Cock-a-doodle-do, it is a universally known sound that just about everyone knows.
Roosters are loud and proud and like to let everyone know they are in the neighborhood! But seriously, why do they crow?
There are several reasons why a rooster may crow and we will run through those here, but maybe a rooster crows just because he likes to!
In this article we will explain the various reasons why roosters crow, crowing etiquette and much more.
Why Do Roosters Crow?
Crowing at Sunrise
Until relatively recently, it was assumed by many that roosters crowed in response to the daybreak. In fact, many roosters will crow a couple of hours before daybreak and no-one had really done any research into the matter.
In March of 2013 a paper was published by Takashi Yoshimura and Tsuyoshi Shimmura that was able to ‘shed some light’ on those assumptions.
What they found was that roosters actually have a mean internal circadian rhythm clock of 23.8 hours and would start to crow at the appointed time. This helps to explain why roosters start to crow slightly before sunrise.
The head rooster will lead off in the crowing followed by his subordinates, as you can imagine it can get quite noisy if you have more than one rooster.
The rooster does also crow in response to the daylight and humans tend to notice this particular time of crowing because we too are just starting to emerge from deep sleep.
We probably find it annoying because we want to go back to sleep for a few hours!
Announcing Their Territory
For those who may not know the ancestry of our beautiful chickens, their forbears came from Far Eastern countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, India, East Indies and China.
Most of these birds were found in the jungle and dense areas of vegetation where they would be difficult to see – even by other birds.
Crowing can be used as an announcement to neighboring fowl that a rooster is in residence and this is his territory and hens. They likely called back and forth to let the other flocks know where they were.
Oftentimes you will hear them crowing back and forth to each other. Chickens have a superb sense of hearing so the frequent crowing will give a rooster an idea if the rival flock and rooster are moving away or moving nearer.
Their hearing is so acute that they can determine where a noise comes from with almost pinpoint accuracy!
Making other potential rivals aware of his presence probably avoided a few fights between rival roosters. Although they will fight, they don’t really like too, the potential for injury, death or defeat are great. An injured chicken would be easy prey for a larger predator in the wild.
Night Time Crowing
Anyone who has roosters knows that they will crow at night too! Why is that?
No-one knows for sure but likely reasons are hearing something outside the coop and so alerting everyone to possible danger nearby.
Another theory is that perhaps a car headlight or other strong light beam disturbed them and they are alerting everyone of something unusual happening.
Some roosters will crow at certain noises such as a car or tractor starting up – they could perhaps be issuing a warning to the potential rival (car/tractor) to keep away from their area.
Mating and Crowing
Some roosters like to crow after mating; no-one likes a tell-all kind of guy right? It is possibly a crow that means something like “I’m the greatest”.
It has been theorized that the morning crowing ritual is initiated by a morning surge of testosterone in the rooster.
Although just a theory at present, this idea may be a good one. A rooster is at his most sexually potent in the morning and early evening, both times when crowing is usually heard more frequently.
Some roosters will crow after the hen has laid an egg, while we can’t be sure perhaps this is a way of letting the competition know his hens’ are fertile and so is he!
Competition between Roosters
Another idea that has floated around for a while is that it’s a competition between roosters.
This is another idea that has some merit. I have a total of 9 roosters here on the farm. Several are penned away from the main group, so they do not recognize the main rooster as their ‘boss’.
They will start crowing and each rooster will take it up until they all crow. The head rooster in the yard will always be the last to crow – it’s like he has to have the last word!
He also makes his rounds of the rooster pens where he will try to goad the penned rooster into a fight. Somewhat unfair since they can’t hurt him in any way, but they respond with the right moves for settling a score.
Whether or not this is something that is common is not really known so it could be an individual roosters’ personality trait.
If there is more than one rooster in the flock there is a set order in which the crowing should go.
The head rooster must crow first, after that the rooster pecking order dictates who will crow next and so on down the line until they are all done announcing their presence.
Any bird that crows out of turn will be firmly put in his place by the head rooster. If the lead rooster is old, sick or weak, a younger rooster will issue a challenge and a fight will ensue. The winner takes all. The loser may stay with the flock but may be so shamed that he will go off on his own.
In the wild flocks of roosters can live together harmoniously as long as the pecking order is observed. These bachelor groups will eventually split up and change as roosters start their own flocks.
Anyone who has more than one rooster will tell you that each rooster’s crow is different. Each bird has a subtle variation on the crow and you are able to pick out which bird is crowing.
How Loud Is a Rooster’s Crow?
There are definitely times when a rooster crows for a particular reason. There are other times too when he will crow for no particular reason – at least, not that humans know about anyway.
Perhaps it’s boredom or just checking the neighborhood for stray roosters, or just because he wants to, after all, it is his yard!
The crow of a rooster really isn’t that loud. In decibels it’s on a par with a barking dog – around 90 decibels. I know which I prefer and it’s not the dog!
Roosters will crow, no doubt about it, there is no such thing as a ‘crow-less’ rooster, but they really do get a bad deal when folks say how noisy they are, it just isn’t so.
The source of irritation is probably the fact that they like to crow early in the morning and if you aren’t a morning person it can be very annoying.
I’m lucky to live in the country so my boys can be as noisy as they like, but town or village life is a bit different.
For more details on the rooster crows read our article.
So there you have it, lots of thoughts on why roosters crow; some are proven, others are good and some need further investigation.
The thread running through this article is communication. A rooster cannot sing like a bird, so the crow is his form of communication to a large audience.
Crowing sounds can be slightly different in the morning from the afternoon and evening. He uses it as a tool to do many things: announcing the day, guarding his territory, gathering the flock and reacting to a threat.
Why do you think roosters crow? Let us know in the comments section below…