Consistent, loud crying from a 20-week-old hen


In the Brooder
Apr 5, 2016
I’ve got a flock of three hens, all about 18-20 weeks old. I live in an urban area, but I’ve got a yard and the chickens roam for a good portion of the day. We do have a lot of feral cats and coyotes in the neighborhood, so they also spend some time in their coop/run. One of the hens (a Welsummer) cries relentlessly. It’s an awful syncopated screeching sound that she manages to project from one side of the yard to the other. It’s loud.

She’ll cry whenever someone gets home, in the morning when she’s ready to be let out of the coop, and anytime she’s in the coop/run and hears anyone moving or talking inside the house. My girlfriend and I have tried giving her some treats in the morning to try and shut her up. It works for a few minutes and then she starts right back up again. It’s an awful sound, and she’s very good at projecting it.

For the past week or so I’ve been leaving the chickens outside in the yard all day long so I don’t have to worry about the hen bothering the neighbors. This isn’t ideal because there are numerous cats who hang out on the borders of our yard. I just can’t think of another option to keep her quiet. I’m wondering if anyone has any idea what could be causing it? She has plenty of food around (both in the coop and the yard) and she forages regularly as well. We’ve given the chickens lots of treats in the past (grapes, cheese, compost scraps.) Could she just be acting out because she’s bored with her regular food? Does she have a problem with being confined? The coop isn’t huge, but it’s plenty of space for three chickens.
Has anyone experienced this before?

Note- I’ve done some research on broody hens, but this hen is not yet laying and she’s very mobile at this point. The Welsummer is the only one with the attitude problem out of all the hens. The culprit is the red one on the left.

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I had this happen with a turkey last year... We brought her home and she would non stop scream and it was because she was lonely, as soon as we brought about her turkey home to her and eventually chickens she stopped with it. I'm thinking the reason your chicken is screaming and only when she's in the coop is because she doesn't like being confined. Getting another turkey solved my problem but I'm not sure getting more chickens for you would help the situation... Maybe the reason she is screaming in the coop is because she wants to go out and forage and whatnot. If you could maybe cover the top of your yard so you don't worry about the cats?
What you consider plenty of space is about the equivalent to you living continually in the bathroom of a standard house with two other people. For a hen, an omnivore for which hunting and foraging is instinctive, that space is a prison wherein there is nothing much to do but pace and wish for freedom, eat, drink and comment on everything they see out there. A constantly crowing rooster or squawking hen is much like a dog that barks continually....they are bored and have nothing better to do. Some hens or even breeds are louder than others and will be more vocal about any changes in environment or routine, but I wouldn't give treats for that merely reinforces it.

What you have is a bird that needs a job to do and she doesn't have one, so she fills her time talking. Lots of folks out there like that.

Don't know what you could do but setup a good free range system and not feed them all day until evening so they stay busy looking for food~that works here like a charm~or, you could get rid of that hen, but that won't mean that one of the other birds won't take up the chatter in her place. She's likely the boss in that coop and, with her gone, another hen moves into that space.
I have backyard chickens and lots of wondering cats. I have not had a problem yet. maybe babychickens would be a problem. everyone seems to mind their own business.
Bee has a good point. What she says is definitely something to consider.

But I have a fleet of Welsummers, and let me just say, they are a very noisy, vocal breed. They are constantly, and I'm not being hyperbolic, voicing their opinion about something. The only ones noisier are my Speckled Sussex. (Thankgod I have no close neighbors.)

So, consider what Bee says. See if you can improve things and make them more interesting. But half the problem is the breed. Being a big complainer is in her genes.
I'll definitely take the advice and give the chickens some more outdoor time. I naively built the coop after doing some research about size requirements (4ft^2 per chicken) but didn't really consider that they would be spending hours a day inside. I think I'll just experiment with them ranging all day and hoping that they don't get scooped up.

We have an outdoor cat that is always in the yard, so I'm hoping he keeps an eye on them. I've had several encounters with cats outside or on the fence scoping the birds out, looking like they were getting ready to pounce. I think it will just have to be unavoidable risk because the higher risk is the neighbors getting upset over the noise.

Azygous- I've read that Welsummers can be loud, and maybe I under-estimated just how loud. I honestly think I would prefer a rooster's call to this high pitched screech.
To follow up on this: I built a little fence around the coop separating it from the front yard and have been allowing the chickens to free-range all day. If I keep the coop shut and dark until I wake in the morning, the chicks stay pretty silent and are quiet when I open up the door for the day. If I forget to close the coop window and the sun comes out (5:30-6am) the loud hen starts with her screeching.

The hen in question just laid her first egg a few days ago (finally.) She will still sometimes run around screeching for an hour or two before heading into the nesting box, but after she lays she gets quiet. She also gets very irritated if any other hens are in the coop when she's ready to hit the box.

Problem almost solved I suppose! I guess she's just going to be a loud hen from here on out.
My 2 wellies are the loudest chickens in my flock. One of them egg songs like a fire siren for literally 15 minutes, which seems like an hour mentally, when she lays her egg. She will also go in the coop and egg song for other chickens, even after she has laid her egg for the day.
When my flock was at point of lay, they were all very loud and cranky while they tried to figure out how to nest, but they settled down after a couple weeks. I think the long, drawn out "raaaaaaaaaaaaaah" noises are definitely whines that mean they want something. You could try to hang some toys in there to peck at, boxes to hide in, just things to make it more interesting,because once you let them out to free range, they are bored in a coop! Not sure if a no-crow collar prevents them from making a screech noise but that can be an option as well. I'm guessing they'd have to inflate those neck air sacs to increase volume, but I don't know. Thankfully mine only whine when they see me coming or if someone managed to kick over a feeder.

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