What is the egg song?
The eggs song is the cackling noise hens often make after laying an egg. The hens make a repetitive and loud cluck for anywhere between 1 and 10 minutes. There are a few theories about why they squawk and cluck after laying an egg, including to distract predators and location finding for the flock.
Female chickens sometimes announce when they lay an egg and this has become known as the eggs song. They don't all make a noise after laying an egg and some breeds tend to sing more than others. Although just how the racket they make came to be called a song I do not know.
The noise is not a cluck but a cackle. Cackling is a "buck-buck-buck-badaaack" sound, repeated often over as long as 15 minutes after laying an egg and thought to draw predators away from the nesting area.
It may also be used to aid mating and as a location finder for the flock. It is also useful for finding hens that lay away from the coop if kept free range.
So why do chickens feel the need to broadcast to the world that they have laid an egg? You would think it made more sense for them to keep it quiet so predators won't know where the nest is. Well there are a few schools of thought about why chickens make all that fuss after producing an egg.
Why do hens sing after laying eggs?
- Pride - She is telling everyone she is in lay and producing eggs and it may have something to do with her position in the flock. A bird higher up the pecking order may be cementing her position in the flock.
- Location - The hen may be calling to her flock mates. In the wild they might wander off when she is laying and she needs to find her way back to them, a sort of sound location. It might also be a location signal to tell other hens where her nest is. It is common in wild chickens to have a communal nest and she might be telling the others it is free to use.
- Distraction - She may be making a noise to fool predators into thinking the nest is not where it actually is. Or drawing attention away from hens still laying and vulnerable in the nest. Chickens are communal birds with a social structure so this may be a reason. If you have ever tried to find a hidden nest by following the egg song you will know it is not easy. The sound is difficult to follow so it may be for distraction.
- Future mating - The egg song has a habit of getting roosters all exited and a mating often follows so it may be that this is the most fertile time for a chicken. I have observed the rooster's response to her song. He becomes very vocal himself and rushes over to where she is and does his little amorous dance dropping a wing. Most of the time he mounts successfully.
It's a common misconception that roosters are the loudest beak in the backyard. But you can't raise laying hens for long before you will start to hear an annoying cackling coming from the direction of the coop each morning. This is the female chickens egg song, although there is nothing sonorous about it.
Below: Hens may use the egg song to let other hens know where the nest is.
We will probably never know the true reason for the egg song unless we head out to the jungle to study the ancestors of modern chickens. But be prepared for some awful squawking to start to emit from your coop if you're new to this whole backyard chicken keeping thing
The squawking and carrying on certainly isn't my favourite sound, it is loud and harsh. And sometimes they feel the need to sing when they see someone else's egg in a nest, or the nest they want is taken.
The egg song varies between breeds of chickens, I find my Barnevelders make a lot of noise but my Orpingtons do not. In fact my Orps are very quiet birds, even the cockerels.