We all know that roosters are loud, what with their cock-a-doodle-doing all day long. That’s one reason why towns and cities ban the boys. It’s true that hens don’t crow, but that doesn’t mean that your flock will be quietly unobtrusive. Sure, some hens go about their days saying nothing. Others chuck-chuck and bawk-bawk in low pitches, almost under their breath, like they’re talking to themselves. Some only up the volume when they’ve laid their eggs, announcing the achievement with a quick squawk and then returning to their quiet lives.
But other hens are loud. Very loud. Onyx, my Barnevelder, is a talker. She broadcasts that she’s stepped into the coop. She lets everyone knows that she’s going back outside. A half-hour before laying an egg she’ll increase the volume while stomping around the barn. Etheldred is another one that wants to be heard. This video is less than 30 seconds, but it’ll give you a good idea of the racket that a couple of loud hens can make.
But neither of these two girls compare to my late and much missed New Hampshire Red hen, Marge. She and her twin sister, Petunia, always traveled side by side, but it was easy to tell them apart. You knew it was Marge by her vocalizations. She was like an ever-present haranguing, argumentative, demanding aunt. She’d watch me garden, constantly clucking in what sounded like a stream of criticisms. “You’re doing what?” “Not there!” “Toss me the bug, now!” Petunia never said a word. Marge had such an insistent, unique voice that we made it into a ringtone. I have it on my iPhone timer. When I put money into a parking meter, I set the timer to remind me when the time is up. There’s nothing like having Marge squawking at me to get me running to the car. If you have an iPhone, you can hear her (and get the ringtone) by going to the iTunes store and searching for HenCam.
When you have a loud hen (or two, or three) you worry, and rightly so, that the noise will bother your neighbors. Certainly the cackling of a hen is not pretty or melodic. If you happen to have a chicken that makes most of her vocalizations in the morning, you can keep the coop dark (and the inhabitants asleep) until a reasonable hour. But, most noisy hens are noisy all day. Fences and screening with sound-absorbing plants make for good neighbors. Keeping the hens busy with compost and greens keeps their beaks pecking instead of talking. Siting the coop under your bedroom window, not the neighbor’s, is the prudent thing to do. But, honestly, if you have a noisy hen, well, it’ll be noisy. It helps to keep it in perspective. For example, Onyx isn’t half as loud as my neighbor’s lawn mower. Etheldred’s voice can’t drown out the sound of an idling FedEx truck. A neighbor’s barking dog is as loud as Garnet (another noisy girl here.) And if you have a hen like Marge, when she’s gone it will be markedly quieter and you’ll miss the hubbub.