Chickens make for awesome pets, not only are they endlessly entertaining but they also lay eggs and that means better, healthier breakfasts too! Many chicken owners find themselves wondering whether their flock would appreciate a little rock (or pop or opera, for that matter) and if it would make them happier? We’ve done the research so that you don’t have to.
Do chickens like music? There is some incredibly strong evidence that if you play chickens the right kind of music, they will lay more eggs and oddly, it may be possible to teach chickens to “appreciate” any kind of music. It’s hard to say exactly what chickens “like” because the word may not have the same meaning to a chicken as a person.
Why Does The Music Matter?
Human beings don’t all like the same music, do they? In fact, if you want to see a friendship go downhill quickly, all you need to do is ask a One Direction fan to share a stereo with a fan of death metal, tastes vary when it comes to music and it’s an intensely personal thing. Of course, this is true for humans – we all know it, but is it likely to be true for chickens too?
One thing that we are 100% sure of is that chickens don’t like to be stressed. In fact, if your chickens are stressed you can kiss goodbye to your dreams of boiled eggs for breakfast because they are going to stop laying.
Many chicken owners have reported that when their chickens were exposed to loud music that instead of the roosters starting a mosh pit, the hens just decided that their ovaries were going on holiday. However, that experience isn’t universally true (as we shall see in a minute) and in fact, when you get the music right – chickens may even improve their laying capabilities.
One thing we are certain about though is that if the music is too loud – no matter whether it’s of a kind acceptable to chickens or not – the chickens will find it stressful and stop laying. So, it’s best not to try and emulate Spinal Tap in the garden because if the volume goes up to 11, egg production will go down to zero.
Do Chickens Like Music?
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to determining whether any creature, not just chickens, “likes” something or not, is that we can’t ask them whether they do. This would be the best possible method and would, potentially, clear up many misunderstandings between chicken owners and their pets.
Without that ability, then we are left to try and base our conclusions on behaviors that we assume mean chickens are happy and thus that when they show these behaviors, they must “like” what’s going on around them.
Yes, this is shameless anthropomorphism. Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human-like emotions to creatures in our attempt to understand them. Some people will argue that this is a very bad thing and it means that we’re not really seeking to learn about our pets but rather just to pigeonhole them into a framework that we can relate to.
We’d beg to differ. We think anthropomorphism is a very sincere attempt to try and interpret what’s going on with our pets so that we can give them a better life.
Sure, it may not be a perfect tool because it’s possible that chickens, in their world, don’t have concepts of “like” and “dislike”. But it’s fair to say that they must have concepts related to “we can deal with that” and “we can’t deal with that” because behaviors around things like egg-laying make this perfectly clear.
We don’t think you need to know the exact terminology that a chicken would use to decide that you want to do things that promote positive behaviors in your chickens. This will save waiting around for centuries (or more) until we finally managed to interpret between chicken language and human language.
The Egg Laying Studies – Chickens Can Love Music
Egg laying studies are a very useful thing to be able to refer to, in this case. That’s because not only are we pretty certain that happy hens lay more eggs but that this behavior is also one that we want to encourage for our own benefit too. It’s a win-win for both you and your chickens.
There has even been a research paper on this subject which gives a higher degree of confidence that the results are measurable and not just speculation from a particular chicken owner.
The University of Bristol’s, Isabelle Pettersson, said that while there had been previous studies on animals and how they like music in general, no-one had ever decided to examine the relationship between egg-laying and music before.
They took four conditions: rock music, pop music, classical music and no music and then set up laying boxes which fulfilled one of each of the four conditions.
They then let the hens make up their minds about where they wanted to hang out and they then wanted to see if this influenced the amount of eggs laid.
Well, the results were striking – the hens showed a clear preference for classical music. Not only did they visit that box more than any of the others, it produced a 6% uplift in the egg yield when compared to the other boxes too!
Thus, it’s clear that chickens do like some music – classical music to be precise. Isabelle attribute this to the soothing properties of the music, though she failed to offer any insight into how this was measured.
How Can You Condition Chickens To Like Your Music?
We don’t know that you can but psychologists have proven that chicks have an innate preference for “melody” and thus, will gravitate to melodious music wherever possible. This was proven by an experiment that showed that chicks that were isolated from sound during their egg days and were then exposed to music would gravitate to harmonious, melodious sounds.
The experiment that wasn’t conducted and which a chicken owner might find useful, if they want their flock to rock out rather than chill to a bit of Handel’s Water Music, is to expose the eggs to the music that you want your chickens to enjoy.
That is, if you condition an unborn chicken to find a particular beat “normal”, there is a good chance that when they are born, they might come to appreciate that beat. This is speculation but it’s certainly worth a try if you want total control over the soundscape in your back yard.
So, Should I Buy A Stereo For My Chicken Coop?
We don’t think that music is essential for chickens. In fact, the University of Bristol research that we referred to above, may have shown that classical music was preferred for laying but overall, it found no increase in egg laying when split between the four laying boxes.
This means that if you want to buy your chickens a stereo, you can but please keep in mind that this needs to be a practical set up. You need to protect any wiring from beaks and claws, ensure everything is waterproofed (because most pet chicken owners don’t want to accidentally cook their chickens) and damaged proofed too.
This is likely to be a substantive effort for many coops and possibly, not worth it. However, if you find music to be beneficial to your environment, then you ought to be able to figure out a way to do this without spending a fortune on equipment.
Do chickens like music? Yes, they do. We’re going to leave the debate over what exactly “like” means in a chicken’s context and stick with the simple and straightforward – happy hens lay more eggs and play your chickens the right music and they’ll be laying more in a jiffy.
That doesn’t mean you can play them anything though, unless you are conditioning your chickens to appreciate your Iron Maiden collection before they hatch – you’re going to find that chickens would prefer to listen to some soft, harmonious classical music no matter how you feel about that kind of music.