Healthy Hen Anatomy
by Meghan H
Published July 29, 2019
An important part of raising chickens is by checking over your chickens periodically to double-check their Healthy Hen Anatomy and make sure that everything is normal. By understanding the symptoms of things that go awry, you can be in a better position to help fix an issue before it gets worse. It could help you save money in the long run as it helps you handle issues looming within your coop.
Pictured below is my 3 yr old Golden Buff hen named Lucy. Lucy is a laying machine! Let us go through her parts, one by one, and help you understand the Healthy Hen Anatomy.
Points are the little pieces of skin, oftentimes rounded, that are positioned on top of the comb. These points are sensitive and need to be protected during times of intense cold. An application of Vaseline can help to protect them. Sometimes they are damaged due to fights within the coop. If blood is visible, applying Blue Kote can help to discourage further attention to the area while also aiding as an antiseptic, this is a great tip to ensure healthy hen anatomy!
The comb is a featherless growth that is on the top of the chicken’s head. Both males and females have them. There are several different shapes of combs depending on the breed of the chicken. Signs of issues can include black spots. Black Spots can be an injury, but it can also be a sign of Fowl-Pox. Fowl-pox is a contagious disease that can be fatal.
A healthy nostril will not have any sort of discharge. Discharge can be a symptom of several different illnesses. One of them being Infectious Bronchitis. You will recognize this disease by listening to your chickens when they are asleep on their roosts. They will sneeze, snore and even cough. They will have drainage from their nostrils and eyes.
One disease that affects the overall head of a chicken is Infectious Coryza. Their heads will swell including their eye area and combs. This disease will also have discharge from the eyes and nostril area.
A healthy eye will be clear, without any sort of drainage. In the presence of a cloudy look to the eye, there is the potential that the chicken has a bit of pink eye or even blindness. There are several diseases where one of the symptoms include drainage from the eye area.
The actual ear of a chicken is very much like a pinhole in size. You want to be very careful with their ears if you are giving them a bath. One year my children gave their silkie a bath as part of their prep for County Fair. Water got into his ear which quickly turned into an inner ear infection. When giving a bath, be careful to make sure that the bird is not fully submerged in the head area. To see how to properly give a chicken a bath, please see our video.
Ear lobes can potentially have some marks on them from fighting and sometimes has a few marks if the chicken has fowl-pox. This can certainly be a favorite place of weakness when another chicken is in the mood to be a bully.
The beak is obviously a very important part of the chicken. In the event of an injury or deformity, it can affect the chickens’ ability to be able to eat their food. Occasionally a chickens beak is deformed to where they cross over each other instead of being straight. This is known as scissor-beak. I have known chickens to have scissor -beak who had a normal life. If you have a chicken that is heading to fair, this can greatly count your chicken down.
-In situations where chickens are having issues with fighting, some poultry owners choose to remove the very end of the tip of the beak to prevent its ability to greatly damage another chicken as it prevents them from being able to rip skin and/or small pin feathers. Beak trimming is not the same as de-beaking, which we do not recommend.
Wattles are similar to the ear lobes in terms of things to look for. They can be an area that is torn easily through an injury. Because other chickens can be drawn to the blood it is best to cover any injury with a little bit of Blue Kote. It is also a great practice to give a thin layer of Petroleum Jelly on combs, ear lobes and waddles in the wintertime to help to protect them against frostbite.
The hackle feathers are the feathering of the neck of the chicken. On female chickens the feathers are broad. On male chickens (cockerels and roosters) the feathering is more narrow and pointed. Sometimes you will see missing patches of feathering which is something that can be from mating or aggressive coop mates.
The neck is one of the top places to check for external lice. By taking your fingertips and lifting up gently while blowing softly on the feathers you can visually check for lice and mites that would be around the base of the feathers. You could also use this Poultry Protector to help continue your healthy hens anatomy!
The Cape is the area at the base of the neck where it joins to the area of the back. This is also another spot that needs to be checked for lice and mites.
The back can sometimes be an area of concern when it comes to the Hen. This is because the rooster will jump up and stand on this area in the act of mating. It can create broken feathers and at times even rip the skin. In the event there is ever a rip in the skin, Blue Kote is amazing to help as an antiseptic as well as distract other chickens from hassling the hen for her exposed injury.
The shoulders are another area that can have potential damage from the act of mating. If a chicken is not able to walk correctly it is good practice to run your fingers along their shoulder area to check for a potential dislocation of the joint. It is not common, but it is possible. The top of the shoulder area has small little feathers that are also known as covert feathers
The breast area of the chicken is out in front of the chicken and runs along the rib cage and keel bone. It is good practice to be familiar with how a well-fed/healthy hens breasts feel like compared to that of a sick chicken. It can give you an idea as to whether your hen is being overfed or underfed. A chicken that is underweight despite proper feed can signal internal issues.
The keel bone runs along the middle of the breast area, dividing the two sections. Being familiar with this area can help you determine if your hen is underweight. Being underweight can be a symptom of internal parasites or something being off in the amount of feed they are receiving.
The wings can be a common area of injury. It can happen from predators, humans, and even when they try jumping up on something high and then missing the mark. It is good to check the underside of the wing for visual damage. Injury to the joint is pretty easily seen as the skin is translucent in that spot. Damage usually results in bruising. A dislocation can also be easily felt.
Saddle feathers are the feathers in front of the tail. Both hens and roosters have saddles, but in a rooster, the feathers are longer, softer, and pointier. In this area, you will also want to pull some of the feathers back and blow gently to look for evidence of lice and mites.
The Cushion is an area that is located near the Saddle. It is also checked for feather mites and lice.
The vent is an area that is hidden beneath the layer of feathers. It is one of the most important parts of your chicken as it is where the egg will emerge at the moment of laying. There is a lot to be learned by checking over the vent from time to time. This is an area where you might most easily notice a high rate of lice infestation. A moist vent is an indication that your hen is currently laying while a dried up, slightly shriveled vent indicates that your hen is not likely currently laying. Occasionally a hen might experience a prolapse, which is a serious issue if left unnoticed and therefore untreated.
The Flight feathers are the feathers responsible for giving the chicken “lift” when they are attempting to gain elevation. This can be for the sake of jumping over the fence as to go raid your garden or for more innocent things as trying to jump up on their roost at night. These feathers can be trimmed on one side only to prevent a chicken from being able to jump up high enough for their escape. However, keep it in mind if your bird needs to jump up somewhere to roost at night as they will no longer be able to reach it. Here is more info on How to Clip your Chicken’s Wings.
The shank is what some refer to as the leg of a chicken. The shank has scales on it which makes it more durable than normal looking/feeling skin. This protects the leg as it is an area of vulnerability. If the scales start raising and looking dry, it is possible that your chicken is in the beginning stages of Scaly Leg Mites.
The foot is another one of the most important body parts of the hen. Healthy feet can be very important to the livelihood of your chicken. Bumblefoot mimics a typical foot or leg strain or injury, one of the first signs of this condition is limping. Eventually, a localized abscess created by a Staph Infection, will surface which will need to be treated. Another foot issue is created by excessive manure of the floor of the coop of the floor can create ammonia burns on the bottom of the feet. It is very important to keep your coop clean and dry. You will also check their toes to check for such things as string being wrapped around their toes, therefore cutting off circulation.
We hope you enjoyed this post on Healthy Hen Anatomy! Happy chickening!
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