempts sound pretty pathetic and lack the robust confidence that older roosters display. They will relentlessly practice their vocalizations until they seem to settle on “their” crow and it stays pretty consistent throughout their lives.
Each crow is unique to that rooster. I’ve come to know our roosters so well that I can tell who’s crowing without even seeing the bird. I’ve experienced throughout the years that while each bird has his own song, there seems to be an overall trend from breed to breed. Bantams tend to be high pitched, as do our Easter Eggers (though not as high as a bantam) Our Sussex’s have a deep growling crow that lingers long and drawn out and our Black Copper Maran has a very traditional cock-a-doodle-doo.
Another reader asks if it’s true that a hen will crow?
Personally, I have not experienced this within my flock. In my heart, I must admit that I thought perhaps people who claimed their hens were crowing simply were unaware that they had a young rooster on their hands who hadn’t yet developed into a strapping lad. With some breeds, it’s difficult to sex chickens even into their crowing months. Or I thought that they were mistaking the loud noises that hens will sometimes make as a crow.
So I went on you tube and searched for “crowing hens”. Boy was I wrong…yup, they crow! No mistaking! A full grown, egg laying hen in one of the videos let out a classic cock-a-doodle-do complete with extended neck, feathers raised and all.
I did some further research and found that a crowing hen is somewhat of a rare occurrence and it usually only happens within an all female flock where one hen works her way up the pecking order ladder and declares herself the rooster of the group. I’ve always kept a rooster or two, so this might be why we’ve never had a crowing hen.
I find it interesting when I read about people who find a rooster crow an annoyance. Not only do I personally find it to be a charming sound, but most of the time, I’m so used to our roosters that I don’t really hear them all that often. We had a grandfather clock when I was growing up that chimed every 15 minutes. Overnight house guests would always complain about the clock when they were trying to sleep…I never really noticed it. Our rooster crows have become a similar background noise that I don’t really hear anymore unless I pay attention.
Now things might be different if you live in close proximity to your neighbor’s coop, or have a particularly boisterous roo. But for the most part, the call of the rooster will keep well in my heart as the nostalgic sound of some of my favorite farmyard memories.
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