Learn to “speak chicken” – understanding flock behaviour part 2

flock of chickensLast week we looked at how chickens decide their pecking order, form friendships, and operate as a group on a day to day basis. We also learnt that chickens can communicate both verbally and non-verbally. In fact, chickens have over 24 verbal communications, it’s not all about clucking!

Chickens are social animals and prefer to have friends to spend their time with so it’s best to start off with at least three chickens when you’re creating a new flock. You can learn more about how chickens conduct their lives by watching this documentary The Private Lives of Chickens.

Here’s more about the benefits of being in a flock:

Safety in numbers

Living in a group means that there are more eyes to look out for a tasty treat, or more importantly, danger.

When one of the flock spots something they think is a threat they’ll start making a noise that the other members of the group will pick up. Although experts don’t really know why the group starts making such a loud noise but we can assume that the noise is intended to frighten the predator away.

Cockerels are the best example of one member of the flock protecting the rest and when a threat is spotted he’ll make a growling or loud screeching sound to warn his hens.

“Food’s over here!”

You’ll also hear your chickens getting pretty noisy when they find something delicious and want to let the rest of the group know there’s juicy plant or tasty looking bug to eat.

Cockerels telling their hens about food are more common but you’ll also see this behaviour in an all hen flock.

“Hello ladies…”

If you do have a cockerel in your flock then you’ll hear his mating call on a fairly regular basis and you’ll witness the “dance” that goes with it.

Cockerels combine verbal and non-verbal communications in an attempt to impress their hens and get them accept his amorous advances. You’ll see your cockerel drop one wing and spread it out to signal that he wants to mate. He’ll also puff the rest of his feathers up and perform a shuffling dance with his feet.

If the hen accepts his proposal she’ll squat and let him mount. If, on the other hand, she doesn’t like the look of his dance she’ll screech, cluck, and usually run away.


Dusk is another good time to hear the verbal communications in your flock as the cockerel or dominant hen will usher the rest back to the chicken house. Low clucking sounds will tell the rest of the flock that it’s time for bed and they should settle down for the night.

Next week we’re getting in the kitchen and showing you great ways to use up all of those delicious eggs and how to correctly freeze them.


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