By Katie Thear
The scientific basis for cock crowing is that it’s part of the male’s territorial display. He’s declaring that this is his patch! The dawn chorus is also a territorial display, with male blackbirds, thrushes, etc, making the same declaration.
The difference between their ‘crowing’ and that of the cock, is that it’s less strident and more musical to the ear, but all male birds crow in one form or another.
The Noise of the Countryside
Years ago, most poultry keepers kept a cock, and people in rural areas would have accepted crowing as part of the normal sounds of the countryside. Neighbours might not always have enjoyed the early morning clarion call, but they certainly would not have complained to the council about it!
Today people will put up with noisy neighbours, screaming aircraft, the rumble and vibrations of trains and the constant roar of traffic punctuated with the sounds of sirens, but let a cock start crowing down the road and they start to complain.
Perhaps where a small fowl is concerned, people feel empowered to change the situation, while general and traffic noises are on too large a scale for them. An additional problem is that councils are becoming less tolerant and are likely to uphold such complaints. Cock crowing has come to be regarded as a ‘noise nuisance’ in law. Incidentally, the word ‘crowing’ is from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘crawan’, meaning a shrill noise.
Attitude of Mind to Noisy Cockerels
It is not just an urban problem, more a general attitude of mind. There was a recent case of a long established poultry-breeding farm that obviously needed to keep a number of males. All was well until some new bungalows were built half a mile away. The new residents complained and the complaint was upheld, in spite of the fact that the poultry farm had been there first. Pressure was put on the farm either to move the cocks away or to do away with them completely.
As I see it, there is no justification for complaints about cockerels crowing during the day. There are a dozen worse noises to put up with in suburbia. The problem is early morning crowing in the summer time when a cockerel can get going around 3.30am! They are not so bad in winter when it is darker for longer. Even so, if people did not get so incensed about the situation, they could probably sleep through it.
Some years ago, we kept a range of poultry and a number of cockerels. One of them was a pretty Silver Partridge Dutch bantam cock that would let fly repeatedly with a piercing screech in the early hours. I asked my next-door neighbour whether she minded. She looked genuinely puzzled and said that she had never noticed it.
Crowing is not always regarded as a disadvantage. In some parts of the world they have crowing competitions. In Germany, for example, the Bergse Kraaier (or Bergische Kraher) breed has a reputation for having the longest and loudest crow. It is thought to have been introduced by refugee monks to the village of Wuppertal, and then crossed with local breeds. It was first shown in 1853 and recognised in the German Standard in 1885.
Turkey, too, is a country where selection has taken place to produce top performers, with the average crow lasting for 30 seconds.
In 1901, an anonymous writer described a crowing competition in the USA: “The mode of operation is to place the cages containing the roosters in a long row, and then one bird will generally set the others crowing. A marker for each bird, appointed by the organiser of the show, has as his duty to note carefully the number of crows made by his bird. Each competitor puts up one dollar and the winner takes all.”
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