So, what does a chicken’s wattles and comb indicate? Changes in the appearance of your chicken’s comb and wattles can indicate if your bird has some internal issues. Having raised chickens for many years, I can easily tell if they are healthy or not. Normally, a healthy bird will have a bright rosy red wattle and comb. These two physical features will change in appearance depending on the well-being of your chicken. Besides, the comb and wattle help your bird keep cool when it’s hot. That’s why most of the Mediterranean breeds of chickens such as Penedesencas, Ancona, White Faced Black Spanish, and Andalusians have larger combs than other breeds.
Every chicken is different in many different ways. In this case, you can gauge changes in their wattle and comb conditions to determine what is normal and what is not. These features play an important role in all chicken breeds. They act as a heat regulation system in chickens. Just like other birds, chickens don’t sweat but they keep themselves cool through their blood circulation.
Other functions may include an indication of sexual maturity, attracting mates, an indication of the state of health and many others. Let’s look at the visible changes that these features undergo and what they mean in detail.
Chicken Comb and Wattles: What they Indicate
Indicate Sexual Maturity
If you are keen enough, you will realize that chicks hatch without combs or wattles. As they grow, these features emerge at different stages of their development. For instance, combs appear earlier than wattles, at the age of three weeks after hatching. When you notice such changes in a chick at their early stages of growth, just know they are cockerels.
While developing, combs appear yellowish. As they grow, cockerels’ wattles and combs start to change into reddish as early as five or six weeks. Pullets, however, start laying eggs as soon as their wattles and combs turn pink or red.
Therefore, the appearance of combs and wattles depends on the gender of your chicks. Changes in color indicate different stages of development and sexual maturity, especially in hens.
Indicate the Well being of Your Chickens
- By observing your chicken’s comb and wattles you can easily indicate their health status. These two prominent features on a chicken provides you with a means to determine your bird’s wellbeing. If your chicken is healthy, it will have a brightly colored comb and wattles.
- Most importantly, these features will have no discoloration or any form of blemishes if your birds are healthy.
- Combs and wattles reveal a lot more when it comes to symptoms or different poultry diseases. They may help you determine if your birds have scabs, hardened skin, lesions, warts, and bluish discoloration.
- Anything that looks unusual on the comb and wattles should make you take drastic measures on time to save your birds. Most chicken diseases are more likely to infect the entire flock if not treated at the right time.
The Size of the Comb and Wattles
- While comb and wattles sizes depend on individual breeds, it’s prudent to take note of normal sizes from abnormal ones. This will help you know if your birds are doing fine or not. For a healthy chicken, the comb and wattles will look larger and bright red in color.
- Anything different than what is normal should be taken seriously. It could be a sign of bad health, parasite infestation, old age or stress. More often than not, the abnormality can turn out to be as a result of molting. Hens that had stopped laying will most probably experience a drop in wattles and comb color as well as the size.
The Texture of the Comb and Wattles
- Most chicken owners don’t pay attention to the texture of their birds’ wattles and combs. The texture of these facial features plays a critical role in determining the progress of your chickens. Having said that, you may check the texture of the comb and wattles to know if your flock is doing fine.
- If these two features change from bright red to black color at their tips in winter you should be worried. This is a sign of frostbite and you should take drastic measures in time before anything happens.
- What if you find a few black dots on your chicken’s comb or wattles? Should you be concerned? You should not be worried when you notice some black on a chicken’s comb. These could be indications of a pecking incident or a speck of mud.
- But when you discover brown crusty spots on wattles and comb, you should be worried anyway. These are signs of fowl pox. For further confirmation, check for other symptoms such as lethargy, feather loss or loss of appetite. Once you are sure about the disease, take action immediately to save your sick bird and the rest of your flock.
The Color of the Comb and Wattles
Pale Pink Comb and Wattles
- As mentioned earlier, a normal comb or wattles have a rosy, red color. If they turn from normal red to pale pink, you should just know that your bird is having anemia. This condition is normally caused by pests such as lice, mites, and fleas.
- Also, the pink color could be an indication that your bird is molting. If that is the case, then there is no need to be worried. At the onset of molting, your chicken’s comb and wattles will lighten up to a certain degree. That is why you will notice a sudden change from rosy red to pale pink.
- In addition to that, pale wattles and comb can indicate heat exhaustion. So, you must observe your birds, especially during the hot weather. Then provide them with cool treats such as frozen watermelon or cool water to lower their temperatures. Give them enough shade where they can spend most of their time when it is blistering hot outside.
- Finally, a pale comb is an indication that your birds have internal worms. This is the case when you notice watery droppings and a sudden drop in the production of eggs. Worm treatment can help solve this problem as soon as possible.
Dark Red or Purple Comb and Wattles
- Whenever you see your chicken’s comb or wattles turning dark red or purplish, it can indicate that you should be worried. This indicates a lack of enough oxygen in the blood, breathing/respiratory problems or poor circulation of blood.
- On the other hand, your chicken could be having something choking her, thus making of a purple comb. Worse of the worst, it could be a sign of a heart attack or stroke. Should you suspect that your bird has suffered a heart attack or stroke, consulting a veterinarian should be the only option.
- Avian flu is another possible cause of change in color from rosy red to purple comb and wattles. This sudden color change is normally accompanied by symptoms such as soft-shelled eggs, poor coordination, diarrhea, lack of energy, loss of appetite, nasal discharge, swelling of the comb/wattles, eyelids and head, low egg production, sneezing or coughing.
Brown/Black Spots or Crust
- If you notice black or brown spots on the comb/wattles, this could be a sign of fowl pox. So, you should look for the right vaccine to save your flock. At the same time keep your yard and chicken run free of dangerous insects such as mosquitoes.
Rosy, Deep Red or Comb and Wattles
- This is a sign that your chicken is healthy and doing fine. The color shows a normal blood circulation with enough oxygen. Therefore, you don’t panic or think otherwise when you notice such changes.
What are the primary purpose of your chicken’s comb and wattles? These two features play a significant role in blood circulation. That explains why you may notice changes in their colors to indicate your chickens’ health. Additionally, they keep your chickens cool in hot weather conditions. Much to your surprise, these features help chickens recognize each other. In most cases, those with larger combs belong to the higher pecking order of your flock.
Why do chickens have different sizes of comb and wattles? The sizes vary according to individual breeds. Some have larger combs/wattles while others have smaller. Those with larger combs adapt well to hot climates because they can use this feature to keep themselves cool. Flocks hardy in cold weather conditions has smaller combs that cannot freeze easily when it is extremely cold outside.
A chicken comb and wattles are the two most important features to watch out for if you a caring chicken keeper. These two organs are powerful indicators of your chicken’s health, type of breed and age. Always pay more attention to your chickens’ wattles and combs to know their progress and productivity. Don’t forget to watch other changes in their behavior and physical appearance as well. If you discover signs of illness or injury, you should take action at the right time to save your birds. Keep in mind that raising chickens is an investment just like others and you should take it seriously throughout.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Chicken Board!!