Chickens, like most birds, have good senses that they rely on to make sense of their world, locate food, find each other, and detect danger. One of these senses is, of course, hearing.
Chickens listen for the calls of their friends and any roosters in the flock, listen for sounds of lurking predators, and even listen for their own names when you call them.
Pretty remarkable stuff, but do you even wonder how good a chicken’s hearing really is? How well can chickens hear?
Chickens can hear quite well across a wide range of frequencies, detecting noises across a frequency that is as low as 10Hz to as high as 12,000Hz.
Chickens also regenerate tissues in their ears responsible for hearing over their life, meaning their sense of hearing does not diminish with age.
Chickens generally have excellent hearing, and right after their vision is their most important sense.
It is actually pretty remarkable just how acute their hearing really is and how they rely on it, so keep reading to learn everything you need to know about a chicken’s sense of hearing.
Do Chickens Have Ears Like Us?
Not exactly. Or rather, chickens have ears that work like ours, but they aren’t exactly like our ears.
Chickens do not have external earlobes in the same way that we do. They have small, fleshy protrusions on the sides of their heads that are sometimes called ‘ear lobes’, but these are not the same as our external earlobes.
Chickens use these little fleshy protrusions to help direct sound into their internal ears, but they don’t actually serve any hearing function themselves.
Chickens also have a special ability to move their inner ear in order to better focus on a particular sound. This is something that humans cannot do.
Humans can only so slightly move our outer ears in order to focus on a sound (or turn our heads), but chickens can actually move their whole inner ear in order to zero in on a noise. This allows them to hear things much more clearly than we can.
Where are a Chicken’s Ears Located?
A chicken’s ears are located on the sides of its head, just behind its eyes. You cannot see it since it is covered with feathers, but it is there!
Externally, their ear is just a hole in their skull called the ear opening and this is where sound waves enter the ear.
Chickens also have special feathers around their ears that help to funnel sound into their ear openings. These feathers are called ‘auriculars’, and you can sometimes see them sticking up on either side of a chicken’s head.
The auriculars help the chicken to focus on specific sounds and filter out other noise, similar to how our earlobes work.
What are the Components of a Chicken’s Ear?
A chicken’s ear has three main parts, consisting of the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.
The chicken’s ear canal is very short and leads from the ear opening to the eardrum. The eardrum is a thin piece of tissue that vibrates when sound waves hit it.
These vibrations are then passed on to the tiny bones in the middle ear before being transmitted along nerves to the brain where they will be interpreted as sound.
Chickens can Detect a Wide Range of Frequencies
The lower limit of what a chicken can hear is about 10Hz. This means that chickens can hear sounds that are very low and deep, like the lowest rumbles of thunder.
Chickens can also hear frequencies as high as 12,000Hz. This means that they can hear very high-pitched noises, like the sound of a whistle.
How Does a Chicken’s Hearing Compare to a Human’s?
A chicken’s hearing is in some ways better than ours and in some ways worse.
For example, as we mentioned earlier, chickens can move their inner ears in order to focus on a particular sound. Humans cannot do this. Chickens can also hear a wider low range of frequencies than we can.
However, there are some things that we can hear that chickens cannot. For example, we can hear high-frequency sounds that are far in excess of what chickens can.
Do Certain Sounds Seem to Bother Chickens?
Yes. Some sounds tend to antagonize or alarm chickens, while others don’t bother them, including some that you think would! Chickens are very sensitive to sudden fluttering, shuffling, or popping noises.
For instance, if you run or quickly drag something they will usually panic, or if you snap a tarp or blanket neat them. It is suspected that they associate these sounds with the attack of a predator.
On the other hand, high-pitched whines, squeaks, and screeches don’t bother them at all since, as learned above, their high range of hearing is significantly less than a person’s.
Squeaky hinges, piercing fire alarms and more won’t bother them at all, and many people report their chickens don’t react at all to running power saws and similarly noisy tools.
And then you have some loud sounds that you think would scare chickens, but most seem ambivalent about them.
Low-flying aircraft, fireworks, thunderclaps, and similar “rumbly” sounds don’t tend to make chickens panic.
Chickens will react to approaching storms by taking cover, but they usually don’t mind the thunder itself.
Chickens Can Regenerate the Nerves in their Ears
One of the biggest advantages chickens have over humans in the hearing department is that they can regenerate the nerves in their ears.
This means that if a chicken’s ear tissues are damaged, it can recover much more easily and effectively than a human ear.
This also means that their overall hearing quality does not diminish as they age. Their hearing remains consistently good throughout their life. Must be nice, eh?
Chickens Also Use Their Feet to Hear
You read it right: chickens do use their feet to “hear.” I might be stretching the definition a bit, but the principle is the same.
Chickens actually possess highly sensitive nerves in the bottoms of their feet that are attuned to sensing vibrations which they can then act on.
These vibrations are detected and interpreted in much the same way as vibrations reaching their ear as sound waves in the air.
This ability to sense vibrations through their feet is how they can “hear” approaching chicken predators, even if the predator is silent, or hear you when you are trying to sneak up on them.
This is an important defense mechanism that has helped chickens survive for thousands of years. Additionally, this ability also helps chickens keep track of each other as they move around an area.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.