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Do you Hear What I Hear? All about Chicken Hearing

Chickens hear much like humans do, but they have some unique capabilities.

Chickens hear very much like human beings do. 

They have two ears, one on either side of their head. They have eardrums, and an outer ear, middle ear and inner ear, just like we do. They are able to harness sound waves and send them to the inner ear, which is important for balance.

However, unlike humans,  or even cats, dogs or rabbits, chicken ears aren't readily visible since they are covered by feathers. The ear lobes can usually be easily located though. They are the circular areas of flesh set back a bit under the eyes.  

Common Myth about Chicken Hearing

It's a myth that the color of a hen's earlobe dictates egg color, although many chicken breeds with white ear lobes do lay white eggs, and many with reddish-brown earlobes lay brown eggs. 

However, blue egg-laying Ameraucanas do not have blue earlobes!


Do you Hear What I Hear? All about Chicken Hearing

There are some other major differences between human and chicken hearing. 

Unlike us humans, who tend to experience hearing loss as they age, chickens are able to regrow and repair damaged hearing cells, so their hearing remains near 100% throughout their life. 

In fact, after their eyesight, their hearing is their most important sense. 

Chicken hearing is important since they are low on the food chain, so any advance notice of a predator's presence is critical.  In addition to their ears, chickens also have sensory nerves in their feet, so they are able to feel vibrations in the ground, which is extremely useful to "hear" predators approaching.

And in fact, chickens can tell the direction and how far away a sound is coming from, by gauging how long it takes that sound to reach one ear and then the other. 

Baby Chicks Develop their Hearing While Still in the Shell

Baby chicks are able to hear their mother hen clucking to them while they are still in the shell. An embryo can actually hear by around day 12 of the 21-day incubation period. 

And once hatched, a baby chick will respond to their mother tapping the ground when she finds seeds or bugs.  If you tap your finger on the ground near their feed, chicks in the brooder will hurry to investigate.


Chicken Hearing Range

Interestingly, chickens have better low frequency hearing than humans.  They can hear sounds in the 10-12,000 Hz range, while the human ear generally hears sounds in the 20-20,000 Hz range, meaning that chickens can hear sounds that are inaudible to humans. And chickens have better hearing than humans below 64 Hz.

Some examples of low frequency sounds are severe weather, thunder, earthquakes and avalanches, so if you live in areas plagued by any of those, it might be a good idea to pay attention to your chickens if they start acting odd.

Other low frequency sounds are those made by elephants, giraffes, whales and hippopotamus. Probably not all that helpful in the modern day chicken world... 

What Sounds do Chickens Like (and Not Like)?

In my personal experience, I have found that chickens aren't generally bothered by loud noises. Fireworks don't faze them, and I was building their new coop a few years ago and using power tools right in their run and they barely blinked an eye. 

However, flap a tarp around them or over their heads and they panic. My theory is that loud noises generally pose no threat to a flock, while flapping from above could clearly signal the arrival of a hawk, owl or eagle. So of course that signals danger to them.

Chickens love the sound of cracked corn or grains being shaken in a cup....

And it seems that chickens enjoy listening to classical music. Some studies have been done which have led some commercial farms to start playing classical music, believing that it calms their hens, leading to fewer behavioral issues and more (and larger) eggs. 

Go figure.  

So crank up that Mozart and start collecting those eggs!


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References:
http://articles.extension.org/pages/66178/hearing-ability-of-poultry
https://poultry.extension.org/articles/poultry-anatomy/how-well-can-poultry-hear/
Malaysian Farm Uses Classical Music for Healthier Chickens
Chickens Who Listen to Classical Music Lay Bigger Eggs
http://cssf.usc.edu/History/2006/Projects/J1904.pdf
Infrasound Hearing

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