Chicken talk

Conversations, hen and chicks, Locust Lane, 2011

Dear Chicken Lady,   My baby birds are growing up. They are getting really ugly and some of the chicks are starting to make some terrible sounds sorta like they are trying to crow. Please tell me they’ll get better because I don’t think I can live with a chicken that sounds or looks like that. Sincerely, Need My Ear Plugs

Dear Plugs, We are all familiar with the story of the ugly duckling that grows up to be a beautiful swan, but not much has been written about the sad appearance of a growing young chicken. Their soft down has been replaced by patchy feathers, their little round bodies that unfolded out of the egg have gotten big and awkward atop those long bony legs, and the sounds they make –  oh my goodness.

A chicken can make over 200 distinct sounds in its quest to communicate. The young cockerel learning to crow is one of the most ridiculous of those sounds that Mother Nature has come up with. A mature rooster’s resonant call to the world rolls out of that larynx and reverberates throughout his empire for any excuse whatsoever. He may be calling his hens, warning other birds away from his harem, greeting the morning, afternoon, evening or night, or just proclaiming his presence to all. The young cockerel produces a few short hoarse croaking sounds rather than the eloquent call of the rooster and practices constantly. As those hollow stemmed appendages protruding from the chick’s skin begin to resemble the fine feathers we know and love, becoming a soft elegant coat, and the proportions change from adolescent gawkiness to a mature well proportioned bird, so will those hoarse sounds turn into liquid notes of command.

Researchers have discovered what any of us chicken farmers could have told them if they bothered to ask. They concluded that another one of the 200 sounds, the “tck, tck, tck” call a mother hen or rooster uses to announce the presence of food represents just that, and is not merely a reflexive trigger to call others to the hunt for food. Chris and Linda Evans of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia found that different alarm calls the chickens make can let the other birds know where an intruder is coming from.

Guys, raise a few chickens and you will soon realize their wondrous abilities and be inspired to get more – many more – and we will help. We have a few to place in new homes for anyone ready to delve into this new and rewarding world of the chicken. Yes, they are not quite at their mature beauty, still rather ugly –  but that changes rapidly. Expand your world and raise chickens

Mother hen and babies, Locust Lane, 2011

.  Sincerely, Chicken Lady

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5 Responses to Chicken talk

  1. troy bain says:

    1 of my 6 chickens is acting strange she well not leave the roost n she keeps her feathers puffed up , she is missing her feathers on her under side she is only a year old,, can u help me with this

    • Hi Troy — Good to hear from you, and we are sorry that your young hen is feeling poorly. Here is what Chicken Lady suggests:

      “The most likely problem is that your bird has mites or poultry lice. To check that, lift the feathers on the back of the neck, check under the wings and by the vent for little critters that run for cover under feathers. The other thing to look for are egg masses on the shaft of the feathers around the vent which look like little white clumps or specks. Her comb may be pale.

      There are a number of ways to treat for the bugs. There is plenty of information on the internet with different ideas for how to solve the problem of parasites. If the bugs are bad and she is not too weak, a bath using a flea soap that you would use on a dog will get them off quickly. You can spray with sevin or put sevin powder in a bowl for her to take a dust bath in. Some people use diatomateous earth for a dust bath (available at stores selling swimming pool filter supplies) but that is not effective in our experience. We use Adams flea and tick mist with insect growth regulator or ivermectin drops. Chances are if one bird has bugs, your others do also. Some breeds are more susceptible than others but the bugs will spread to all your birds if you don’t treat for them.

      Less likely is that she is egg bound. Check her abdomen to see if it is swollen or hard. Has she been fighting with the other birds? Does she eat or drink at all? If you can present more symptoms, we can give you some more ideas. Sincerely, Chicken Lady”

      Best of luck — we hope to hear that she is cheery and well soon.

      • troy says:

        well i see no bugs…. today i thought she was dead, but she was not, she was laying on an egg i made her get up n she went down the ramp to the feeder n ate not much tho. i opened the gate n they all ran out so seems to be ok just weak.. n the others do pick on her

      • Micki says:

        Bugs can be hard to spot. Check for white specks on the feathers which will be the eggs of the mites or lice. A bird that is picked on by others is often a sign it is sick. Check for worms visible in fresh droppings. We will isolate birds that act sick to give them a chance to recover if we don’t know what the problem is but you have to be careful when you reintroduce them back to the flock that they don’t pick on her too much.

      • Troy says:

        just wanted to say thank you, i tried lice spray,, did not help,, i found flea n tick powder for cats,,, seems to have worked great, all 6 of my girls seem happy

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