"That chickens communicate is clear: when you walk into a chicken coop they start cackling to warn each other. They mainly communicate feelings with each other, chickens sound very different when they are scared, for example. You can also see that: when one flies up, you see a whole cloud of chickens all flying up. They react to each other."
Wim Peters is a poultry specialist at Vencomatic Group, he has had many questions from farmers about chickens in the field over the years. Including the question of how chickens communicate. According to Wim, they also communicate after laying an egg: "When they have laid an egg, they cackl to show where the egg is. They try to convince other chickens to lay it there as well, because a chicken lays an egg to reproduce. The place where an egg is laid must therefore be safe".
So chickens are social animals?
"Just like ostriches, chickens are group animals. Ostriches make a communal nest in which, for example, six hens lay their eggs and two of them sit down to breed. But today's laying hens can't breed anymore: then they don't lay eggs, so that's bred out. If you still want chickens, you have to lay eggs under a ‘krielkip’ chicken that is still breeding.
"A wild chicken also lives in groups, there are always the chickens that eat and other chickens that are on the lookout. If you walk into a pen, they warn each other of danger. Chickens are not quick to attack people, like a lion does. The chicken is a flight animal, they have, for example, a crop in which they can store food if they have to flee. Nature has a solution for everything..."
"Chickens are really looking for fun, in our housing systems we see that there are many more eggs in some nests. Chickens seek each other out and lay eggs together, like people: they don't sit on a terrace where nobody sits either. They want to sit together.”
And what about the communication between cock and hen?
"That's what they call courtship. A rooster seduces the hen to put it in the mood. You see this regularly in laying birds: the rooster dances, crowns and beats its wings and does everything it can to impress the hen. Important communication, otherwise they would never have been able to reproduce".