Hens can crow. Yep… It’s true. Though I have read about this before, it was a pleasure to be able to experience it in person. I had a hen that crowed. In this post, I will include why and when hens crow and even feature a recording of a Buff Orpington hen crowing!
Why Hens Crow
With flocks that have a high ratio of hens (more than 10 hens to 1 rooster) or flocks without roosters, a certain hen may assume the dominant role to fill the gap. Though ratios do not solely determine whether a hen will crow, the hen-to-rooster ratios can cause hens that already have those instincts to begin crowing. In a flock, the ‘dominate’ hen may stop laying, grow long spurs and begin crowing regularly (daily). Also, she may begin tid-bitting, calling other hens to her and take an extra watch out for predators. Many of the possible reasons hens crow remain speculatory (at present). Dominate hens serve to fill an empty gap in a flock by acting like a rooster would in most areas. When I have a more complete understanding on Why Roosters Crow, I think I will better comprehend hen-crowing as well. From my experiences, I currently believe hen-crowing, to at least a small degree, serves in the attraction of other chickens (possibly with an emphasis on the attraction of a real rooster).
What to do with a Crowing Hen
Let her crow
If you don’t mind and live in an area that allows crowing animals. However, crowing hens may not get along with roosters if they continue to crow when a rooster is present. Crowing hens often do best as ‘alpha hen’ in a flock of their own.
Get a rooster
This could make her stop crowing… However, then you have the crowing rooster to deal with. Additionally, there is no guarantee she will stop crowing and crowing bouts could happen at any time (possibly after stress). Also, the rooster may just cull her from the flock (which was what occurred in my experience).
Consider a ‘Rooster No-Crow Collar’
A no-crow collar is a collar that reduces the volume of crows by prohibits air from being pushed out of the lungs all at once. This does not restrict normal respiration. However, it restricts the chicken’s ability to let out air from its lungs quickly enough to produce a volumous crow. Such an option might be worth considering if you can’t have her crowing but want to keep her. However, many chickens do not tolerate no-crow collars and no-crow collars may pose possible health hazards (which I am still researching).
There are many people who would be thrilled to have a crowing hen in their flock (I know I was!). However, not everyone can keep a crowing hen.
My Experience with a Crowing Hen
Dusty had always been near the top of the pecking order (in an aloof sort of way. She rarely has squabbled with the others). After the tragic death of King Henry the 1st (Welsummer Rooster), Dusty, at 3 years old, crowed for the first time. Her spurs also grew and she began tid-bitting to the other hens. Additionally, also began watching over the flock and assuming the role of protector. However, her new job never interfered with her love of humane companionship… Being a tame, gentle, curious Orpington, she still loved snuggles and lit up at the sight of humans.
Though I could tell the distinct difference between Dusty (hen) and Storm (rooster), Dusty was pretty good at it (… much better than Gabriel, my previous Brahma mixed-breed rooster). She crowed mostly when I had no rooster or when she was separated from the rooster or the other hens.
Observations on Hen-Crowing
I had to separate Dusty from the flock due to an injury (neighbor dog got at my flock… killed two hens and left Dusty wounded). After a few days in the laundry room (in a comfy box), she began crowing. I noticed that hearing Storm crow outside would often trigger her crowing bouts. Storm always listened intently when he caught the sound of her crows. He also would follow the sound and often ended up leading the flock to the back door of the house. After I began moving Dusty outside (in a run) during the day, Storm immediately began rounding up the rest of the flock and bringing them to her.
My Regretful Dilemma with Hen-Crowing
However, with time, Dusty began to crow more and more (even with the rooster present). Pretty soon, the whole flock was confused and splitting up into separate groups (some following Dusty and others falling Storm). Dusty and Storm would also compete in crowing wars (a dominance issue). Likely for the sake of the group as a whole as well as order, eventually booted her. My sweet Dusty was rehomed and now lives on a wonderful farm where she can crow to her heart’s content. Storm is now quite happy as well.
Hear a Hen Crow