The chicken’s comb is not just a beauty accessory that helps attract mates but it also plays a key role in cooling the bird down.
To explain simply, a chicken’s comb functions like the radiator of a car – it helps the bird regulate its body temperature and keeps it cool in the summer. In some chicken breeds, the comb plays an important function in preventing and resisting frostbite.
So what happens if a chicken’s comb is injured or damaged? Can the bird grow its comb back? What are the different issues affecting a chicken’s comb?
This guide covers all these topics and more.
Do Chicken Combs Grow Back?
Chicken combs cannot grow back if they are injured in a fight or have fallen off due to infections or frostbite. If your chicken has suffered a minor injury to its comb, it might heal in a few days. You could use an ointment, salve, or tea tree oil to speed up the healing. However, if the comb has sustained major frostbite or a circulation issue and has turned dark or purple, it probably won’t heal. Worse, the comb might also fall off and will never grow back.
What is Wrong With My Chicken’s Comb? Possible Comb-Related Issues and How to Treat Them
Chicken combs could develop the following issues:
Blood Circulation Issues
A chicken with circulatory issues or heart problems could develop a bluish or purple comb. Bluish combs could also indicate an obstruction in the bird’s throat and a lack of oxygen flow. A chicken with a dark red comb could be having a stroke or maybe choking.
If you notice your chicken’s comb turning bluish, reddish, or purple, please take it to the vet right away.
Infection or Parasites
Gapeworm infection can also result in respiratory troubles that can cause a bluish-pale comb. Fungal issues could cause the comb to develop greyish-white spots. A condition called fowlpox can cause nodules on the comb.
Seek veterinary help for these issues. Once the infection is resolved, your chicken’s comb should become healthy again.
Chickens that have suffered severe frostbite could develop a blackish comb. This indicates that the tissue is dead. Frost-bitten chicken combs have to be trimmed off and do not grow back again.
To treat your minor frostbitten combs, do not try to rapidly warm the chicken. Instead, gently wipe the comb with a warm towel for 10-15 minutes. Repeat after re-heating the towel.
If your chicken’s comb turns pale pink, it could be suffering from anemia. Anemia usually occurs in hens infested with lice or mites or if they are suffering from some chronic infection. In some cases, though, a pale pink-colored comb may be due to molting.
To prevent anemia, consult your vet and add supplements to your hens feed.
Floppy or Lopsided Comb
In healthy chickens, the comb is upright. If your chicken’s comb appears lopsided, floppy, or about to fall off, then it may be dehydrated, broody, or has recently laid an egg. Impacted crops can also cause floppy combs in chickens since the birds stop eating.
Provide plenty of fresh water for your chicken to drink. Add some electrolytes to help replenish the lost salts. For crop impaction, provide some olive oil and treat digestive issues in the bird after consulting the vet.
Injuries or Broken Capillaries
If your hen’s comb is bloody, it might have injured itself. The comb could have gotten caught on a nail or a branch. A predator or a fellow Rooster could have attacked and injured the bird.
Even a small abrasion or cut can cause a bloody comb. This is because the skin underneath the comb is richly supplied by blood capillaries. You must treat small abrasions or cuts on the comb right away. Apply some antibiotic cream or tea tree oil to the wound to speed up the healing process. Isolate the bird until it heals.
Will a Chicken Comb Grow Back After Frostbite?
Frostbite in chickens causes black spots on the combs’ tips. This is because the fluid in the delicate tissues of the comb freezes, resulting in damage to the cells. The damaged cells then prevent oxygen from flowing to the comb. In severe cases of frostbite, the entire comb can turn black- an indication of gangrene or infection. In such cases, the vet may advise cutting the comb off.
Once a comb has fallen off or been trimmed, it cannot grow back again. That is why it is very important to prevent frostbite in your chickens.
Here are some steps you can take:
- Add some warming spices to your chickens’ feed – ginger, cayenne pepper, garlic, etc. These will warm up your chicken’s comb and extremities by increasing blood flow.
- Place your chickens’ waterer outside the coop, since moisture in the air could increase the risk of frostbite.
- Apply ointments like Hen Healer™ or petroleum jelly to your chickens’ combs and wattles. These can prevent frostbite.
- Turn over and replace damp bedding regularly to deter moisture in the coop.
- Ensure adequate cross-ventilation in the coop. This will prevent moisture buildup inside.
- Add wide roosts inside the coop. This will ensure that when the chickens sleep, their bodies cover their feet completely.
How Do You Treat an Injured Chicken Comb?
A chicken could injure its comb by catching it on something or damaging it in a fight. You normally cannot repair a torn comb and your vet might advise trimming it off. It is very important to take this decision carefully after a thorough assessment of the comb’s condition.
For minor comb injuries, you can do the following:
- Keep the wound clean and free from flies
- Dab a bit of tree tea oil on the comb. Tea tree oil is an excellent antiseptic that will not only deter flies but also speed up healing. Make sure to keep it out of the chicken’s eyes.
- Isolate the chicken until the comb heals to prevent other birds from pecking at it.
Do Chickens Need Their Comb?
Yes. Chickens need combs to regulate their body temperatures. Chicken combs are soft, fluffy tissues sticking up from the chicken’s head. They also have tiny raised points pointing upwards.
Combs help the bird stay cool since chickens cannot sweat like humans. The fleshy, soft combs remain cooler than the rest of the body. This allows the blood flowing through the comb to cool. This helps the chicken remain cool in the summer. Larger chicken species have larger combs, which are better at dissipating heat.
Combs also make a chicken look attractive. Birds with healthy red combs have no trouble finding mates.
Can Chickens Live Without a Comb?
Yes, chickens can live without their combs. In fact, in the olden days, farmers opted to remove their hens’ combs to prevent frostbite. Similarly, in roosters that were used in cock-fights, it was important to remove the combs surgically to prevent injury. The practice is less common today.
Many breeds of chickens are born without combs– for example, the Aracuana breed. Likewise, some cold-hardy chicken species, like Brahmas, are also known for very small combs. These help prevent frostbite.
If your chicken has lost, injured, or damaged its comb, please have it checked by the vet. You want to ensure no infection or gangrene is setting in. Monitor your bird for other health issues and complications. Keep the affected area clean and dry. Use a salve or an ointment to prevent the infection from spreading. Consult your vet for further steps.