Popularly, the statement is widespread that the roosters sing with the first morning light and they intend to wake up everyone who is still asleep. All those who live in rural areas or have visited for a season to spend a few days in the country may without a doubt attest to the truth of this statement.
But have you ever questioned the purpose of roosters’ crowing? This behavior is usually common in this poultry and is not merely a whim. For this reason, in this Best Pets Lover article, we explain the reason Why do roosters crow?
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How do roosters sing?
Roosters are known for their peculiar interesting facts about the songs of the rooster song described by the onomatopoeia “quiquiriquí”, with which they dare to wake up anyone who sleeps peacefully in the morning. But have you ever wondered how they can produce this sound?
The truth is that roosters, like many other birds, base a large part of their communication on sound, and this is possible thanks to their vocal organ, the syrinx (the structure that allows us to speak), as well as the muscles that they surround it and facilitate, in many birds, the possibility of using all kinds of tones and chirps depending on the force with which the air passes and how these muscles contract.
Roosters have this complex bone structure lower than humans since it is located in the trachea, specifically, in the bifurcation that carries air to the bronchi. We, on the other hand, have it located before, in the larynx.
As a curious fact, you may also be interested in this other article on Why don’t chickens fly?
Interesting facts about the songs of the rooster
Japanese researchers observed rooster behavior during crowing and concluded that the most dominant and highest-ranking rooster in the flock has the privilege of breaking the dawn first with its crow, while subordinate roosters will wait until after this has occurred before starting singing in the morning.
Furthermore, when the roosters were kept in an experimental dark environment 24 hours a day, they quickly demonstrated crowing behavior at the same time before sunrise every day, even without recognizing that it was indeed sunrise. Artificial light sources induced song, but it was significantly more frequent at dawn.
What does this prove? That crowing is an intrinsic behavior based largely on the rooster’s natural circadian rhythms. Some animal researchers believe it may be related to an increase in the male hormone testosterone, which is strongest in the morning. Interestingly, roosters are most sexually potent at dawn and dusk, and this is when crowing activity peaks.
What does the crowing of the rooster mean?
Now that you know how roosters are capable of emitting their characteristic song, you surely want to know with what intention they carry out said behavior.
First of all (and although you probably already know it), it should be noted that it is the roosters, that is, the males, the only ones that use this peculiar sound. Chickens, on the other hand, do not have this need. In addition, in the case of castrated roosters, they do not produce this sound either.
This behavior is, therefore, produced as a hormonal response due to the fact of being male, and with two very specific purposes: to attract females and as a territorial challenge to other rival roosters. Exceptionally, roosters can also produce this sound as a warning, in case they have detected any environmental threat. This territorial behavior is not only performed by roosters, but many wild birds often produce their songs around their territories to warn outsiders to stay away.
Finally, it should be noted that roosters can emit another type of sound they share in common with hens: clucking. This sound, known by the onomatopoeia “cocó”, is usually more friendly and reassuring, as it is a sound emitted when they have found food, to call the rest of the group, or to start mating.
Why do roosters crow at dawn?
The roosters sing throughout the day and, in addition, they concentrate their songs at certain established times :
- The mid-afternoon.
- The midnight.
However, these birds are quite popularly known because they sing in the morning, that is, with the arrival of the first rays of the sun at dawn.
The truth is that the statement that roosters crow at dawn is not entirely true, since a study carried out at the University of Nagoya (Japan), has shown that roosters do not crow mainly because they perceive the light of the sun, but rather they sing at dawn because their biological clock tells them when to do so.
What does this mean? To understand it, you must know what said experiment consisted of. In this, the researchers tested these birds by exposing them day and night to artificial light, so that they could not distinguish between daytime and nighttime hours and, therefore, could not perceive the first light of dawn. Surprisingly, just before morning, these roosters kept crowing despite the aforementioned circumstances.
This fact determined that the song of the roosters is marked by their circadian rhythm or their biological clock. Now, it should be noted that despite having this ability, this study does not rule out that the appearance of sunlight slightly influences this behavior, in addition to hearing other birds sing in the morning.
Do all roosters crow?
Yes. This behavior is something that is part of the nature of all roosters. It is impossible to “shut up” a rooster, because we would be trying to repress a behavior inherent in it, such as breathing.
Now, not all roosters sing with the same frequency or intensity, because as we have seen, singing is an innate response to a certain context. For this reason, depending on the environment and the well-being of the rooster, it will grow more or less and to a greater or lesser volume.
Mainly, those roosters that crow less are those that live in environments that make them feel calm and safe, that is to say, that:
- They have their essential needs covered (food, water, rest…).
- They don’t see any threats around them (loud noises, other animals…).
- They do not live with other roosters and therefore have no rivals to compete with.
On the contrary, a rooster who feels that he lives in a dangerous environment will live under stress and will remain constantly on alert, to protect the hens and his territory.
Did you know?
- Roosters have their voices and each song is different, with very subtle variations. If you have a chicken coop with more than one rooster, you will learn to identify who has the word first.
- Chickens can (and occasionally do) sing, although crowing is almost exclusively associated with roosters.
- The ancestry of chickens is found in the Far East 5,000 years ago: China, Thailand, India, Indonesia (East Indies), and Myanmar (Burma). Its natural habitat was a dense jungle. The song probably developed as a way for the resident rooster to announce the presence of him and his harem of hens, and that the territory was his and his alone.
- Wild roosters coexist quite well until they form flocks with hens, as long as the hierarchical order is respected.
- The roosters sing in conversation with each other, alerting each other to the presence of rival flocks and their movements.
- Singing is a way to potentially avoid the need to fight. Roosters do not like to fight, although they will if they feel compelled to and may fight to the death.
- Does your rooster sing at night? This is a strong signal that there is a possible danger near or outside the coop. The song is also a warning to predators or rivals to stay away.
- Interestingly, roosters tend to crow right after mating – think of it as a proud way to strut!
- Roosters are competitive by nature. If the dominant starts singing, others are likely to join in according to the established pecking order, trying to be the loudest and have the proverbial last word. The dominant rooster, if he has access, may also try to provoke the subordinate (and safely locked up) roosters into a fight he knows they cannot win.
If you want to learn how to properly care for your rooster, don’t miss this other Best Pets Lover article on Why do roosters sing? as pets.
Beyond singing, roosters play an important role in chicken culture. They sing, dance, warn of the arrival of food, take care of the hens and their chicks, socialize and represent power, status, and values within the flock.
If you are lucky enough to hear a rooster crow and watch it strut around the barnyard, I hope you will think about what that crow means and the role it plays for your chicken coop. He is so much more than a pretty face and a loud call. He is a true and fearless leader.