So Just How Loud IS a Rooster's Crow?

January 10, 2017

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

Above 140 decibels - gun going off, fireworks, rocket launch, aircraft carrier

130 - average rooster crowing, jet engine

Noises with the Ability to Cause Temporary Hearing Loss

120 decibels - police siren, thunder, chain saw
110 - rock concert 
100 - helicopters, planes, motorcycles
95 - violin, drilling
90 - dog barking, yelling, train whistle, lawnmower

Slightly Irritating Noises

85 decibels - saw, mixer
80 - alarm clock, doorbell, telephone dial tone, dishwasher
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. Many who aren't allowed to keep roosters point to the fact that a rooster isn't any louder than a barking dog - but that's incorrect. A rooster is much, much louder. 
So of course my next question is - how does the rooster crowing inside the coop not permanently deafen himself all the hens? It seems that when a rooster cranes his neck, opens his bill and prepares to crow, that action causes soft tissue to cover a quarter of the ear canal and half of the eardrum, effectively protecting him from hearing loss. Also, unlike humans, chickens are able to regrow hearing cells, so it's possible that the crowing does damage the hens' hearing but they are able to continually repair it. Fascinating stuff!
For More about Chicken Hearing:
http://www.fresheggsdaily.com/2016/09/do-you-hear-what-i-hear-all-about.html

References:
How Roosters Protect Themselves from their own Crows
Decibel Level of Average Rooster's Crow
Sound Levels in Decibels
http://science.howstuffworks.com/question124.htm
http://www.gcaudio.com/resources/howtos/loudness.html
http://www.industrialnoisecontrol.com/comparative-noise-examples.htm

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