Why Do Chickens Have Combs?

Combs and wattles are among the physical traits distinguishing chickens from other birds. If you look at your chickens, whether they are free-ranging or living in a coop, you will notice they have combs.

Combs help chickens remain cool, particularly in hot weather, since these birds don’t sweat like other mammals. Chickens with smaller combs are less susceptible to frostbite because their combs have less surface area.

The presence of a comb can show that a chicken has reached sexual maturity.

Why do Chickens Have Comb and Wattles?

You could be wondering why your chickens have combs and wattles. These two physical traits are pretty vital for chickens, even if so many chicken owners don’t know why chickens have them. Check the explanations why chickens have combs and wattles.

  • Cooling-Wattles and combs form a crucial part of a chicken’s regulation system. Chickens have feathers, unlike humans. Therefore, these birds are unable to sweat. To compensate for their inability to sweat, chickens cool their body temperature using their blood circulation. Combs and wattles have a network of veins and capillaries that allow heat to pass through their bodies. Wattles and combs help chicken cool their temperature in hot weather by regulating these birds’ internal temperature.
  • They indicate sexual maturityBaby chicks hatch without combs and wattles. Chickens develop wattles before they develop combs, usually around three weeks old. If some of your chicks develop combs a few weeks after hatching, they are cockerels. When you notice the presence of combs and wattles in your baby chicks, it is most likely the birds are reaching sexual maturity. Developing wattles and combs have a yellowish appearance, and they will begin to have a reddish color when the chicks are between five to six months old. Female chicks also grow combs and wattles as a sign of sexual maturity. They usually grow bright pink or red wattles and combs when they start laying.
  • Attracting mates-Mature cockerels grow wattles and combs to attract mates once they reach sexual maturity. The bigger the wattles and combs roosters have, the more the mates they will attract. Hens have an intense attraction to roosters with larger combs and wattles. Roosters that have floppy wattles and combs rarely attract hens.

Can a Chicken Live Without Its Comb?

Yes, a chicken can live without a comb. Although a comb is a distinctive physical trait of a chicken, that doesn’t imply a chicken can’t survive without a comb. It is pretty seldom for a chicken to grow into an adult chicken without a comb.

However, chickens without a comb have a disadvantage over other chickens with combs. For instance, it is challenging for a chicken keeper to tell the sex of a chicken if the bird doesn’t have a comb.

Furthermore, a chicken without a comb will have challenges regulating its internal temperature since the primary role is to help a chicken regulate its body temperature.

Do Chickens Lose Their Comb?

Yes, chickens can lose their combs because of several factors. These are among the reasons why chickens lose their combs.

  • Diseases– Some diseases such as fowl cholera, coccidiosis, fowl pox, and Newcastle disease can affect your chickens’ health, making them lose their combs. These diseases could also make chickens lose their wattles.
  • Parasites– internal parasites like mites and lice make chickens lose their combs, feathers, and wattles. These parasites usually attack a chicken’s softest parts, mainly the combs and wattles. If your chickens are losing their combs or wattles, they could be having a parasitic infestation. If you look carefully, you can see some of these parasites on their combs and wattles.
  • Age- The older a chicken grows, the faster its combs become floppy. Younger chickens usually have bright pink or red combs. As the chickens grow older, their combs start fading and begin shrinking. That’s why older chickens have smaller combs than their junior counterparts. The older your chickens grow, the more likely they will lose their combs.
  • Genetics– Just as we lose our hair due to genetic disposition, chickens too can lose their combs due to genetics. Chickens whose parents lost their combs at some point are also likely to lose their combs as well. If some of the chickens in your flock don’t have combs, it could be because of genetic disposition.
  • Predators– Chickens can lose their combs to predators. Some predators usually target combs and wattles when attacking chickens, such as raccoons. If a chicken is lucky to escape from a predator, it will likely lose its comb.
  • Injuries– Chickens can also lose their combs due to injuries. Constant fights among your chickens can result in some birds losing their combs and wattles. Chickens usually target the combs and wattles when fighting with each other.

Can Chickens Regrow Their Comb?

No, chickens can’t regrow their combs once they lose them, regardless of the situation in which the chickens lost their combs. Chickens, therefore, won’t regrow their combs once they lose them to injuries and illnesses. However, a chicken’s comb can heal from multiple diseases, but it will never regrow.

What does a Floppy Comb on a Chicken Mean?

A normal chicken should have an upright comb. However, some chickens can have a floppy comb, making chicken owners worry about why their birds could have a floppy comb. Dehydration can make a chicken’s comb floppy.

A considerable part of a chicken’s comb comprises water, and therefore the comb will lose its upright stature following dehydration. A floppy comb can also be an indication of an injury or sickness.

Can You Eat Chicken Comb?

Yes, you can eat a chicken’s comb because it is edible. Furthermore, chickens’ combs aren’t toxic, and they are equally nutritious as other parts of a chicken’s body. You won’t experience any health conditions after eating a chicken’s comb.

Conclusion

Chickens stand out from other birds because of their combs and wattles. These birds have combs because they help them regulate their temperature. Combs also indicate that a chicken has reached sexual maturity.

Without a comb or wattles, anyone would consider their chicken abnormal. The larger the comb your chicken has, the healthier the bird is.

Chickens   Updated: July 8, 2022
avatar 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.

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