Roosters Crow In Pecking Order

Share on Pinterest

red jungle fowl crowing

Believe it or not, there’s still a lot we don’t know about roosters crowing even though, according to recorded history, they’ve been doing it since 2600 B.C.

We all know about the pecking order of our chickens – certain ones are the “top” in the group and tend to get to the food first or get to have the best roosting spot but according to a study published in Scientific Reports in July, the top ranked rooster is the first to crow every day.

Chickens are very social animals and the theory is crowing helps to announce their territory and avoid aggressive moves from other roosters.

Tsuyoshi Shimmura from Nagoya University in Japan studied groups of roosters and determined that the rooster highest in the pecking order determined when to begin the daily pre-dawn crowing with each rooster following after in order according to their rank. When the top rooster was removed from the group, the second in charge took over and filled his job, with each subordinate rooster, again in order, crowing next.

The timing of the crows is regulated by an internal biological clock, called the circadian clock. Although it can also be influenced by things like light and the crowing of other roosters, it’s mainly this 24 hour internal cycle that determines the time of the first crow each day. The scientists concluded that when in a group, roosters suppressed their own internal clock to accommodate the social rules of the group – in other words, the pecking order. So even though the second or third ranking rooster might feel inside “hey, it’s dawn and time to crow”, they won’t do it – not until the highest ranked has started the group off. The team also noticed that the highest ranked rooster crowed more often than the others.

Are Chickens Intelligent Beings?

Share on Pinterest

Are chickens intelligent beings? Hens are often portrayed as idiotic, pooping and eating at will and often in the same place. Hens in literature are flighty and silly. Yet science offers a different perspective. Recent studies suggest that chickens are a whole lot smarter than they’re given credit for being.

These Are No Dumb Animals

Poultry are often considered inferior in the intelligence department, but Dr. Ian Duncan, Professor of Poultry Ethology at Ontario’s University of Guelph, disagrees. “These animals are poorly understood,” he’s quoted in an interview by United Poultry Concerns, Inc, “This is revealed by such behavioral indices as their complex social relationships, and their many different methods of communicating with each other, both visual and vocal. Chickens… are far more intelligent than generally regarded and possess underestimated cognitive complexity” (

There’s Some Serious Communication Going on in the Coop

Dr. K-lynn Smith and Professor Chris Evans of Australia’s Macquarie University claim that not only are chickens intelligent and social, but they can also adjust what they “say” depending on who is listening ( In an article published by Global Animal Magazine in 2011, Dr. Smith states that chickens who live in “an environment where they must compete for food, shelter, and mates can be as cunning as humans.” Clever chickens who can outsmart their fellow chickens have the best luck (aka the most food, best place to live, and the girl). Chickens are able to use sounds and gestures to communicate information about their environment. That is pretty smart!

Who Is Smarter, You Dog or Your Dinner?

In an amusingly titled article, “Was Your Meat Smarter Than Your Pet,” ABC NEWS presented some interesting studies on animal intelligence ( In an English study, a sheep was proved to be able to recognize human faces, a pig was taught to use a computer, and chickens easily learned how to adjust the thermostat in their coop.

Chickens, it turns out, are a whole lot more complex and intelligent then they are commonly believed to be. This may give you a new perspective when it comes to your personal flock. Do you think your birds are intelligent beings?