Do Chickens Have Good Hearing


Do Chickens Have Good Hearing

Most birds, including chickens, hear well. Birds have ears on both sides of their heads, and unlike humans, birds do not have external flaps on their ears. Instead, the opening of the ear is covered by a special tuft of feathers. These feathers protect the ear without impairing perception of sound. Waterfowl can close the openings of their ears before diving.

Chicken embryos generally begin hearing on day 12 of incubation. For the first few days after hatching, chicks tend to eat very little as they explore an area and learn what is safe to eat and what is not.

When chicks are raised with a mothering hen, the hen helps the chicks identify foods by making specific sounds known as auditory clues. If chicks are raised without a hen, tapping sounds increase feeding behavior, presumably because such sounds imitate the pecking noise of a mother hen.

Similarly, when researchers played hen vocalizations over speakers placed near feed, chicks exposed to the recordings had heavier body weights than flockmates that were not exposed to the recordings.

Performance differences were no longer detected after the sounds were discontinued (at nine days after hatching).  The chicks were presumably attracted to the vocalizations of the hen and spent more time near the speakers, where the food was.

Chicken’s EarLocation

Chicken’s ears do not stick out of the side of her head, but that is where they are located. Chicken ears are small holes in either side of your chicken’s head. You cannot usually see them because the ears are covered in feathers.

The only part of a chicken’s ear that usually is visible is the lobe, which sticks out slightly away from the skin and feathers. The ear lobe is located in the space behind the eye and the wattle, which is the red, fleshy growth under the chin.

Chicken’s Ear Color

The color of a chicken’s ear is easiest to determine while looking at the ear lobe. If the lobe is white, then the ear is white. If the lobe is brown, then the ear is also brown.

Meaning of Color / Color of Eggs

The color of the earlobe can tell you what color eggs your chickens will lay. Chickens with white ears lay white eggs. Chickens with brown ears lay brown eggs.

The color of the chicken’s ears is not necessarily the same color as their feathers, however. Chickens have an assortment of feather colors that have no effect on the color of the eggs.

Range of Egg Color

The basic color of your chicken’s eggs may be consistent and match the color of her ears, but you shouldn’t be surprised by variations within that base color. For example, brown eggs come in all different shades of brown and can be very light, medium or very dark.

The shade of the eggs will depend on the hen’s diet, health and nutrition at the time the egg was formed.

Parts of Chicken Ear

Like mammals, birds have an outer ear, a middle ear, and an inner ear. The outer ear collects sound waves and channels them into the middle ear. The middle ear is separated from the outer ear by a membrane often referred to as the eardrum.

The sound waves make the eardrum vibrate. These vibrations are then picked up by the middle ear and transferred to the inner ear. Instead of the three bones of the mammalian middle ear, the avian middle ear has a single structure of bone and cartilage known as the columella. It is the columella that transfers the vibrations to the inner ear.

The inner ear is responsible for the initial analysis of the vibrations. The columella transmits the vibrations to the cochlea in the inner ear, where special nerve endings receive it and transmit the information to the auditory nerve. The auditory nerve sends the information to the part of the brain that recognizes the information as sound.

The inner ear is also important in maintaining balance, a function that is particularly important for birds that fly. In addition, special ducts connect the middle ear with the roof of the mouth, regulating the air pressure in the middle ear to prevent injury to the eardrum.

Human hearing loss associated with age is typically the result of damage to the sensory hair cells in the inner ear. Humans are not able to regrow damaged hair cells. In contrast, chickens are able to regrow these hair cells, and as a result, chickens are being studied for insights into treating hearing loss in humans.

Birds are able to perceive sounds more quickly than can humans. They are able to pinpoint the source of a sound by assessing the lag time between the sound’s arrival at either side of the head.

Due to this lag time, it is easier for birds to locate the source of a series of brief sounds than of a single continuous sound. In a study examining the effects of noise from low-flying military aircraft on wild waterfowl, researchers measured noise levels at various distances from spring staging, breeding, and molting flocks.

Researchers then monitored the birds’ behavior and found that the behavior did not vary with the distance from the noise. They concluded that either the birds had become habituated to the noise, or for some reason the noise did not appear to affect them.

The efficacy of spray-on biologicals, such as coccidiosis vaccine, depends on birds consuming the product, a process that typically takes place during preening. Preening activity of chicks decreases with increasing noise levels, so it is recommended that noise levels be kept low, if possible, during the application of biologicals.

The Chickens Ear

Farmer’s Play Music To Hens While Laying

While many producers provide laying hens with music, there is some recent research that indicates that playing classical music in the laying house can have a negative influence on the level of fearfulness. Some of the reaction to the music was related to the playing of cassette tapes.

Ear Infection

Chickens have ears which are used for hearing and balance. They are composed of an external part that is hidden by a tiny clump of stiff feathers, a middle part with an air-filled tympanic cavity, and an inner part, a complex structure with the membranous labyrinth. Ear infections can affect any or all portions of the ear.

Inner ear infections (Otitis interna); The inner ear is the sensory receptor for both sound and equilibrium. It consists of the cochlear organ and a vestibular organ. The chicken’s inner ear is considered to be a part of their nervous system, and helps the chicken with balance.

This is why inner ear infections can cause neurological signs in affected chickens, in the form of head tilt, loss of coordination and balance, and torticollis (wry neck). Inner ear infections are most likely caused by a viral infection, and are much more difficult to treat.


Middle ear infections (Otitis media); The middle ear is an air-filled tympanic cavity containing a muscle, ligaments, the tympanic membrane, the cochlear window and a rod-like bone (ossicle) known as the columella. Middle ear infections are usually caused by a chronic bacterial infection or tumor. Bacteria most commonly isolated include: Enterococcus faecalis, Escherichia coli, Pasteurella multocida, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Bacteria can sometimes enter the chicken’s ear through a small opening in the roof of the mouth, referred to as the infundibular cleft.

The infundibular cleft opens directly into the chicken’s auditory canals of the ears. These infections tend to be a little trickier to treat, as many of the invading organisms are considered to be opportunistic and highly resistant to many antibiotics. Thus, its often best to conduct antibiotic sensitivity testing prior to starting the bird on any treatment, in order to select the most effective antibiotic against the invading organism.

Outer ear infections (Otitis externa); Inflammation of the external ear may be caused by bacterial or fungal organisms. Pruritus may be present causing the bird to scratch their ear or rub their head often. The ear opening is often red and swollen, and the stiff clump of feathers covering the ear opening may be matted with discharge.

Chicken / Poultry Breeder Associations

Rabbit AssociationLocationLink
US Poultry & Egg AssociationUnited StatesUSPA
American Poultry AssociationCaliforniaAPA
Ohio Poultry AssociationOhioOPA
National Chicken CouncilUnited StatesNCC
British Poultry CouncilUnited KingdomBPCE
Poultry Club of Great BritainUnited KingdomPCGB
Association of Poultry Breeders in EUEuropeAVEC
Australian Chicken Meat Federation IncAustraliaACMF
Australian Poultry HubAustraliaPoultry Hub

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