If you’ve ever lived near someone who has a rooster, then you know how loud their morning crowing sounds can be. For early risers, this is a positive event; however, if you like to sleep late, you may find yourself imagining ways to silence this fowl creature!
At one time, these sounds were all people had to remind them that it was time to get up because there were no alarm clocks in the olden days. Now that we have evolved, the rooster’s crowing sounds are not nearly as welcomed. Even though many people are not big fans of these birds, they often wonder just how the rooster knows when to crow in the morning.
Explaining How the Rooster Knows It’s Time to Crow
A scientific study on how the rooster knows it is daybreak was recently published. Scientists have found that roosters have an internal biological clock that tells them when it’s the right time to crow. While researchers in Japan were studying the genetic underpinnings of innate behaviors such as crowing in chickens, they learned that male birds do not need light cues to start crowing. Before this study, no one had demonstrated the connection to the biological clock in the rooster. The co-author of the study is Takashi Yoshimura; he specializes in biological clocks at Nagoya University.
For many of their experiments, Yoshimura and fellow researcher Tsuyoshi Shimmura used roosters to measure two different light regimens. During the first experiment, the roosters experienced at least 12 hours of normal light and 12 hours of dim light conditions for a period of 14 days. They discovered that the roosters would begin to crow at least two hours prior to the onset of light.
During the second experiment, the roosters were exposed to 24 hours of dimly lit conditions for 14 days. Shimmura and Yoshimura noticed that the roosters started running on a 23.8 hour cycle and did not crow when they thought dawn had arrived. The study was published on March 18, 2013 in Current Biology.
Interestingly, when the scientists exposed the roosters to both light and sound stimuli to find out whether external cues would make them crow, they found that the roosters crowed more in response to light and sound in the morning than they did any other times during the day. Essentially, this means that roosters have internal clocks that take precedence over external cues. Additionally, the researchers found that the social rank among the roosters also affected the timing of their crows.
The Environmental and Territorial Aspects
Yoshimura found that crowing was merely a warning signal that advertised a rooster’s territorial claims. The preliminary data suggests that the highest ranked rooster takes priority in crowing at dawn. Lower ranking roosters are patient; they wait and follow the highest ranked rooster each day. This indicates that roosters are much like mammals that form organized hierarchies.
The rooster has quite an interesting way to indicate that he is the head bird in charge. This is especially true when he is around hens. The rooster tends to strut in a half circle with one wing extended down, which is an aggressive approach that alerts females to his dominance. Usually, a hen will submit by moving away from the rooster to acknowledge that he is dominant. Once the rooster has established dominance, he will rarely strut again. If he is removed from the pen for a period of more than 24 hours, the rooster will strut again to show his dominance over the other birds.
Some aggressive roosters will drop and extend both of their wings and puff out all their body feathers to give the hens and other roosters the impression that they are a lot larger than all the other birds. Although establishing such dominance may seem pompous, it does help to explain how one particular rooster will be the first to crow before dawn.
Hormone specialists at the University of Georgia in Athens say that no one is sure why this study on roosters wasn’t done sooner. Nearly everyone who has studied birds knows that roosters begin to crow before dawn in lab settings. However, until now, no one had thought to test why they begin to crow before dawn. Previously, most researchers believed it to be entirely external cues that initiated the crowing sounds.
The reasons why roosters crow in the morning are remarkably similar to the reasons why humans wake up at a certain time each day. Our circadian clocks play a very important role in the regulation of our sleeping and waking cycles. Remarkable progress has been made to further the understanding of the mechanisms and functions of our circadian clocks. Alterations in our circadian rhythms may cause sleep disorders that can impede the height of human productivity cycles.
In essence, if we don’t get enough sleep, the amount and quality of the work we produce may be greatly reduced. Not getting enough sleep is often blamed on busying ourselves with things such as personal computers and televisions. This is often carried out in a dimly lit environment for extended periods. This correlates with the roosters in the study. Because of their extended exposure to dimly lit environments, the roosters’ internal clocks malfunctioned and they did not crow.
Interestingly, the roosters in the experiment were given the hormone testosterone to put their circadian clocks back on schedule. This is similar to the use of the hormone melatonin that humans sometimes use to adjust their circadian clocks. It seems that there is validity to choosing to use hormones in the effort to adjust our clocks; it certainly worked well for the roosters in the experiment. Not everyone finds the hormone melatonin to be useful in adjusting their circadian rhythms, and some people are not able to tolerate melatonin. However, when used in conjunction with other methods, it’s known to induce the feeling of sleepiness.
For instance, taking a hot bath before bedtime along with small doses of melatonin taken earlier in the day is an example of how some people use the hormones along with an external method of getting to sleep early. This new study on why roosters crow in the morning sheds some light on how circadian rhythms can be both interrupted and adjusted.
So Why Do Roosters Make Crowing Sounds?
Unfortunately, the researchers in Japan could not tell us why a rooster makes crowing sounds, at least opposed to other possible sounds that a rooster could possibly make. They jokingly referred to also not knowing why dogs make barking sounds; these are just innate sounds that animals make. However, they did learn why we may hear rooster crows slightly before dawn. Connecting these studies to an internal clock/circadian rhythm served to validate human studies of the same variety and provided valuable insights into the study of sleep.
In the interim, we can help you to align with your circadian rhythm by using our alarms to wake you on time each day. Online Clock is indeed proud to be the virtual rooster of the Internet! In fact, we have many ways to put you to sleep and gently wake you from your slumber. We hope you will take advantage of them. After all, we made them especially for you. 🙂
And finally, no blog article about Roosters would be complete without at least a quick reference to the Death Metal Rooster: