Chickens do not have external ear structures outside their heads like some animals, such as humans, do.
Feathers hide the recessed outer ear and the ear hole on the sides of their heads.
The ear holes are below its eyes and on the sides, which helps the chicken determine where sounds come from, an important ability for an animal low on the food chain.
Chickens have ear holes located on the sides of their heads and are covered with feathers. The feathers protect the opening to the ear canals. The location of the earholes is useful in locating where sounds are coming from and helps protect chickens from predators.
Chickens’ ear lobes are interesting in how their color often correlates with what color egg the hen lays, although it is not a hard and fast rule.
Although there are many exceptions, red, brown, and black lobed chicken breeds often lay brown or dark-colored eggs, and chickens with white lobes generally lay white or light-colored eggs.
Unfortunately, the much sought-after blue chicken eggs do not predictably come from hens with blue earlobes, nor green eggs from hens with green earlobes.
Read on to find out more about how well chickens hear!
Do Chickens Hear Well?
Like mammals, chickens have a recessed outer ear that receives sound waves.
The middle ear, inner ear, and eardrums transmit the waves to an auditory nerve.
The distance between a chicken’s ears enables its brain to evaluate which direction a sound is coming from.
A chicken’s brain senses the lag time between the two ears receiving the sound.
Chickens hear low-frequency sounds better than humans, making them good predictors of severe weather, thunder, earthquakes, and avalanches.
For more on chickens’ hearing range, see Audiogram of the Chicken.
Chickens also have sensitive feet, which allow them to “hear” vibrations in the ground, which helps them detect predators.
Chickens, other birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish all have regenerative hearing cells which keep their hearing sharp.
Because of this, chickens have perfect hearing throughout their lives, unlike humans, who lose their hearing acuity as they age or from damage.
Human hearing loss is due to damaged cilia or hair cells in the inner ear.
Exposure to an extremely loud sound or prolonged exposure to loud sounds shear off or overworks the cilia, which interrupts the transmission of the sound wave.
Research is being done to explore these regenerative sensory hair cells in chickens and other non-mammalian vertebrates and how they may help fight hearing loss in humans.
How Early Can a Chicken Hear?
Overall, chickens have excellent hearing capabilities from the minute they hatch.
A baby chick can hear its mother while it is still in the shell, at around day 12 of the incubation period.
Mother hens give chicks auditory clues to teach them how to find food sources and eat.
Chicks will react to a pecking noise or motion which indicates a food source.
Mother hens also trill and cluck to their eggs.
Can Chickens Hear Humans?
Chickens are not as domesticated as cats and dogs, but like other farm animals, they recognize and differentiate between human voices.
Chickens respond to human commands and are trained to do many things.
Chickens have an intellectual ability comparable to a two-year-old human and have some intellectual skills human toddlers do not.
For example, baby chickens demonstrate object permanence and counting up to five.
Chickens also do not respond to loud noises with startlement as humans do.
They react to things like materials flapping overhead, which would be in line with their having to look for danger from above.
Chickens also react to short bursts of sound more than a continuous sound.
In a 2014 Bristol University study commissioned by a UK producer, farm chickens responded well to classical music.
Many farmers successfully use music to increase egg size and production.
Listening to music may also positively affect chick growth rate.
Problems with Chickens’ Ears
Chickens can get ear infections which cause their ear canal to fill up with waxy goop.
This will negatively affect their sense of hearing and cause them discomfort.
An affected chicken may scratch and rub its head often.
A chicken with an infected ear will shake their head or yawn excessively.
When examining your chicken, the ear opening may be red and inflamed, and the feathers covering the ear may be coated with discharge from the infection.
Like in humans, chicken ear infections cause loss of balance, which is often confused with a stroke or neurological problem.
Related: Can chickens have a stroke?
If your chicken is walking drunkenly or staggering, check its ears and call the vet.
Inner ear infections in chickens also cause head tilt and what is known as wry neck, which is also a symptom of a nutrient deficiency, so seek veterinary advice.
It is good to check your chicken’s ears often for mites.
Can Chickens Understand Me?
Chickens can understand human commands to a limited extent and will respond to human orders which have been associated with a reward or routine.
Chickens are trained to do all kinds of tasks using treats as a reward, from riding a bicycle to feeding themselves.
Do Chickens Talk To Humans?
Although chickens do not “talk” like humans do, they communicate with each other and their owners with body language and vocalizations.
Chickens have around thirty sounds they use to communicate with one another, including:
- Making rooster sounds
Chickens will follow and rub against their owner with affection and make trilling noises similar to a cat purring.
A broody hen will growl and puff up at her owner, reaching in to steal her eggs.