Chickens are loquacious creatures, and Kevin Mitchell would know. He oversees the care of about a million of them on Wilcox Farms properties in Washington State and Oregon.
Mitchell says the birds have "patterns of speech" that reveal a lot about their well-being. They are usually noisiest in the morning — a robust concert of clucks, chortles, and caws. "When I hear that, I know they are pretty healthy and happy," Mitchell says. If chickens detect an aerial predator they produce a short, high-pitched shriek. And they have a distinct warning for terrestrial threats: The repetitive clucking most people associate with chickens is in fact a ground predator alarm call.
Over the past five years, engineers and poultry scientists at The University of Georgia and Georgia Institute of Technology have been collaborating to help farmers like Mitchell make better use of the information latent in chicken chatter. Scientists have discovered chicken communication is far more complex than previously realized.
From Scientific American
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