Why do Roosters Crow? Plus Answers to Other Odd Chicken Questions!

Why do roosters crow? Have you really stopped to think about all that crowing? Why so much? If you feed your chickens meat will they turn into cannibals? What about your backyard swimming pool; is that a place your chickens might like to visit? So many questions! Here are five top chicken questions along with the answers.

Why do roosters crow? Here are five top chicken questions along with the answers.

1. Why Do Roosters Crow? 

Roosters crow to announce and define their territory. If you think hearing a rooster crow while you’re inside your house is loud, that’s because it’s meant to be heard, not by you, but by other roosters in the area. We live on about 13 acres in the country. There are roosters living about a quarter of a mile down the road in both directions. On a good day, I can stand outside and listen to my rooster, Hank, crowing and then hear the roosters from the other houses responding to him. 

Most people think roosters only crow early in the day to announce the sunrise. Studies have shown that roosters will crow in response to light stimuli but they also crow according to their own internal body clocks. 

Chicken keepers know their roosters will crow in the morning and all through the day. Why continue after the sun rises?
Crowing also happens according to social rank. The highest-ranking rooster in a flock will crow first in the morning with the lower ranking roosters waiting their turn. This continues throughout the day as the roosters announce their rank over and over. 

On a personal note, I have noticed that when I have more than one rooster, they will crow back and forth to each other all day long. My yard can be loud! When we have only one rooster in residence, however, my yard is downright quiet. There are a few crows in the morning and that's about it. This suggests a sole rooster doesn't feel the need to compete for territory, so he’s quiet.  

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Why do roosters crow? Here are five top chicken questions along with the answers.

2. If Your Chickens Eat Meat, Will They Turn Into Cannibals? 

Chickens are omnivores which means their natural diet consists of both plants and meat. When chickens free-range, they can be seen eating everything from insects to mice, snakes, and frogs along with grass and other plants. 

Feeding your chickens cooked meat scraps will not turn them into cannibals. It can provide a nutritious treat, especially during a molt as increased protein during this time can help with new feather development. 

For extra protein, you can also cook your excess chicken eggs and feed them back to your flock. I like to feed eggs to my chickens during the winter. That’s when it’s hard for them to pick up extra protein through their free-ranging. I scramble the eggs with no seasoning and then give them to my birds. 

Cannibalism in chickens is a behavior and not something caused by food. Often it’s an innocent behavior that starts when one member of the flock has a cut or broken feather that’s bleeding. Exposed areas on the body draw attention and unwanted pecking and that can lead down a path of cannibalism. If you find one of your chickens with a cut, make sure to treat it promptly. If necessary, separate the bird until it heals.

Why do roosters crow? Here are five top chicken questions along with the answers.

3. Don’t Chickens Just Fly Away? 

Chickens can fly. They don’t fly as well as wild birds. But depending on the breed, some are actually pretty good fliers. Lighter, more sleek birds like the Leghorn can easily fly over fences. Heavier breeds like Orpingtons and Cochins can’t fly as high or as long. 

Flying is necessary because, in the wild, chickens roost high in the trees at night to escape predators. Backyard chickens can fly away if they are not kept in an enclosed coop and run. If you have neighbors close by, it may be a good idea to have a really tall fence or a really good relationship because chickens don’t respect boundaries. If something looks good in a neighbor’s yard, they’ll go for it. 

Chickens are smart though. They know their coop is safe and where they get their food and water. So even free-ranging chickens will return to the coop at night to grab some grub and a safe place to sleep. If for some reason they get caught out after the coop is closed for the night, they will generally try to find a safe roosting spot and settle in for the night. 

4. Can Chickens Swim? 

In short, the answer is not really. They can paddle for a short distance to get out of shallow water should the need arise. 

Modern chickens originated from jungle fowl. These wild birds live in a jungle environment and do have the chance to encounter water. They can maneuver through small, shallow streams and water areas. 

The better question here is should chickens be swimming? No. They are not adapted for swimming. Ducks, geese and other water birds like penguins, all have adaptations that make life in the water easy. Their feathers are covered in oil that makes them waterproof. Yes, chickens also have oil on their feathers but it’s much lighter than on a true water-dwelling bird. It’s meant to help with water resistance but does not shed water. 

After some time in the water a chicken, especially heavily-feathered breeds, will become water-soaked and tired. If they can’t get out of the water, they will drown. 

A quick internet search will show pictures of chickens swimming in pools. These are cute to see but also notice people are always around the chickens to help them. Also, think about the high chlorine level in a proper swimming pool. That’s not helpful to a chicken’s feathers. The better option to cool off your chickens in the summer is to provide them with a small wading pool with just a few inches of water so they can soak their legs but always have their feet on the ground. 

Why do roosters crow? Here are five top chicken questions along with the answers.

5. Do Hens Have a Comb and Wattles Like Roosters?  

Yes. Both hens and roosters have combs and wattles. Roosters have much larger combs and wattles than hens. 

FYI - If you're new to chicken keeping it's easy to remember. The comb is the red fleshy appendage on the top of a chicken's head and the wattles are the red, fleshy appendages hanging from the throat. 

What purpose do the combs and wattles serve? For roosters, their comb is used as a way to attract females. Hens are specific when looking for a mate. A large, bright red comb with tall points (given the breed) and evenly formed wattles is desired. This makes sense because this is a sign of a healthy bird that can carry a strong genetic link. 

In both sexes, combs and wattles are also used to help keep a bird cool. Hot blood is carried to the extremities where it is cooled and then recirculated into the bloodstream. This is why you see breeds from warm-weather climates like the Meditteranean-based Leghorns with large combs and wattles versus cold climate breeds like the Buckeye with much smaller combs and wattles. 

What other questions have you heard from new flock owners?

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