Meet Dottie, Miss Injury Queen. Her comb has gotten so big and heavy it has flopped over to one side limiting her vision primarily to one eye. Floppy combs are somewhat common for Leghorns, and it’s not usually a problem. But to some extent, this condition has turned into a disability for Dottie. She bumps into things, and her big fleshy appendage atop her head bleeds, which of course causes havoc in the chicken yard.
My docile members of the flock are anything but when there’s an injured bird present, so Dottie has been moved to the chicken hospital. She can still see the flock, and quite honestly, seems quite happy in the safety of solitude. Oddly enough, being confined hasn’t effected her egg production at all. Every morning there’s a pearly white egg in her nest, and in my opinion, a happy bird is one that’s laying! I haven’t decided yet if she will be returned to the flock at some point, or if this 4×6 coop will be a permanent home.
Both male and female chickens have fleshy growths at the tops of their heads called combs. Wattles are two oblong fleshy growths that hang below their chin.
What are They For?
They both actually have a very important function. Scientists suggest that blood is circulated between the comb and wattles to help keep the chicken cool in hot weather. This gives the comb it’s deep red color and allows the blood to be cooled by the air before traveling through the bird’s body.
In winter however, the comb is prone to frost bite in some breeds. But, little Vaseline on the comb and wattles will protect them from harm.
Another important function of the comb is to help attract a mate. A large bright comb is a sign of health and vitality. The rooster is at the top of the pecking order and his comb larger and brighter than a hen’s. But, even among hens, the brightness and size of a comb often decides who is boss.
Chicks will begin to grow a comb within the first few weeks of their life. The comb also indicates maturity in females, or pullets. When it reaches a bright red, the pullet is usually at her point of lay.
Combs vary in size, shape and color based on sex, age, and the breed of a chicken.
7 Most Common Combs:
•Buttercup • Cushion • Rose • Pea • Strawberry •V-Shaped • Single