Sometimes we wish that our chickens could tell us exactly how they feel. It would help diagnose issues, resolve flock disagreements, and even the age of our older hens. Unfortunately, none of us are Dr. Doolittle, so we have to rely on other methods. And one of those methods is to look at your chicken’s comb. What can a chicken’s comb tell you? Let’s take a look.
What Is A Chickens Comb?
There is a lot a chicken comb can tell you. But before we get into this, you should probably know where are a chicken’s comb. A chicken comb is a fleshy area on the top of the head. Some chickens have large ones that stick straight up, while others have smaller “pea” combs.
What are they used for? A chicken’s comb helps regulate body heat by cooling or warming the hen. Chickens with larger combs typically do best in warmer climates because the comb diffuses heat to cool the bird. Chickens with pea combs are best for winter because the comb helps conserve body heat.
What Does A Healthy Chicken Comb Look Like?
Healthy combs are bright in color and stick straight up. They are firm to the touch but still bend when pressure is on them. Most chickens have red combs, but some breeds have purple or black combs as well. What chicken has a black comb? Silkies and Sumatras are some of the most popular, but Ayam Cemani has black skin and combs. But no matter what breed you have, all of the combs are used in the same ways. So they can experience the same changes if you know what to look for, even if darker combs are harder to inspect.
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What Can A Chicken’s Comb Tell You?
Since the comb has such an important job, you can imagine that these combs could “get sick” now and then. And often, the color and texture of the chicken’s comb will tell you a lot about how your hen is feeling. Let’s look at some of the most common chicken comb changes.
The most common problem keepers experience is a pale comb. The ordinarily bright red comb suddenly turns pale pink, and you get concerned. And depending on your situation, there can be many causes.
The first thing you should check is that your hens aren’t overheating. Since the combs regulate body temperature, you can expect that they pale in summer. So if this is your hen’s problem, you might want to check your coop’s ventilation and offer a few cooling treats.
Another common reason for pale combs is anemia. Anemia is the lack of oxygen as a result of poor blood circulation. The most common causes of anemia in chickens are parasites. If you notice a pale comb, you should inspect your hens for the signs of mites and lice. But you should also check their feces for signs of worms as this can also cause anemia.
However, a pale comb doesn’t always mean that your chickens are sick. Most pullets have pale rosy combs. Most hen’s will even get temporary pale combs when they are about to lay an egg. And finally, it could mean that your chicken is about to molt, and once they finish, it will go back to normal.
What Do Black Spots Mean?
If you live in colder climates, black combs are a common sight. But why does my rooster have black on his comb? Black spots on the chicken comb are typically a sign that your chickens have frostbite. These black patches will start white and turn black as the skin deadens. These blackened areas are also very stiff and feel brittle under your fingers.
But don’t fear too much. Frostbite has to be pretty severe for your chickens to get sick from it. So how do you treat black spots on a chicken comb? All you have to do is keep the areas protected with a bit of petroleum jelly and let them heal. You might also want to check your coop’s ventilation since moisture build-up is the most common cause of frostbite. Over time, as the frostbite recovers, it will fall off to reveal healed skin.
Red/Brown Scabs On Chicken Comb
Most of these dark red to brown scabs means that you have a pecker in your flock. When there is a feud in your chickens, the most common sign is wounds in the comb. A chicken comb is very soft and sensitive, so it’s the most common area for chickens to peck at each other.
In these cases, it’s best to isolate the injured bird to prevent further damage. Sometimes when a chicken is injured, other hens will join in, so you don’t want that to happen. Then you will need to find the source of pecking. Keep a close watch on all of your hens. If you find one hen that is picking on everyone, it might be a pecking order dispute.
In some cases, it’s communal bullying on a weaker or sick hen. to solve this, all you need to do is separate and heal the sick chicken. And in other cases, it could be a sign that your chickens aren’t compatible. These cases are harder to solve, but most often, it means rehoming a hen.
If one hen is picking on everyone, you might rehome her to keep the peace. But there are cases of one chicken that is too docile for the rest. We recommend taking these situations case by case as none of these situations will resolve themselves without interference.
Brown To Black Spots On Chicken Comb
Another thing chicken combs can tell you is if your hens have fowl pox. A chicken with fowl pox will first get white spots all over its face, including the comb. These tiny white blisters will then pop and turn into brown to black scabs. Unfortunately, if your chickens have fowl pox, there is no treatment. But you can prevent further spread by vaccinating all future chickens.
What Does A Dark Comb Mean?
What can a chicken’s comb tell you? It could tell you something serious is wrong. Many viruses can cause a chicken comb to turn a dark blue to purple color. These colors usually mean that whatever virus your chicken has is restricting oxygen flow through the blood. Some of the most common viruses that cause these issues are avian flu, respiratory infections, and pneumonia. But in more severe cases, it could be the result of heart failure or kidney disease.
It is best in these cases to have your avian vet thoroughly inspect your flock. However, in cases of avian flu, the chickens can’t recover. But it is always a good idea to get a second opinion. A vet might prescribe an antibiotic to prevent secondary infections or medications to control underlying issues.
Scaly White Chicken Combs
Another common problem is that a chicken could develop a white fungus, called ringworm, on the comb. Ringworm is highly contagious and passable to humans. So you will need to act quickly and carefully. If the fungus is left untreated, it can spread to the neck, eyes, and feathers. Most chickens will also lose feathers, and if it reaches the eyes, blindness can occur.
If you notice ringworm on your hens, isolate each hen individually. They need to be separated because if one chicken starts to recover, it can get reinfected. Then all you need is over-the-counter Extra Strength Tinactin and gloves to treat your hens. Slathering them with the cream twice a day for two weeks will kill the ringworm and heal the skin.
Then once they have gone through the entire 14 days of treatment, you can introduce them back into your flock. However, it is essential to keep treating for 14 days even if the patches have cleared up. Since this fungus has deep spores, it can resurface in a few days. And if your hens still have the fungus after 14 days, keep treating until it’s healed.
Floppy Chicken Comb
Most of us imagine chickens with tall combs that stick straight up. But occasionally, these combs can fall. What does it mean when a chicken’s comb flopped over? It depends on the situation.
In most cases, it’s normal. As chickens age, these combs get too heavy, and they will fall on themselves. There isn’t anything wrong with this, and it’s natural. However, if your chicken has other symptoms, it can be a sign of illness.
If the chicken comb is pale and floppy, it could be a sign of an impacted crop. An impacted crop is when your chickens have eaten something tough to digest. This can be fibrous materials, long grains, or inedible objects. You will also notice your chicken isn’t eating or drinking, and you might even see a liquid coming from the mouth and nose.
To treat impacted crops, you will want to isolate them and reduce the amount of feed. Then you will want to give them a tablespoon of olive oil to help loosen the impacted food and give them a “crop massage.” After a few tries of this, the impaction should clear itself. You can even add a little apple cider vinegar to the water to prevent further infection.
Can A Chicken Comb Fall Off?
After reading what can a chicken’s comb tell you, it might leave you worried. In some cases of severe injury, a chicken comb might fall off or need to be amputated. But don’t worry. Your hens will go on living with no other problems, and they will still lay delicious eggs.
But hopefully, with this guide, you can spot the signs of distress quickly. And with fast diagnoses, there is even faster healing.
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