Voices have always affected me organically, and as I get older, I find myself paying closer attention to nuances of timbre, pitch, resonance. Part of this aural focus may be a rebellion against the distinctly human bias for the visual, which has been grossly exacerbated by our  immersion in technology that relies on rapid-fire imagery. But attending to the richness of the voices around us — both animal and human — can also be a kind of meditation, a way to rest.

Or not, as Chirp reminded me this morning.

Chirp is a salmon faverolle, a stocky little hen with creamy wheat and rust plumage, and — unlike my other faverolle — an improbable black beard. She is strikingly beautiful, though I suspect she is mildly retarded (here I will resist the temptation toward tasteless blonde jokes). When Chirp was a chick, she would stand stock-still for long minutes, staring at the cardboard wall of the brooder. While the other chicks ran about, scratched, pecked and otherwise acted normal, Chirp would just stand there and, well … chirp. It was sort of sad, and the rest of the little flock, including me, became protective of her as she grew into a slightly ditzy but still highly verbal pullet.

Chirp is proof that it is usually a mistake to name a long-lived creature after a childhood characteristic. I haven’t the heart to rename her Grate or Rasp, but her adult voice lacks the sweet vulnerability of her fuzzy chick days:



To be fair, Chirp sounds like this only when she’s crabby. Often, she joins companionably in the flock’s morning coffee klatsch, during which I drink the coffee and they enjoy scratch, a kind of chicken “candy” made of cracked corn, milo and wheat:



Sometimes, the first sound I hear from the girls arrives earlier, through a nursery monitor in my bedroom as I am beginning to stir from sleep in the predawn dark. The first time I heard it, I could not believe my ears.  My chickens were singing up the sun, just like other birds:


My best friend gave me that nursery monitor years ago; we live far apart now, and don’t often see each other. I sometimes keep her messages on my answering machine just to hear the affection in her voice. And last night I called the phone of my friend Ray, who died last week, and recorded his outgoing message — wanting to hear his voice a little longer, before allowing it to trail him into the ether.

My vision is diminishing with age, but still I trust my ears.  Hearing, they say, is the last sense to go;  I keep listening.





This post originally appeared in a slightly different form four years ago.  Chirp has since joined Ray, along with several other members of my little flock.  I listen to their voices now with a mix of sadness and happiness I cannot separate.



  1. wonderful pet sounds, Cate!
    seems one could get excited
    about getting a phone call
    just to hear the sounds 🙂


    1. Indeed! But I don’t get out much, so my “excitement” threshold is low. 🙂
      Thanks, David.


  2. I feel just as you do about voices, Rafiki. I have felt a fantastic (as in fantasy-like) urge to meet or fall in love with a person just from hearing her (and occasionally his) voice on National Public Radio. Audie Cornish anyone? And I too save and re-listen to messages to hear the voices. Chirp. Sweet thing. All your animals are so lucky to be (have been) in your care and love.


    1. Thank you, Friend of the Musical Voice. 🙂 I have found myself both repelled by and attracted to particular human voices, sometimes for reasons I can identify, but sometimes not.


  3. So delightful – thank you for letting me listen to your chickens! And for your emphasis on aural vibes we tend to take for granted. Familiar sounds transport almost instantly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They do; they have an organic force similar to that of smells. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. wildchild47 · · Reply

    I’m sad that you no longer have Chirp with you, as well as others, including your friend, but I have to say, listening to the vocalizations was …. er …. charming?

    Okay, I normally don’t mind chickens, in fact, can rather alarming cluck and speak right along with them rather well, even if I don’t know what I’m saying, but I have to say, my cat, who happened to be supping, right next to my laptop, stopped several times, stared off towards the distant windows, eyes widening, then pointedly stared hard at me. And in the next room, over the light sounds of the radio, even the dogs were stirring …. so I had to cut the 3rd recording short! LOL …. But yes, stopping to listen, really hear the languages of so many can be rather fascinating and wonderful – and in some odd ways, yet not, completely zen like. Personally, I enjoy the delightful words of the wild turkeys, when they are close enough for me to hear – the dogs are a preemptive strike, and yes, I can completely converse with them (the turkeys) too – actually better than some of them care to admit and much to my dogs’ chagrin and annoyance.

    Wonderful post Cate – Happy holidays.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My animals, too, react visibly to even recorded vocalizations; they are much better at listening than humans. And, I, too, appreciate wild turkeys, which used to visit my farm in the U.P., and which occasionally grace my home here in the Rocky Mountain foothills. Thanks for this lovely response, and happy holidays to you, too!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s the oddest thing – I never thought I’d enjoy reading about (or hearing) chickens, but your blog has given me a view to that world and I appreciate it. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re most welcome. I’m always glad to incite chicken appreciation. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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