The Chicken Chick®: Say WHAT? A Video Guide to Understanding Chicken Chat

Mar 25, 2014

Say WHAT? A Video Guide to Understanding Chicken Chat

Chickens have a language all their own and while we may not understand it at first, by paying attention and tuning into our chickens we can understand a good deal of what they are trying to communicate.
Chickens have a language all their own and while we may not understand it at first, by paying attention and tuning into our chickens we can understand a good deal of what they are trying to communicate. One German scientist, Dr. Erich Baeumer, is said to have documented at least 30 sentences that are part of a universal chicken language.1   Whether or not you believe those claims, anyone who keeps chickens can attest to being able to understand various vocalizations made by their chickens. I know I can!

One German scientist, Dr. Erich Baeumer, is said to have documented at least 30 sentences that are part of a universal chicken language.1 Whether or not you believe those claims, anyone who keeps chickens can attest to understanding various, unmistakable vocalizations made by their flock members.

"Chickens have a complex communication system. ... Here are some of the calls that you can learn to understand. waanh-hunh: 'I’m curious,' bu-bu-bu-bu-buh: 'Hello,' k-k-k-k-k-kh: 'I’m happy!,' tw-tw-tw-tw-tw: 'I’m on the nest.'"2

I took the following video clips of my chatty chickens over the years. There's no question in my mind that chickens communicate in an organized, recognizable way.

This is (St)Eve, a 6-day-old chick who was not at all pleased to have been separated from his peers or his mother. This 'pieep, pieep, pieep' sound is distinctive; whenever I hear it, I know that a chick has either become separated from its mother, is cold or in need of help.
 This video shows Silkie hen, Freida, talking to her day old chicks:
This video features Silkie mother Freida teaching her chicks to eat. As she picks up and drops morsels of food, "tuck-tuck-tuck" sounds encourage them to eat.

Anyone with laying hens will recognize the classic Egg Song as heard in this next clip. Two of my hens, Marsha, a Barred Plymouth Rock and Madonna, a Blue Splash Marans, sing together after just having laid eggs. "Dr. Baeumer does not think they are boasting or saying, 'Thank heaven that’s over.' He believes that it all goes back to the days when wild hens laid eggs in hidden nests. After each delivery, the hen gave a loud cackle to regain contact with the rest of the flock." I'm not sure I agree with that assessment, as my hens can often be heard singing egg songs before laying. Who knows ... maybe it's a slightly different song?

This video shows my chickens, hiding in the woods after having been alerted to the presence of a hawk in the area by my rooster, Max. I was working inside the house at the time with the door and windows closed, yet immediately recognized the united sounds of alarm and panic. When I opened the back door, the instigator's identity was confirmed as the hawk flew away.

The sound of a broody hen who has been disturbed can shatter glass. My Buff Orpington, April, was sitting on hatching eggs, warning me not to get any closer to her precious cargo. I complied at the risk of having a hole pecked into my hand by her beak.
There are few sounds sweeter than a mother hen communicating with her chicks. In this video, 1-week-old chicks out for a stroll with their mother chat happily, oblivious to any potential dangers. Meanwhile their mother, Mabel, a Black Copper Marans, can be heard clucking softly to them, encouraging them to stay together and within a safe distance of her.
These chickens are enjoying a spa day in the run, dust bathing and muttering contentedly. I suspect this is the chicken equivalent of gossiping at the hair salon. As Rachel seeks out her place in the Sand Salon, the pecking order is painfully reinforced by quick pecks from a higher-ranking flock member, eliciting overly dramatic screeches from Rachel.

These are the sounds of happy baby chicks, playing in the sandbox together:
One of these 2-day-old chicks is being treated for spraddle leg; she can be heard making semi-frantic, high-pitched chirping sounds as she struggles to walk for the first time on her malformed legs. Meanwhile, her siblings can be seen cheering her on as they pick up and drop food, encouraging her to walk to it.

After spending some time in the Broody Breaker, Rachel (Bantam Cochin Frizzle) has a few choice words for me as she makes her way back to the coops to rejoin the flock.

