Understanding Chicken Behavior: Interpreting The Egg Song

It's a common misconception that roosters are the loud mouths of the barnyard.But you can't raise laying hens for long before you will start to hear an awful screeching and cackling coming from the direction of the coop each morning. What you're hearing is the hen's 'egg song'.

Some breeds tend to 'sing' more than others  - and calling the cacophony they make a song is being very generous!

My husband literally cringes when some of them go at it on a Saturday morning, disturbing our peaceful coffee time on the back patio. The squawking and carrying on certainly isn't my favorite sound either - some girls are positively pitiful in their singing. And sometimes they feel the need to sing when they see someone else's egg in a nest, or the nest they want is taken...

I find that our Ameraucanas and Australorps are our main squawkers, while our lavender orps are fairly quiet about laying an egg and our Olive Egger sort of just mutters to herself after the deed is done.  Although our Lavender Orp, Violet, did sign a sweet song this one time.....

But WHY do they do it? Why do chickens feel the need to broadcast to the world that they have laid an egg? Wouldn't it make more sense for them to keep it quiet so predators (and humans who have a habit of stealing freshly laid eggs for breakfast!) won't know anything is going on down there?

Well there are a few schools of thought about why chickens make all that ruckus after they lay an egg. The first hypothesis is that the hen is just SO doggone proud of herself for laying that egg and SO relieved to have it plop out that she feels the need to broadcast that fact to the world. She is literally crowing with pride about her accomplishment.

A second idea is that the hen, having gone off to lay her egg in private somewhere, is calling to the rest of the flock to rejoin them.

The third hypothesis is that she is protecting her egg by moving away from it and distracting predators from the nest itself and focusing their attention to her instead to keep her egg safe. I tend to believe this

It makes sense the she wants to keep that egg safe because each egg she lays, in her mind, fertile or not, is a potential new baby to keep the flock going. So she figures she has to draw predators away from the nest.

A reader sent me this interesting bit of information recently: "I have some info on why I think the hens raise a ruckus when they exit the coop after laying. I have observed the rooster's response to her exclamations; he becomes very vocal himself, like they are echo-locating! Then he rushes over to where she is and does his little amorous dance. Most of the time he mounts successfully. Then he leads her back to the area of the yard where the rest of the girls are.  Lovely!" [thank you Nancy for this insight] 

And from another reader:
Hello Lisa, l think I may have some insight on why chickens sing after laying. I have been sitting in the chicken coop for hours to find out who is laying. I have noticed that when the chicken stands up to lay, another chicken who has been watching or waiting her turn will start singing. It’s like she is drawing any danger to herself away from the one fixing to lay. Just food for thought. - Reva C.

We will probably never know the true reason for the egg song. The chickens aren't talking, they just keep singing! But either way, be prepared for some awful squawking to start to emit from your coop if you're new to this whole backyard chicken keeping thing!