What the bok?! Chicken language explained.

What the bok?! Chicken language explained.

While they’re not as obvious (or obnoxious) as a cock-a-doodle-doo, your brood’s clucks and cackles may be more meaningful than you realise.

It’s important to learn about the variety of sounds your chickens make and why. After all, noises that indicate ‘alert’ or ‘bad health’ can require human intervention. To keep your chooks safe and healthy, we suggest familiarizing yourself with this chicktionary of clucks and coos.

I don’t feel so good!

Chickens will cough and sneeze similar to humans when they’re not feeling so hot. Like us, this can be caused by getting a bit of dust up the beak, but if it persists, it could mean a respiratory problem. It could also be your poor old chook trying to rid itself of a parasitic gape worm in the throat, so if persistent, these noises are definitely worth investigating at your local vet. 

There might be danger! (or maybe just an egg)

Chooks will emit an urgent, yet soft cackle when they sense danger nearby. In the wild, they would need protection from the rooster to rejoin the herd after laying an egg, so this is the same noise you hear after they have laid. In the case of danger that has since receded, they will often follow up with a louder cackle, meaning “stand down, we’re good!”.


If the danger is perceived as clear and present, chickens have a variety of ways to let their mates know, depending on the nature of the threat. An overhead threat, like a hawk, will bring about a high pitched squeal, while alerts of a passing dog or human will be more like intense clucks. A chicken who doesn’t need to let others know of the threat will stay quiet and hide, rather than alerting the predator to its whereabouts.

I got a fright! / That hurt!

Like a singular version of the danger call, chickens will squawk or screech once when they feel pain or get a fright. Chooks who haven’t been handled much will often make this sound when you pick them up and may keep making it until you put them down. If you hear this consistently from your undisturbed brood, you may want to check there is no bullying going on.

I’m looking for something…

The usual soft, constant clucking that comes from a hen house tends to mean your chooks are on the hunt for food (some recently scattered mealworms perhaps?) or somewhere to lay their eggs. Finding these two things are very important to a chook’s day, making this sound commonplace.

Come hither…

This one is specific to males. Using staccato calls and head bobbing, they will attempt to entice the females over with an offering of food. They will then allow the female to eat their prized morsel, in the hopes of being able to mate with her. Some males try to play a trick by doing the call when they don’t have any food to offer – but this tends not to end well. Females will remember the players and stop responding to them in the future. #girlpower

Stay away!

Communicated between birds as a warning, chickens will emit a low growl when they want some space. This will often be when a hen is laying and doesn’t want to be disturbed or when someone comes a bit too close to her perch. Understandable, we say!
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