Why does the Rooster crow?

As hen keepers we have debated whether we should keep a rooster in the flock or not.  Truth be told, they have usually ended up in there by proxy and we just tend to let them stay.  We do try to keep it at just one rooster at a time though…. there is only so much crowing one neighbourhood can take!

So for the last year or two “Lord Farquaad” has ruled the roost that is our back garden.  He is a very handsome Pekin bantam, small and round, charming characteristics of his breed.  What he lacks in stature he makes up for in ego…. hence the name.

Lord Farquaad - small in stature and big in ego!
Lord Farquaad – small in stature and big in ego!


I do find that his presence keeps the social order of chickenhood at an even keel and as I sleep on the other side of the house, and the neighbours and children claim not to hear or mind his morning vocals, I’m happy enough to leave it all as it is.   I am oblivious to his predawn declarations… “get up, get up the sun is coming!!”  A living, screeching alarm clock…. but did you ever wondered…

why does the rooster crows?


Ultimately they crow to mark their territory!  The sound levels are a throw back to the habitat of their wild ancestors… you need to have volume to be heard in the jungle!

If you are like me, you may have just gone along with the assumption that light is the overriding stimulus for the roosters predawn fanfare.  However, recent studies in Japan have shown that this is not the dominant factor! By varying the amount of light hours roosters were exposed to a different picture emerged.  One set of roosters were exposed to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness for 14 days.  These roosters exhibited anticipatory predawn crowing two hours before dawn.  Another group were kept in constant dim light for 14 days.  This group settled into a 23.8 hour day cycle, crowing daily at almost the same time to declare to dawn regardless of the lack of light.  This finding reveals that roosters actually have an internal clock in place.  They will crow at a regular time each day due to their own circadian rhythm.  Light and sound are contributing factors to their morning crowing, but the process goes on even in the absence of these stimuli.

Lord Farquaad - calling his "ladies" to food
Lord Farquaad – calling his “ladies” to food


Roosters don’t just crow to mark the start of the day, they can often be heard crowing at various other times.  The frequency of these calls depends on local threats, the flock status and the breed and temperament of the bird in question.  Of course they don’t just crow either, they can cluck too, just like their female counterparts. It never ceases to make me smile when Lord Farquaad struts around the food I have just put out, making a series of clucking noises that declare the provisions.  To me his declarations appears to say “ladies, ladies come hither and feast on the bounty I have provided for you!” I mean really, you would think he cooked it all himself!

I feel I cannot discuss the rooster’s crow without looking at how it translates into other languages.  So many animal sounds translate so differently and this is no exception… to us it is a Cock-a-Doodle-do but others hear it differently…

  • qui-qui-ri-qui (Spanish)
  • co-co-ri-co (French)
  • kikeriki (German)
  • kukeleku” (Dutch)
  • wo-wo-wo (Mandarin)
  • ko-ki-kok-koh (Japanese)
  • ky-ka-pe-ky (Russian)
  • yeki-yeki-yek (Thai)
Perhaps you have another translation to add? If you have comments or questions I’d love to hear from you!


Science blogger and writer; Owner of Dr. How's Science Wows; Mother of three junior scientists who have taught me that to be a great scientist you need to look at life through the eyes of a child!

8 thoughts on “Why does the Rooster crow?

  • March 6, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    As fellow henkeepers, I am beyond fascinated (as always) We haven’t a rooster at the minute; in fact we have found that keeping one has tended towards more fox attacks: we think it’s because the rooster announces their presence to the world, and the local fox population… Which is a huge pity because I love their swagger and ego!! Ours also crowed for ages to announce every egg laid! (Lord Farquaad is simply the best name I’ve heard 🙂 ) yet another great post! Xx

    • March 7, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      Thanks Emily and believe me Lord Farquaad really lives up to his name ;0)

  • March 6, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    The lord of the manor! I grew up with hens, bantams and roosters and loved hearing the early morning Cock-a-doodle-do! Interesting to see the translations in different languages 🙂

    • March 7, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      I have to say I love the sound too Mary, luckily I can’t hear him early in the morning though!

  • March 6, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Oh, he’s very grand! My mother kept hens and ‘one’ rooster when we were children and had a few broody hens who ALL produced baby roosters!!!! Very interesting to see the call ‘translated’!

    • March 6, 2014 at 6:41 pm

      Yes Joanna it is amazing how the sound is translated so differently between languages, isn’t it?

  • March 6, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    I love their sounds too but have to admit, the declaration of egg laying is a new one on me – how funny Margaret!

  • March 6, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    We have 2 roosters a father and son, so competition on the crowing can be quite insistent! I notice the older guy also responds when the ladies announce that they’ve lain an egg. I love listening to their chatter too!

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