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 Their soft down has been replaced by patchy feathers, their little round bodies that unfolded out of the egg have gotten big and awkward atop those long bony legs, and the sounds they make – oh my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
. Sincerely, Chicken Lady