More and more suburban areas are starting to allow a small flock of backyard chickens, but many are still banning roosters - citing 'round-the-clock crowing as an annoyance to neighbors. So I decided to do a bit of research to find out just how loud a rooster's crow is.
First of all, you need to understand how sound is measured. All sounds are measured in decibels.
So what is a decibel?
A decibel is a unit used to measure the intensity of a sound by comparing it with a given level on a logarithmic scale, i.e., a unit of measurement that indicates how loud a sound is.
The human ear can hear sounds within the 0-140 decibel range. Less than zero, the sound still exists, but we can't hear it. Above 140 decibels can cause immediate pain and permanent damage to the ears, while exposure to a noise above 180 decibels will kill hearing tissue. Prolonged exposure to sounds above 85 decibels can also cause hearing loss, albeit temporarily, if hearing protection isn't worn.
Of course how close you are to the sound makes a difference in how loud it sounds, and prolonged exposure is more dangerous than shorter exposure - but this chart shows the general decibel levels of some common sounds.
Noises that Cause Pain and Possible Permanent Damage to the Ears
70 - loud television, vacuum cleaner, piano music, passing cars
Comfortable Noise Levels
60 decibels - hens clucking, normal human conversation
55 - coffee maker
40 - cat meowing, wild birds
30 - background noise, whispering
10 - a leaf falling, breathing
0 - near total silence
So as you can see, a rooster's crow is right up there with other loud (and potentially harmful) sound levels, including the barking of a dog. Many who aren't allowed to keep roosters point to the fact that a rooster isn't any louder than a barking dog - and it would seem they're correct.
But of course my next question is - how does the rooster crowing inside the coop not permanently deafen all the hens? I couldn't find anything definitive, but I have read that unlike humans, chickens are able to regrow hearing cells, so it's possible that the crowing does damage their hearing but they are able to continually repair it. Fascinating stuff!