Why don't they squawk at night when threatened?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Sunny Side Up, Nov 16, 2008.

  1. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

    Mar 12, 2008
    Loxahatchee, Florida
    At my place we're all well tuned to the sounds of troubled chickens that we hear during the daytime, and will dash outside to check on the situation when we hear those calls of distress.

    But twice now there has been a predator right in a chicken pen in the middle of the night, and they haven't made any sounds of alarm.

    The first time it happened I didn't go out to check until it was too late. This next time I knew better that what I was hearing could be trouble, and was able to catch the predator in the act.

    The sounds the chickens made were just a mild soft intermittent clucking, as if they were just saying to each other "move over you're hogging the roost" and didn't at all sound as if anyone was in any distress. Not at all the "fox in the hen house" kind of noise I'd think there should be. On the first occasion I was extra sleepy from an overworked schedule and didn't want to go out to check on what did not seem like a problem. But when the occasional clucking continued, I finally roused myself to check, and found that something had eaten some chicks and killed their Mama hen.

    This second time, when I heard that brief soft clucking, I recognized that it signaled trouble. Again, it was a predator, an opossum who was in a nest box, having eaten some eggs and having killed the Mama hen who was incubating them.

    Why aren't they making loud distress sounds? Because it's at night? Do they not want to attract attention to themselves in the dark? There have been other times when I myself have moved a brooding hen and then they make a special call that all the other chickens repeat, it sounds like a unique distress signal meaning "mama's getting hurt!" Why hasn't there been more noise when these Mama hens are getting killed defending their chicks/eggs? The roosters didn't get involved, neither vocally nor physically. They were perched up on the fence, well out of the way of trouble.

    What has your experience been? If similar, do you know why?
  2. rooster-red

    rooster-red Here comes the Rooster

    Jun 10, 2007
    Douglasville GA
    Chickens have very poor night vision, they may not see it coming until its too late.

    I found the only way that I could have peace of mind at night was to lock them in a predator proof coop.
  3. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

    Mar 12, 2008
    Loxahatchee, Florida
    I know they're really vulnerable at night because of their poor night vision, but why aren't they squawking after they realize there's someone having trouble? Why aren't the Mama hens making that distress call, why isn't the rest of the flock repeating it? Or maybe that's the m.o. of the opossum, to shut the hen up before he goes after the eggs/chicks. But these other chickens could see well enough to move out of the coop & into the other side of the pen, some hens & the roo hopped up on the fence. It was a bright moonlit night too.

    Part of my enjoyment of keeping chickens is observing & learning about their behavior, I hope to learn more about this particular issue, hope it will make me a better chicken keeper too.
  4. lemurchaser

    lemurchaser Songster

    Apr 11, 2008
    Corvallis, OR
    They are pretty much oblivious at night. One of the things that I find hilarious is to go out at night and pet the chickens. They can't see me, they don't make a sound, or move (even though I can't pet them during the day without running and screaming chickens). The funny part is I can see them "looking" around trying to figure out who is touching them, but they can't tell it is me.

    I think their survival strategy is roost and don't move, no matter what.
  5. MissPrissy

    MissPrissy Crowing

    May 7, 2007
    Forks, Virginia
    Chickens go into an almost trance like state at night. Along with poor vision chickens are not equipped to warn the flock of a predator. Even in daylight, under attack, chickens run and hide. They get to a safe place and stay there still and very quiet until they think it is safe to come out.
  6. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

    Mar 12, 2008
    Loxahatchee, Florida
    But they do have a larger vocabulary during the daytime, and have many verbal signals they use to indicate personal distress as well as warnings to others. They growl to warn of anything flying overhead & have an especially harsh word if it's a raptor. They will run & hide under cover, but continue to whoop & cluck until the danger has passed. They'll bluck & squawk if they feel threatened, if a person is trying to catch or carry them, and the rest of the flock will often pick up the call. And they seem to have an especially desparate call they make when a broody hen is disturbed, she gets it started and the rest of the flock joins in.

    I volunteered many hours in the Poultry Tent of our county fair last year & it was fascinating to observe the behavior of this large number of chickens. If somebird noticed a shadow flying on the roof of the tent they'd sound the alarm & it would pass like a wave across the whole tent. One evening I put my hand in a cage to remove an egg laid by a bantam hen and the little roo next to her started whooping real loud, it sounded like "thief! thief! thief!" and all the other chickens joined in.

    But maybe I've just watched too many cartoons and expected loud squawking from the flock if there ever was a predator in the coop at night. A fox in the hen house and everyone shrieks and flaps and Foghorn Leghorn rolls up his sleeves, revealing bulging biceps and an anchor tattoo, and throws out the fox. I had to learn the hard way to attend to slight noises from the coops at night, it may not be one hen stepping on another's toes, it could be a bigger problem.

    I wanted to share these observations, so others could learn from my misunderstanding, and to see if others have had similar/different experiences.
  7. pupsicle

    pupsicle In the Brooder

    Nov 11, 2008
    My buff orpington has never sounded the raccoon call. The couple times that raccoons waltzed into the coop, she pretty much slept through it.

    My departed RIR, however, woke the neighborhood on those occasions. She sounded such an alarm that my next-door neighbor always came out (at 4 a.m.) to make sure that the chickens were still in one piece.
  8. Sequin

    Sequin Songster

    May 20, 2008
    The other night I heard the following: Ooowwwwww*coyotes howling and yiping*; BOCK BOCK BOCK *screams from chickens*; KABANG *shot from farmers gun*.... silence. I had to smile to myself, because of the way the sounds played out. You see these things on the t.v. - but rarely witness them in real life. I hope the chickens were alright. However, and I am soo sorry for thinking this, but my next thought was 'better them than me. 'cause I don't have a gun." The next night, however, I was worried that the coyotes would come looking elsewhere for their chicken dinner!!! We are keeping our fingers crossed this winter that we all make it through safely.

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