Artificial Intelligence

We're Using AI to Translate Chicken Clucks into English

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you could know what animals were saying? We have great news: your dream has come true. As long as it's mainly chickens you were wondering about. (Just us?)

Fowl Language

You might be asking yourself, "Who on Earth wants to know what chickens are thinking?" The answer? Chicken farmers. For example, several years ago Kevin Mitchell walked into his coop to find that his chickens seemed a little under the weather. As it turned out, the lights had accidentally been left on all night, and all of his birdies were sleep deprived. If he'd been able to recognize their calls in the night, then he might have realized that something was amiss.

In order to make their Rosetta Stone for poultry, scientists at The University of Georgia and Georgia Institute of Technology exposed groups of chickens to mild stresses (all to help out their poultry brethren, of course). While they endured uncomfortably high temperatures, increased ammonia levels, and mild viral infections, the researchers recorded their clucks with a USB microphone. Then, they fed that data to a machine-learning system, which associated the sounds with the conditions to come up with a guide for understanding cluck-ese.

Knowing what the chickens are clucking about can tell you a lot about how they're feeling and whether or not they've got a bug, but it can also tell you about their surroundings. It turns out that chickens have a different cluck if they're worried about a ground predator than they do if somebody's spotted an eagle or hawk.

The Chicken-to-English Dictionary

So how do you actually speak chicken? Look no further — here's your phrasebook:

  • "There's a ground predator!" A series of repetitive clucks. This is the sound you probably associate with chickens (because they're probably a little worried around you).
  • "There's a flying predator!" A short, high-pitched shriek. Similar to the sound you'd make if you saw an eagle swooping down on you.
  • "I just laid an egg!" Hens seem rightfully proud of their ability to lay an egg. Every time it happens, they'll let out a short series of clucks punctuated by a "buck-caw!"
  • "I'm feeling good!" Sorry, chickens pretty much always use exclamation points. When the birds are feeling happy, they yuk it up with a constant stream of little clucks and caws.

Can Animals Talk?

Written by Reuben Westmaas February 13, 2018

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