Do chickens have accents? October 11, 2013

I often find myself wishing for research grants so science could affirm the answers to weird questions that pop up in my mind. Maybe that’s what a chicken nerd is supposed to do: come up with weird questions. For instance, do chickens have accents? I think they do.

It doesn’t take a sensitive ear to recognize that different breeds sound different from one another. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that basic differences in body size, shape, syrinx, etc., between the breed would physically produce different sounds. After all, dog breed have different sounds. A Beagle bays. A Basenji yodels or baroos. Chihuahuas yip. You wouldn’t expect the bark of an English Bulldog to sound the same as the bark of a Greyhound, so it’s no surprise that skinny leghorns sound different than fat cochins.

But when I wonder if chickens have accents, I’m not talking about the breed differences between the squawks of a Rhode Island Red, the warbling chattiness of a Faverolles, or the matronly clucks of a Brahma.

Schpreckenzie cluck?

Sprecken sie cluck?

 

I’m also not talking about the fact that human languages reflect different words for both chicken sounds and rooster crows in particular. The English cockadoodle-doo is cocorico in French and kuckeliku in Swedish. English bok bok is gack gack in German and tok tok in Dutch. Those are, essentially, onomatopoetic accents, but not chicken accents.

What I mean by “chickens have accents” is this: Science tells us that chickens have their own language, a language they speak to one another. “The chicken world is predominantly a social one and sounds, gestures and postures are all critical in communication within the group,” according to Dr Rafael Freire. So, we know chickens have a language. This is also a subject discussed in our upcoming book, the My Pet Chicken Handbook. For those of you who do keep chickens, this idea is probably no surprise —you may well have noticed that chickens have different calls meaning different things, even when you probably haven’t conducted your own studies to prove it.

But, that led me to wondering about, well, regional accents. Do chickens have accents that vary with their location? In other words, do the Sussex in my flock speak in a different accent than the Sussex in yours, much like anyone who isn’t from West Virginia (like I am) are all pronouncing things wrong? (Just kidding. Sorta.)

I know the idea that chickens have accents sounds a little unbelievable. And yet… I’ve often thought that part of the big problem in introducing new birds to an established flock is, essentially, a chicken language barrier. Young birds that are introduced carefully (according to recommended guidelines, of course) usually seem to be incorporated relatively quickly as compared to more mature birds. I’ve also found that birds raised by a mother hen (rather than in an artificial brooder) seem to integrate more easily, too. Then this week, I discovered that studies have proved goats have regional accents.

goats have accents - do chickens have accents, too?

This one is asking for his baa-baa.

The article explained that

“[R]esearchers at the University of London recorded calls at one week old and again at five weeks old. They found that the calls of kids within the same social group became more similar to one another over time.”

Dreaming of milk

Here is a bonus cute-goat-baby photo, because, well… cute-goat-baby.

After reading the article, it just got me thinking again that chickens probably do, too.

Until someone commissions a study and confirms this one way or the other, what do you think? Is it possible or even probable that chickens have accents, too?

One Comments
ann October 11th, 2013

absolutely, a friend of mine has chickens of same breeds and I notice a big difference in their vocalizations from mine. By the way my favorite is what I call the purr when our bantam leghorn or Minorca are being held and snuggling under an arm or chin.

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