At a first glance, this might seem like a fairly straight forward question. But like a lot of things, the more you dive into it, the more confusing it gets. First of all, we need to define what an ear is. Is it the fleshy appendage on the outside of the skull or is it the internal parts that work with sound vibrations?
If you define the ‘ear’ as a set of organs that allow for the interpretation of sound vibration, then yes, chickens have ears. If, however, you define an ear as something that is visibly attached to the head – such as you would see on a dog or a cat – then no, chickens do not have ears – though they do have ear lobes.
It might be helpful to think of an animal such as the dolphin, when considering a chicken’s ears. Clearly dolphins don’t have the same visible hardware as say your dog or cat. Nor are they able able to funnel in sound, like a dog or cat can by moving these fleshy external appendages. Yet despite these two differences, dolphins actually have very good hearing. It’s just that most of the components/organs are internal; limiting their visibility.
Do Chickens Have Good Hearing?
I am not aware of any studies that involve a chicken’s sense of hearing. Admittedly, it would be interesting to know at what decibel level a chicken can interpret sound or even if certain frequencies are heard better than others.
If I were to guess, I would say that a chicken’s ability to hear is on a level that is relatively close to ours. I don’t think they have super hearing like an owl does, and I say this based on the amount of birds I have lost to predators. But my flock will notice the sound of a door opening (at distance) first thing in the morning and know that it means I’m on the way to let them out of the coop.
Also, chickens are fairly vocal, clucking to each other almost constantly. In normal conditions where the flock feels happy and secure, the sounds the birds will make are very low in volume. That being said, as far as the animal kingdom is concerned, a chicken’s hearing ability is probably lower on the list – but still good enough to hear your call and come running for treats!
Do Chickens Have Selective Hearing?
We let our birds out every evening to free-range. This allows them the chance to explore the property and they’ve really come to enjoy this freedom. Consequently, when it gets close to ‘fun time’ I have to be careful when going outside. If I make any noise at all, they’ll rush the fence ready to be out and play.
Also, we have trained our flock to come for treats. We do this with a call.
If we make this treat call at anytime during the day, the entire flock comes running. That being said, I can walk within 10 feet of the birds and if I haven’t made the treat call, they will pointedly ignore me! It doesn’t matter what I say or even sing. If it isn’t relative to a treat, the chickens will tune me out.
Can Chickens Learn Their Name?
For those who enjoy connecting with animals, nothing is more rewarding than having a creature respond to the name you have given it. This action can elicit a sort of bonding feeling, particularly on our part.
Chickens are most definitely capable of learning their name. It takes time and repetition, but a chicken can show response to the use of its particular name – provided the bird is old enough.
I’ve never noted a baby chick responding to a name. For the most part, baby chicks just freak out every time you try to engage them. However, I have seen chicks respond to the treat call as early as 3 weeks old. This generally happens as one or two of the smarter chicks figure out the connection between our treat call and the treat. The rest of the flock then learns by watching the smart birds… and this part comes very quickly.
Do Chickens Understand Humans?
As mentioned above, baby chicks are fairly skittish. And while they are uber adorable when they’re little, catching and handling them can stress them out. They simply are not capable of understanding your affection.
But with time, a chicken can come to learn that you are not a threat. Once your flock has become accustomed to you, then things start to change.
And while your particular words may not have a large impact on them, your posture and voice tone will most certainly be noticed.
A couple of summers ago, we had a visitor come to the house. Immediately upon exiting his vehicle, a few of our braver birds ran over to greet him. This was NOT something he was expecting. But thankfully, he responded in a slow and gentle fashion.
Upon my greeting him, his remark was, “are they chickens or dogs?”
I inquired as to why he would ask this, to which he replied, “because they ran right up to me.”
We both got a chuckle out of this and then I proceeded to let him hand feed the birds some treats. This generosity was totally accepted by the birds after which they proceeded to follow us everywhere as we walked around the yard.
I have no doubt that if this individual had been either scared or simply put out by their presence, they would not have approached him. But, because his behavior was friendly and non-threatening, the flock quickly accepted him and hovered around him for the rest of the evening – hopeful for another snack.
### Important Note ###
Chickens can get ‘freaked out’ pretty easy – easier, in fact than most dogs or cats. Once a chicken gets to a certain level of stress, then understand that your history or behavior with the animal will be lost as the bird is completely acting on instinct. And with you being so much bigger than them, their instinct tells them that you’re a threat.
Creative Chicken Names
We’ve had our fair share of chickens. Some were purchased with eggs in mind, while others slated for the freezer. Consequently, we haven’t named every bird that we’ve raised. But we’ve named a bunch and honestly, it’s one of the more enjoyable aspects of raising a flock.
When the chicks come out of the box, they’re just noisy little chirpers. But with time and maturity, individual personalities often develop. And it’s the birds with personalities that are most enjoyable! Do yourself a favor and be observant of these little quirks. As mentioned above, chickens can come to recognize their name, so take your time and give them one that really fits.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Frank – my favorite rooster of all time (he just looked like a Frank)
- Flopsy – had a comb that flopped over
- Bitch’n Betty – she’d ‘grrr’ everywhere she went
- Two Toes – she lost one toe on each foot due to a predators
- Eagle Eye – she had unique markings as a chick
- Runt – small girl (didn’t think she was going to make it)
- Fatty Patty – she’s a curvy girl!
- Blondie – she had problems with a pasty butt as a chick
Here are some others that don’t need explanation:
- Miss No Egg
- Sir Poos A Lot
- Free Loader
- Feather Brain
- Big Beak
- Captain Strutt
- Miss I’m All That!
- Grumpy Bird
I’ve said before, but it’s worth repeating, chickens can be an absolute blast. But being able to understand their abilities and their faults will go a long ways towards a happy you and a happy flock.