A collective loud chirping from your baby chicks indicates a high level of stress.
Chicks grow incredibly fast. And with this phenomenal growth comes certain needs. If you don’t meet each and every one of these needs specifically, things can go bad for your tiny new friends, and quite often, fairly quickly. Fortunately, chicks do have the means of communicating with you when conditions are not in favor of their good health.
Any time that you hear your chicks chirping loudly, you would be wise to investigate immediately!
There are multiple scenarios that can put your chicks in a high level of stress. The following are a few, starting with the ones I have found to be most common.
- Too Cold – If your chicks are huddled closely together (especially under the heat lamp) and are chirping in loud worrying tones, then you should immediately check the temperature. Chicks are unable to maintain their own body heat, which means it’s up to you to ensure adequate warmth. If there is not enough heat in the brooder, then your baby birds will huddle closer together in and effort to stay warm. Yet, often this behavior is not enough – so they will continue to get colder and colder.
Should your fail to provide adequate heat, the birds will likely perish.
It’s worth noting, that while you might feel quite toasty at 75 degrees, this is not enough for a 3 day old chick. A baby chick’s temperature needs are quite unique. For an in-depth look at this, please read, ‘Will Chicks Die In The Cold?’
- I’m Scared – Somewhere between 2 and 3 weeks of age, your chicks will have developed the right combination of strength and flight feathers to really get themselves in trouble. Our brooder has walls that are 2 foot high. And should I neglect to put the bird netting across the top, some rambunctious little chick is sure to perch on top of one of these walls.
FYI – Chicks learn from observing other chicks. This means that when one of your chicks figures out how to perch on the brooder wall, others are certain to follow the example. Unfortunately, the chicks seldom get it right on the first try. And this poses a risk, not only themselves, but to the chicks that might already be perched.
In other words, if someone coming up, bumps into someone already perched on top of the wall, then the one on top can be knocked off. And once outside of the brooder, it is very unlikely that they will be able to find their way back in.
And with chickens being a flock animal, they are certain to ‘cry out’ from being all alone.
- I Need Something – While bird netting helps to keep your chicks contained and where you left them, it does little to thwart the antics that goes on inside of the brooder.
For this reason, I will replace the standing waterer with a hanging waterer at around 2 weeks of age. This because, at 3 weeks, your chicks will have enough strength and mass to knock their baby waterer over.
This results in two major issues.
First, the bedding soaks up the water and the chicks are unable to get dry – which leads to hypothermia.
Second, with the water no longer available to drink, they are now subject to dehydration.
(You really can’t relax with these little fuzzballs!)
Do Chicks Chirp All The Time?
As mentioned above, chickens are a flock animal – meaning they need the company of other chickens. This behavior is so innate, that a flock of one, seldom works – with the lone bird sadly perishing.
But two birds together, make for a happy flock. And three birds together… well, that’s even better.
Chicks will regularly give a happy chirp in response to the presence of another chick, especially in situations where something has put them off.
For example, a few years back, I rushed down to the post office to pick up my box of new chicks. After my confirmation email from the hatchery had been received, I had been waiting FOREVER (like maybe a whole day!) for the birds to get to the post office.
Being familiar with my anxious ‘where are my chicks’ behavior, the worker behind the counter recognized me and quickly retrieved my package.
Upon bringing the package to me, my postal friend remarked with concern that the chicks hadn’t made any noise.
Hearing this, I made two quick chirps of my own and instantly the box became alive with sound.
Being overnighted in a small dark box, had put the chicks off. But upon hearing another chick, from outside of the box, they replied in excitement.
When Do Chickens Stop Chirping?
Part of a chicken’s flock behavior is the continuous stream of vocalization. They have a fairly broad range of ‘vocabulary’ and they are not afraid to use it. And the intensity of their vocalization varies on the mood of the flock.
If the birds are bored, then they are fairly quiet. If they are excited, then the ‘chatter’ is louder and more frequent – often with everyone talking at once.
However, that uber cute chirp, will change to a ‘grrr’ as they get older.
We have found that chicks stop chirping generally around 12 weeks of age, choosing the more adult ‘grrr’ as their main form of communication.
And for the record, I don’t think they actually lose the ability to chirp, so much as they choose not to.
For our last flock, we noted that the entire group of 14 birds changed in about a day. Remember, chickens have a pecking order. And I have to assume that the lower sounding ‘grrr’ probably portrays them a little better as a strong bird.
Chickens are a very vocal animal, much more so than say a dog or cat. Where a dog will bark in response to something, these birds will talk, simply for the sake of being heard. For them, it’s as natural as pecking and scratching at the ground.
This is not to say that they don’t communicate. Chickens have a very good vocabulary, one that you will learn with time. But there are sounds that are definitely worth taking note of.
If your chicks are chirping in loud and worrying tones – especially as a collective flock – then you would be very wise to investigate immediately.