The other day, I did a presentation of Sound Sense, the Hearing Foundation of Canada’s elementary noise-induced hearing loss educational program, to a class of Grade 4 students. During the fun session, we ask the 9 and 10 year-old kids about the noisy activities or really loud experiences in their lives. Some of the usual responses include irritating baby brothers or sisters, school bells, mom yelling at them, or any sport they don’t play.
They leave out the loud sounds that they like. “What about your iPods – aren’t they really loud?” I ask. “But that’s not noise,” they say, “That’s music.”
And sometimes I’ll ask, “What about those chickens, eh?”
If I’m presenting in a rural area, the children of chicken farmers will go, yeah, that’s LOUD! But if there are no chicken-kids in the classroom, the students look at me oddly until I tell them about my Uncle Bill, who retired from dairy farming at 75. He needed something to do, so he got himself a few chicks – 5,000, to be exact.
Question: How noisy are chickens?
Answer: VERY noisy, especially roosters who crow all day long. Hens are quiet except when they’re laying eggs, or when they feel threatened.
Walking into my uncle’s hen house that one and only time, I had to assume that the rooster was crowing, 2500 chickens were laying eggs and the other 2500 were stressed out to see me there….because the noise almost blew out my hearing aids.
I cannot adequately describe the noise: BOC-BOC-BOC, CLUCK- CLUCK- CLUCK and BRAWKK-AWK uttered by thousands of chickens at full volume, compounded by the noise of ventilation fans and automatic feeders! Can you imagine the hearing loss that stalks these poultry farmers? Noise-induced hearing loss used to be known as the farmer’s disease, and after entering that chick-house, I understand why.
But out of that clucking-bawking experience came a spoken monologue that I wrote and included in Voices of Our People, a dramatic presentation about people impacted by hearing loss. Here’s a written version.
I like chickens. Always have. I was raised on a chicken farm, so I’ve been around them all my life. Oh, we had your crops and cattle and pigs, but I like chickens best. Chickens are easy; they don’t make life difficult for you, like your cows.
No, never had to stay up a night helping a hen through a difficult delivery. Never had to clip a chick’s toenails like your horses, or pull out teeth like your piglets. (Yes, we pull out little piggy’s teeth, OK?)
Nope, chickens are straight shooters. They drop their eggs – or they don’t. They eat and drop eggs. No trying to figure out what a hen is thinking – or a rooster for that matter. They’d be darn near perfect except for one thing thing….they’re noisy.
Whoo-boy, are they noisy!
If you had just one chicken, it wouldn’t be so bad. A couple of peeps and cheeps here and there, that’s OK. But if you’re gonna raise chickens for a business, you got to have a LOT of chickens. And with 10,000 birds like I’ve got, we’re talking serious noise.
Now, my granddad at the age of 90 could hear a barn cat meow from two farms over. But my dad started this chicken farm thing, and by the time HE was 65, he couldn’t hear a cat meowing if it sat on his head.
Me, I barely made it to 40 when I realized, whoo-boy, I’m in trouble. I couldn’t hear the wife too well, or the minister on Sunday. A lifetime of 10,000 chickens was wearing out those inner ears, so the wife suggested – talked me into – getting hearing aids. Whoo-boy! Driving home with those new babies in my ears – it sounded like I was inside the motor. We’re talking loud; I almost drove off the road with the noise!
Then when we got home – and I dunno why I did this – I went into the hen house WITH the new hearing aids. Well, that took 10 years off my life, I tell ya, 10 years!
And that’s when I finally realized – whoo-boy, I had the wrong things in my ears! I should’ve been wearing earmuffs or earplugs long before this.
Now, when I’m with other farmers, I don’t miss a chance to tell ‘em, especially the young fellows: take care of your hearing and it’ll take care of you. It’s precious. I tell them that. And I use that word, too – precious – because that’s what it is. It’s something you don’t want to lose.
Wear your hearing protection on the farm, because being able to understand what your wife is saying is really important. And nice.
Final bit of advice, if you DO wear hearing aids, don’t wear ’em in the hen house. Whoo-boy!
There’s a lot of information on the internet about agricultural hearing protection. And if you want to help get the prevention message across to elementary students in your area, contact Dangerous Decibels (US) or Sound Sense (Canada).
If you’ve got your hearing, you don’t want to lose it. The chicks cheeped the chicken man’s hearing to bits and THAT’S why he got his hearing aids.