I don't even want to guess what Rachel is ranting about in this video! Perhaps you would like to take a shot at it? ☺

And last, but not least: the roosters. Why and when roosters crow has long been a mystery and will likely remain so, but I have to believe there is some testosterone-driven competition going on between the fellas in the following video.
 In this last clip, Brutus, my Mille Fleur Serama cockerel communicates with a few of the ladies, calling them over to enjoy various grass-dwelling morsels he found for them. Chivalry is alive and well in the backyard!

Citations and further reading:
1  (a skeptic's scathing assessment of the German scientists' claims)

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 Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick®


  1. Love this entry, and love trying to figure out what my girls are trying to tell me. Crook-toe sings the egg song for hours.

  2. Suzi Stephenson3/25/14, 9:19 PM

    Oh so that is what my babes are talking about!

  3. TheChickenChick3/25/14, 9:23 PM

    LOL! The quieter chicks are, the happier they are (generally).

  4. Enjoyed! :~) Thanks!

  5. TheChickenChick3/25/14, 9:54 PM

    Thank you Jessie! :)

  6. I am amazed you have this up tonight. I came on to see if there was anything about chicken speak and look what you have up. I have a polish hen that just started "barking" this past weekend. She sounds like our fox terriers. So much so my husband was calling for them when he heard her. Do you have any suggestions as to the cause or if there is a problem. Everything else is going good with her and she is not at the bottom of the pecking order. She is 10 months old.

  7. Sharron Johnson3/25/14, 10:42 PM

    Sitting in my recliner, laptop, well, on my lap, and my dog Tinker laying across my knees. She got pretty excited listening to all the girls, but when Blaze and Brutus let loose she was outa here! I'm in a lot of pain with my back right now but these really made me smile! Thanks, I needed that!

  8. Jenn Werner-Williams3/25/14, 11:50 PM

    I always tell my husband they are happy to see him!!! The girls always make happy noises when the hubby is around :)

  9. TheChickenChick3/26/14, 1:51 AM

    Oh no- what happened to your back Sharron?

  10. TheChickenChick3/26/14, 1:53 AM

    I don't know what that could be. Just keep an eye on her and if she develops any other symptoms of illness or disease, take her out of the flock for closer monitoring and a vet visit if you can.

  11. lisa tucker3/26/14, 9:40 AM

    Loved it all!! That Rachel is something else...:) She always makes me smile..:)

  12. Jane Harris Bennett3/26/14, 10:39 AM


  13. Wow! I so enjoyed your videos of the music of chickens. Most of them I've also heard coming from my flock. They are so much fun to watch and listen to. Thanks for the great post.

  14. Thanks. I think maybe she just learned the noise and is fascinated by making it. I am keeping close tabs on her for anything else out of the ordinary.

  15. Backyard Chicken Lady3/26/14, 9:50 PM

    The "post egg laying song" is what my girls sing BEFORE laying, when they are not so patiently waiting in line for their turn at the prized nest box. I think it's something like "Would you hurry up in there, we would like our turn to lay an egg."

    I can tell Rachel is pretty leaved at you. I've heard that one before too, lol.

  16. I have a rooster that sometimes 'whinny's' like a horse....the horse is no longer at this location, but i have to wonder if he is calling to her...

  17. Carolyn Zewe3/26/14, 10:12 PM

    Thanks for this! Love it!

  18. TheChickenChick3/26/14, 10:12 PM

    Really? LOL! I'd love to hear him!

  19. TheChickenChick3/26/14, 10:34 PM

    Thank you Lyn. :)

  20. Kathryn Botard3/27/14, 12:49 AM

    I felt sorry for Rachel when the ladies wouldn't share their bath. :(

  21. TheChickenChick3/27/14, 9:53 AM

    LOL! I know, but she's often on the other end of that transaction. ;)

  22. Wow, that's so interesting! I never knew you could reach that level of communication with chickens.

  23. Quilt Chickie4/2/14, 1:47 PM

    I LOVED this post! I have a lone rooster (Ghengis, who has a new harem coming in May) who constantly talks to me in a low clucking. I think he thinks I`m his girl. Stands at the window on the front porch ALL day crowing. I don`t know what I would do without your blog. It is THE best. :-)

  24. Lisa Dowdy Lampman4/3/14, 5:08 PM

    I love hearing all the different sounds from my chickens! My silver polish roo sings a song each morning as I open the door to the run that I swear sounds the same as the girls' egg laying song.... as I've said before... he's a little weird!! :)

  25. TheChickenChick4/4/14, 1:34 AM

    Thank you!

