Roosters crow. Even if you’ve never seen a rooster in real life you know what he sounds like because we grow up with storybooks about roosters, sing songs about them in elementary school, and have watched cartoons with pompous rooster characters. In English, we write the noise as cock-a-doodle-do! Other languages have different words, but they are always loud and brash, and instantly, universally recognizable as rooster talk.
Hens, when their voices are written about at all, are usually relegated the boring cluck. This is a shame, because listening to the hens talk is one of the pleasures of the backyard chicken keeper. Just like human voices vary, so too, do chickens have voices unique to themselves. Some chickens don’t say much at all. In the five years that I’ve had Twinkydink and Blackie, I don’t think I’ve heard either of these Australorps say more than chirrup once or twice. The Bantam White Leghorns beep. Little voices for little hens. During school visits, Coco will, once in awhile, look at a child say beep-beep. It’a chatty and sweet. The whole classroom hushes when they hear her.
Buffy has recently been quite loud, which is very unusual for my placid Buff Orpington. Two years ago, she almost died from a mysterious paralysis. She couldn’t stand up for weeks, and it took months for her to start acting like a healthy bird. She hasn’t laid an egg since, but lately, she’s been sitting in a nesting box each day, and then loudly gets down. Chud-bup! But-but-BUT! Maybe there will be an egg soon?
On the far end of the talkative scale is Marge. She’s now six years old, and every day of her life she’s been vociferous. She announces her entrance into the coop, and then let’s everyone know when she’s leaving. When she sees me she complains that I haven’t fed her lately. She says buk-BUK-BUKBUK-BUK! I’m glad she’s not a rooster, or she’d be unbearable. Her sister New Hampshire Red, Petunia, listens in, but rarely says a thing.
Lulu, being a scatter-brained hen, talks on and off during the day. I’m not sure what she’s saying. Sort of like a crazy person who talks to herself. Chuck-chuckle. The punk rock hens, Tina and Siouxsie don’t say much. Nor do the Golden Comets. How much and how loud a hen talks is linked to breed. Then again, that doesn’t explain Marge.