If you own a flock of chickens, especially one that has a rooster or two, you already know that they can be pretty noisy. Roosters especially tend to sound off loud and proud throughout the day, and invariably first thing in the morning and in the evening.
But what’s strange is that some folks report that their hens will sometimes crow like a rooster will, even if there’s no rooster around. Surely they are mistaken. Is it possible? Do hens actually crow like roosters?
It is possible for a hen to crow like a rooster in some cases. Hens are capable of making a crowing call, and will sometimes take up the practice by way of imitation, when a rooster dies or goes missing, or due to hormonal imbalances.
I can honestly say I never experienced such a phenomenon myself, but it looks like it is well-understood and more common than you might think.
Hens are actually capable of crowing just like roosters are. It’s a pretty fascinating topic if you want to know the truth, so keep reading and I’ll tell you all about it below.
So, Hens Can Actually Crow?
Yes, they can. Both male and female chickens have a syrinx, the bird equivalent of a voice box or vocal cords.
Although it’s more developed and typically capable of producing greater volume and range and roosters, hens have the same organ and so they can crow if and when they want to.
However, typically, most hens do not, or at least they don’t with it nowhere close to the same frequency as roosters do.
Do All Hens Crow?
No. They can, but most hens don’t. It’s no exaggeration and not sexist to say that that is the rooster’s job and most of the time the Hens will leave the roosters to it.
Hens may, of course, make sounds of their own including chirps, clucks, yelps, and more, and are typical of them.
That said, even if a hen has never crowed before it is possible for her to spontaneously start crowing in certain circumstances. We will discuss those in the following sections
Does a Hen’s Crow Resemble a Rooster’s?
Yes, generally. A hen’s crow is recognizably similar to a rooster’s crow with a couple of important differences. It isn’t as deep, usually not as piercing, and often doesn’t carry quite as long as a rooster’s.
That said, you’ll definitely recognize it for what it is once you hear it!
Are Hens as Loud as Roosters?
As a rule, no. Roosters are bigger, stronger, have greater lung capacity, and a more developed syrinx compared to a hen. A hen can belt out a hearty cock-a-doodle-doo just like a rooster can, but it’s not going to be as loud.
Know, though, that it isn’t out of the question that you might have a particularly loud hen compared against a puny or soft rooster and they could be more or less on par.
Why Would a Hen Crow at All?
The million-dollar question that everyone needs snow is why a hen would start to crow at all?
Surprisingly enough, there are several reasons why she might start. Typically they are a response to a change in her environment or the flock, or else a change in her own body. And though a few of them are mysterious most are harmless. We’ll discuss each of them in detail in the following sections.
A Hen Might “Take Over” for a Departed Rooster
One of the most curious reasons that a hen might start growing is due to a change in leadership in the flock. Typically, this will occur when a rooster departs from the flock suddenly. Maybe he dies, is sold or is suddenly turned into a chicken dinner.
Whatever the case, with the rooster gone the pecking order in the flock is upset, and sometimes a senior hen will take over the duties of the rooster, meaning crowing to alert the flock to the presence of food, dawn, dusk, predators, and so forth.
Even though that’s usually the rooster’s job, chickens are smart enough and socially organized enough to “promote” a hen into the duty for the good of the flock. Although a hen is rarely as good at these jobs compared to a rooster, it’s better than total chaos.
Some Hens Crow as a Simple Imitation
An arguably hilarious reason why a hen might start to crow is by means of simple imitation. Actually, scratch that, you probably won’t think it’s very funny if you’ve got more than one or two crowing birds in your flock!
Ribbing aside, sometimes hens that hear roosters crowing will just start sounding off themselves.
Often, this will just be one hen that starts to imitate the rooster for whatever reason, but every once in a blue moon crowing will become sort of a social contagion in the flock, with more and more chickens starting to crow themselves in a sort of call and response to the leader.
I warn you, this is enough to drive anyone crazy… I hope it doesn’t happen to you!
Hormonal Imbalances Can Lead to Rooster-Like Behavior and Appearance
The most baffling cause for why a hen might start crowing is due to what is often called spontaneous sex change. No, I’m not making this up and I’m not referring to some gruesome, ghastly surgery either.
The explanation is simpler than you might think…
Hens have two ovaries, and one of them, the one on the left, produces all of her estrogen, the hormone that gives her female characteristics. If something happens to the ovary, or if a hen gets sick or has a certain kind of genetic defect, her left ovary will stop producing estrogen.
What won’t stop, however, is her body’s production of testosterone. You can see where this is going: with her testosterone levels high and not enough estrogen to compensate, a hen will start to take on a rooster’s characteristics, including physically!
While this syndrome is most marked early in life during development, it can occur at any time and have an impact on a hen.
She’ll start crawling, behaving like a rooster, and even looking like a rooster to a degree, with more vibrant colors, a larger, redder comb, and wattles, longer tail feathers, greater muscle mass, etc.
Too Much Crowing! How Can You Stop a Hen from Crowing?
So you’ve got a hen that has started crowing and you want it to stop. There’s a few things you can try, but I’ll level with you: you don’t have many options.
The first thing you might try is simple behavioral modification. When a hen starts growing if you can get her attention, startle her, spritz her with water, or otherwise incentivize her against doing so that might be enough to snap her out of it.
Another option is to fit her with a rooster collar, a simple piece of fabric, or elastic that will stifle the movement of air through her syrinx and greatly reduce the intensity and duration of her crowing.
Lastly, your only other choice to keep her from crowing is a surgical operation on the syrinx itself. This is the equivalent to de-barking a dog. Note that the surgery is invasive, irreversible, and quite cruel if you want to know the truth. You shouldn’t do it…
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.