  26. Danielle Viellion4/6/14, 9:43 AM

    The Chicken Chick sent me...I would love to win the watering system for my small but happy coop.

  27. I just finished laughing along with "Say What?" Understanding Chicken Chat Video. Poor Rachel pushed from the Ladies gossip pool! But she sure told then what she thought of them later on! Dueling Roosters! Plus all the chicken communication at the beginning. Love the video. Still would love to win the egg basket!

  28. I have my Freckles. She loves to keep me informed of the coop gossip. She is always in the coop when I straighten things up. She talks and talks and talks. Love it!

  29. Carol Horton6/26/14, 11:30 AM

    Really interesting stuff

  30. I have a Calder Ranger called Clover who constantly freaks out over the least little thing. Usually it's because a sparrow called her a rude name, or one of our cats breathed. Just as she starts winding down from her little tantram, my half bantam black rock Shelley starts it all up again. And then the two cockerels from across the road have to shout back to ask what's going on. And they say that the country is quiet! Hah!

  31. Cheryl Ortiz6/26/14, 12:37 PM

    the chickens talking video is very good. thank you.

  32. The chickens we had when I was a kid growing up in the Australian outback were truly free range as they just ran around in the bush and we only saw them once a day for a late afternoon meal. We had to listen out for the 'Egg Song' because as kids we had to run to where the hen was shouting and search around to find the nest so we could gather eggs from it.
    My understanding was that the hen (in the wild) walked quietly about 20 yards away from the nest and made a ruckus as she took off away from the nest in an attempt to draw off any predators.
    Rachel's rant, is (to me) a general conversation about boredom and hunger. She's just letting you and all the others know that the flock should wander on because she's bored with this scratching area.
    Nice chicken chat footage.
    ps. Did you know that the Australian word for chicken is 'chook'? Chicken is what you buy from the store and eat, the birds running around in the Chook yard are chooks.

  33. I didn't realize there was a distinction between chicken and chook, thanks for sharing, Art!

  34. Cindy Decker Gill6/27/14, 1:01 AM

    My chickens giggle when they are let out and happy or when they discover a yummy morsel.

  35. PiTown Patty9/10/14, 2:12 PM

    Love the little peep voices... one of my cockerels is quite masculine looking, large sized but hasn't crowed yet (12 weeks old) but he still softly peeps in his happy baby chick voice when I hold him! Cracks me up every time.

  36. Diana Goetsch9/10/14, 2:39 PM

    I never knew that either! I had often see Chook and chicken used differently in conversations, but I didn't know it meant two things :)

  37. I just found your site...I LOVE it...I've had chickens my whole life & i'm finding really neat stuff i'm going to make on your projects page...your site is my favorite of all!!!

  38. littlechicky10/8/14, 3:33 PM

    every time I walk up to the coop before letting my girls out I always call chick-chick-chick-chick-chick, in a kinda high tone. Always the same way and I truly believe they recognize my voice. They know that sound either means they're getting to go out or it's time to come home for dinner! I love the "what do are holding? can I have it" cluck cluck sound they make and turn their heard to eye ball it. My other favorite sound they make is something I refer to as chicken gossip it's kinda like "guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurllllllllllll dit dit dit dit dit" they seem to do that a lot. Makes me think of women gossiping in the salon about their husbands.

  39. littlechicky10/8/14, 3:37 PM

    also how did you manage to film these with out giggling! I was cracking up watching them all! So cute great videos!

  40. Love all the talking tidbits! Thanks!

  41. Elizabeth Nicole Stelling10/9/14, 9:04 AM

    These videos are great! My husband says the laying song is "Look, look, look, what IIIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiii did!"

  42. I've wondered why my hens are so attentive when I come in and cluck to thrm! I really need to watch what I say! Lol

  43. when i walk in to the coop the chickens jump onto my shoulder and settle down