Chickens, I have come to learn, are far more sensitive to our moods and frame of mind than the average person gives them credit for Cetwin. Or at least the average person who does NOT have chickens and therefore, doesn't know better. My older girls especially are very attuned to my state of mind.
When I worry over Abby and her egg laying problems, the other girls will come in closer as if to share in the emotion of love and concern for Abby.
When FussyButt was jumped and terrorized by three of my boys the other day, the other big girls came screaming to her defence. And when I picked up FussyButt, and took her back to the peace and quiet of the coop, all the rest of the big girls fell in line behind me. They had to make sure that Fussy was going to be ok. I closed the door behind me and we big girls had a long talk about the "boys" and what we should do about them. And I swear to you all, that those girls arranged themselves on the platform above the nest boxes in such a way that I knew I had the attention of each and every one of them.
Do they understand specific words? I think they do...at least a few...certainly as much as any dog. When I catch mine in the flower beds where they don't belong, I can get the big girls to leave with just one word: OUT! Of course the youngsters haven't been around long enough to pick up on all of these words yet, but they're starting to get the idea!
But even if they don't understand all of the words we use, they most assuredly understand the emotion and tone of voice behind them. They know the difference between sternness, exacerbation, joy, love, caring, and admonitions. And I know they know the difference between when I laugh and when I cry. Yes, chickens are far more sensitive than most people give them credit for.