Chicken Comb Turning Black – Causes & Treatments

Unknown to most people, chicken combs have valuable purposes for your bird’s wellbeing. The red appendage is often used as a visual display of fertility, health, mood state, and other subtle things related to a bird’s life. In addition, it helps in identification purposes during breeding and regulates body temperature in hot weather.

Thanks to a good supply of air pockets in the comb, the organ might change color depending on the bird’s wellbeing, moods, or genetics. Red combs are more prevalent in regular chicken varieties than other alternatives like dark purple, brown or dark blue.

Unfortunately, several reasons affect the coloration of the chicken comb or make it shrink.  You can control certain aspects, such as keeping the comb clean, dry, and healthy.

However, if you notice severe color discoloration, it is prudent to consult an avian vet for the best way forward. Meanwhile, find out some of the leading causes of chicken comb turning black mentioned below.

1. Frost Damage

Colder weather can make your birds more prone to frostbite. As a result, the comb might appear black and look mushy. Fortunately, it’s not a severe health issue, and you can treat the area with some antibiotics to prevent infection.

If you want to keep your birds warm in winter, add extra insulation in the coop. You’ll first want to double-check that there are no gaps or holes in the enclosure where the cold air or wind could sneak in. Then pile on some straw bedding for an insulating layer beneath each bird’s roost if possible.

Most importantly, ensure to clean out any poop build-up every few days to avoid rotting and attracting disease-carrying flies. All in all, a heat lamp will help keep your bird warm and contented all day long. Also, cover the shelter with fine mesh wire or cloth to avoid the problem from reoccurring during the night.

A chick with frostbite will appear lethargic and suffer from seizures if severe enough. It is highly recommended to seek veterinary care for this condition immediately as a prognosis for recovery is poor without proper medical treatment.

2. Avian Influenza

Avian influenza causes a disease called Gumboro, which is a virus spread by hen’s body lice. It affects all ages of chickens primarily, but the older ones react more severely.

Also Read: Symptoms of Avian Influenza in Chickens

When a chick becomes infected with the condition, the comb may start to get rough and cracked on top. In addition, the chickens appear off and less energetic. Usually, they will sit close to each other or huddle in one spot during the day, especially when it gets cold.

It is worth noting that Gumboro can be transmitted to human beings if you contact them without gloves and overalls. Chickens with white combs can still contract milder forms of Gumboro before any signs show up on their combs.

One quick way to determine if something is wrong with your birds is by checking for depression signs and sedentary behavior. If the birds display such symptoms, isolate the sickly ones until you are sure there is no risk to the entire flock.

Sometimes, if the chicken comb turns black in an adult hen, check for mites or lice as well.  For this reason, keep the coop clean and dry, as mites like hiding in dark wet places. Altogether, check for moisture levels in the coop because molds can also trigger a whole load of sicknesses in your birds.

3. Fowl Pox

You can easily prevent chickenpox in your flock by vaccinating them with a modified live virus vaccine about five weeks before the onset of winter. Mainly, this is the time when exposure to fowl pox is most likely to happen.

No matter what most people say about vaccinations, if your chickens start getting sick, don’t blame the cold spell or the rain. Instead, blame it is all on you because a single dose of vaccine can give your birds a better quality of life.

Like any other poultry ailments, the comb may turn black if they contact fowl pox. We recommend that you stay away from any remedies containing sulfur because they can be harmful to delicate skin. Rather, apply plain Vaseline, known for its healing properties. Also, check your coop for any drafts or cracks where cold air can seep through. If need be, take your bird to a vet right away for proper diagnosis and treatment.

4. Fowl Cholera

Fowl cholera remains one of the most common causes of black comb in chickens. It’s a bacterial infection caused by E. coli, the same bacteria which causes diarrhea in humans.

Chickens with this condition will have diarrhea, and if it’s severe enough, they’ll stop eating. Their combs will start turning black and squashy as the bacteria eats away at the skin on their faces. The bacteria can also infect the lungs and cause pneumonia.

The quickest remedy to the condition is to treat your chickens with antibiotics for 10-14 days. If they haven’t eaten in several days, force-feed them with medicated chicken mash using an oral syringe.

Other than that, keep the coop very clean and occasionally wipe the combs with a diluted bleach solution or antibiotic ointment.

5. Liver Problem

Several chicken diseases affect the comb’s appearance. Additionally, some medications prescribed for your chicken can cause changes in their combs. One common ailment that affects the wellbeing of your birds starts from the liver. In such a scenario, the birds feel weak, nauseous, tired, and lethargic.

Furthermore, they may lose some feathers and suffer from diarrhea. Most likely, by the time you notice color changes on your bird’s comb, they might have been suffering for a long time.  You can help reduce discomfort by giving them antibiotics, but consider consulting a vet for an eventual solution.

Wrap Up

Nothing is frustrating to a chicken owner than watching your birds go down with a fungus or bacterial infection.  Given that most ailments originate from filthy environments, you have a significant role in keeping your birds healthy.

Above all, ensure that you frequently vaccinate your chicken and consult a qualified avian vet immediately you notice unusual symptoms.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

Questions and Answers

David Jones April 7, 2022 Reply

We have 2 chickens that developed dark purple color crowns. One chicken died. Could you help me find out what this is.

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