The function and science of the avian ear



Do Chickens have ears? Yes! And in this article I will explain how they work.

Even though chickens ears are seen only as small,  fleshy red or white earlobes, or auriculars (also known as ear coverts), the inner ear channels and amplifies sound, and plays a significant role a one of the senses.

Near the auriculars and below and behind the eye, the ear is located. The auriculars channel sound waves into the ear opening,  and towards the eardrum, a thin membrane that vibrates in accordance with the sound waves. The waves are passed down the columella, one of the smallest bones in the avian body, and transmitted to another membrane called the oval window via the cochlea in the middle ear. The cochlea is filled with fluid, and tiny hairs called cilia are attached to its walls. They move with the sound vibrations, as blades of grass do in the wind. Vibrations are translated into electrical impules, and sent to the brain via the auditory nerve.

When human cilia are damaged, they never re-grow, and so throughout life, hearing slowly decreases. The same happens in birds, right? WRONG!!! Birds can regenerate their cilia!!!

Avians also have semicircular canals, the saccule and utricle, which regulate balance, just as they do in humans.

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Banish Bad Behaviour!! How-to Have Harmonious Hens!!!

Banish Bad Behaviour!!

In general, chickens are social animals, living in peace and harmony. When a new bird is introduced, this harmony is temporarily disturbed as the hens squabble to sort out their pecking order. The pecking order is the heirachy by which chickens live. The hens have a little squabble, and the hen that wins is the dominant hen. She gets access to the food and water first, and can put any hen who dares confront her back in her place with a sharp peck. On the other hand, the lowest ranking hen gets to go to the food last, and can be pecked at by any hen. Because of this system, hens live in peace, but when the balance is upset, peaceful Poppy can turn into ferocious Frostie.

In this article, I will cover a few points of bad behaviour and give some tips on how to deal with it.

 

Excess noise

It is usually the cockerel who makes the most noise, while crowing, this can only be avoided by not keeping a cockerel. Cantrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to keep a cockerel to get eggs. The cockerel is only needed to fertilize eggs. Sometimes, a hen will make lots of noise, when she has layed an egg. If this is her habitual egg laying noise, it is not possible to stop her from making the noise, but a few steps can be taken to reduce the amount of noise she makes. These include:

  • Reduce boredom (see below)
  • Reduce stress
  • Practise good husbandry

 

Boredom

Overcrowding and small pens can cause boredom, which often manifests itself as feather pecking in adults and foot pecking in chicks. Chickens are attracted to red, (which is why feeder bases are often red), so if blood is drawn cannibalism can be the result. You should always keep some genitian violet spray handy because this is antibiotic, and stains the wound purple, to stop the chickens from attacking the hen.

Boredom can be prevented or alleviated by;

  • Scattering grain over the ground to encourage them to forage ‘naturally’
  • Hanging up bunches of green leaves for them to peck at
  • purchasing, and hanging up blocks of seed

 

Fighting

This often happens when two cockerels come in contact with each other. This is why cockerels should be kept apart. This takes place over hens, territory, etc.

Fighting can also be found with hens, when a new hen is introduced, for example. This is done to establish the pecking order. Once this is established and all the hens know where they stand, peace will return.

Egg eating is addressed here. Corresponding section highlighted pink.