Pale Chicken Comb – Causes and Solutions
When monitoring the health of your chicken, examining the color of the chicken comb can act as an early warning sign of certain illnesses and health problems.
The fleshy, vibrant comb on the head of your chicken is not only for show, it’s actually an organ with an intricate system of blood vessels that helps chickens regulate their body temperature, helps attract mates, and functions as a useful health monitoring organ.
Chicken combs can help you detect health problems even before other symptoms become noticeable.
So, what causes the otherwise vibrant chicken comb to go pale, how to diagnose underlying issues, and how to treat a chicken with a pale comb?
You can find all the answers in the guide below:
Causes of Pale Chicken Comb
Chickens will lose the vibrant color of their chicken comb for several reasons including:
– Nutritional Deficiencies
A pale chicken comb can be sometimes caused by something as simple as a nutritional deficiency. I say “simple” because this underlying cause is easy to fix by changing the diet of your chicken.
Make sure your chickens are fed with nutritious and nutrient-enriched chicken feed or pellets. Chickens also benefit from free-range time, which allows them to graze and forage insects, snails, seeds, earthworms, and various plants.
– Parasitic Infection
Parasitic infections – whether internal or external – are another issue that can cause the comb of chickens to turn pale.
Parasites can also cause anemia in chickens, and it’s often associated with weight loss and dullness. Internal parasites can also cause watery stools.
Apart from regular deworming, parasites can also be prevented by regularly cleaning chicken coops and even treating spaces against external parasites.
– Stress and Environmental Factors
A pale comb in chickens is often caused by stress. Common stressors for chickens include:
- fear of predators
- lack of a warm enclosure during the cold season
- high temperatures
- pecking between chickens
- lack of enough space
- lack of enough food
Chickens that undergo a lot of stress will lose the vibrancy of their comb. Stress can be associated with depression, which can cause the comb to turn pale.
– Diseases or Illnesses
Chickens can be affected by a variety of diseases, some of which are preventable through vaccines, and others through hygiene practices.
Respiratory illnesses, viral infections, and other common poultry diseases can all cause the discoloration of the chicken comb. A pale comb can actually be an early warning sign of disease, even when other symptoms are not yet apparent.
Knowing the early symptoms of these various diseases and seeking treatment for your chickens in time is crucial in saving their lives.
– Age of Chicken
In juvenile chickens, the comb is often pale and rosy instead of the vibrant red you see in adult chickens. That’s because the development of the comb is influenced by hormone levels, which become more abundant once the chicken reaches sexual maturity.
Therefore, it’s normal for chickens of various stages of development to have differently colored combs.
– Molting Season
Sometimes, the underlying cause of a pale comb in chickens is something as benign as molting. Every year as the days get shorter and autumn is approaching, chickens will start losing their old feathers, which are then replaced with a new layer of feathers that can keep them warm during the winter months.
Molting can be hard on a chicken’s body, lowering its energy and egg production, despite it being a natural process that chickens go through each year.
Because of the lowered energy levels and depletion of nutrients, the comb on chickens that go through molting can appear paler.
Once the molting cycle is completed, the brightness of the comb will be restored. During the molting period, chickens can be fed supplements and tonics to help chickens restore lost energy and nutrient levels.
– Broody Behavior
Broody chickens tend to lose weight and even their comb loses its vibrancy, especially when chickens stay broody for too long even when the eggs are not viable.
You can get the chicken out of its broody state once the 21 days of the incubation period has passed (give or take a few days) by physically removing the hen from the nest.
If the broody behavior goes on for too long, the hen can become sickly and lethargic. Once you manage to break the broodiness, and the hen gets better by eating and drinking, the healthy color of its comb will return.
– Genetic Predisposition
Some chickens have naturally paler combs caused by a genetic predisposition or which is natural for the breed.
If nothing else explains why your chicken has a pale comb and some of your chickens of the same breed seem to have a paler comb than chickens of a different breed, then genetic makeup can be one of the explanations.
Diagnosing a Pale Chicken Comb
Let’s assume that you notice that the comb on one or more of your chickens has turned pale. What should you do now?
First, it’s best to isolate chickens with combs whose color has lost vibrancy, just on the off chance that they may have a disease or illness that can be passed on to other chickens.
Next, you need to figure out the underlying cause. Whenever possible, consult with a poultry expert who can carry out tests and make an accurate diagnosis, following which they can administer the right treatment.
Also, chances are a pale comb is not the only symptom your chickens have. You should check for other symptoms too that can clue you in as to the underlying cause of the problem.
Besides other symptoms of the disease – lethargy, listlessness, weight drop, diarrhea, etc. – the quality of the paleness can also be indicative of the disease or illness affecting the chicken.
Here are some of the potential diseases affecting chickens based on the color of the chicken comb:
- A comb that is pale, discolored, with white patches of flaking skin indicates a parasitic infection, stress, molting, or that the chicken has just laid an egg.
- A comb that is white can be a sign of internal bleeding, anemia, or a heavy parasite infection. Frostbite can also start off white but will eventually turn black.
- A pink comb is usually normal unless it’s accompanied by discharge, swelling, and smell.
- Greyish-white spots on the comb can be a sign of fungal infection.
If you notice any of these symptoms, make sure you seek the help of a vet. They can prescribe a course of medicine that will help treat the condition causing pale comb in your chickens.
Don’t wait and hope, many diseases can kill your chickens in a matter of days, so seeking out treatment on time is crucial.
Even something as seemingly simple as a parasitic infection can kill off your chickens.
Treating Chicken with a Pale Comb
Depending on the underlying cause, treatment options for chickens with a pale comb include:
– Improve Nutrition
Even if your chicken is not deficient in nutrients, an improved nutrition can build resilience and make your chickens better equipped to handle diseases.
Make sure your chickens receive quality feed or pellets that are enriched with nutrients and supplements needed for their healthy development.
Allowing your chickens to graze in a field and forage for insects, worms, seeds, and other plants can also add beneficial nutrients to their diet.
– Treat Parasites and Diseases
Preventative deworming can help prevent parasites, but deworming medicine administered for an ongoing infection can also get rid of parasites.
Vaccinating your chickens against viral or bacterial infections can prevent outbreaks and help keep your chickens in good health.
Keeping coops clean of chicken droppings and even treating spaces against lice, mites, and other external parasites can also help prevent infections.
– Reduce or Eliminate Stress
Many of the stressors causing pale chicken comb can be eliminated or reduced. Here are some basic steps you can take:
- Keep chickens in a safe enclosure away from predators
- Make sure they have a warm coop during winter and cover or shaded area during summer
- Make sure you feed your chickens plenty of food to go around for everybody
- Provide access to clean, fresh water, especially during hot summer days
- Make sure your chickens have enough space both in their enclosure and their coop
- Separate chickens that are pecking other chickens to prevent injuries and more stress
These are some of the basic steps you can take to prevent, and remedy health problems caused by stress, including pale chicken comb.
Chickens can often sense diseases in other chickens even before we can see any symptoms. These chickens are often pecked and excluded by other chickens.
The chicken comb functions as a health monitoring organ not only for us but also for chickens. The comb and wattle on a chicken should be brightly colored, plump, and vibrant, without any spots or signs of disease.
A pale comb can signal a host of problems including nutritional deficiencies, illnesses, parasitic infections, and stress, but can also be of benign cause like molting or young age.
Because these underlying issues are treatable – some are even easily preventable! – it’s best to seek medical attention to pinpoint the exact cause and remedy the problem.