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What Can my Chickens Comb Color Tell Me?

The health of a backyard chicken can often be determined by the color of her comb. Monitoring your flock's health can often be as easy as watching their combs.

A chicken's comb is an external indicator of chicken health, overall condition and most importantly her circulation. A healthy chicken will normally have a bright, rosy red comb. 

By keeping an eye on your flock's combs, you can often be alerted to internal issues going on.

What Can my Chickens Comb Color Tell Me?

The comb's most important function is to act as a radiator, expelling body heat during the hot summer months. 

The comb helps keep the chicken cool, which is why the Mediterranean breeds such as Andalusians, Penedesencas, Ancona and White Faced Black Spanish have such large combs.

These breeds with extraordinarily large combs are usually better suited to the warmer climates. Their combs help to keep them cool in the summer, which makes them more heat tolerant than other breeds of chickens, but can leave the susceptible to frostbite in the winter. 

So if you live in a cold climate, choosing a breed with a smaller comb is a good idea. These breeds with small combs are generally more cold-hardy chicken breeds.

Usually the roosters of a particular breed will have larger combs than the hens, but that's not always the case. Some breeds have virtually nonexistent combs.

Each chicken is different, and each breed different, so gauging changes in comb condition and color is the best way to determine what's normal and what's not.

Pale Pink Comb Color

If a normally rosy comb turns pale pink, that can be a sign of anemia in the chicken, often caused by mites or lice. But before you panic, if it's molting season, that could be the culprit.

During a molt, a hen's comb will lighten up considerably.

A pale comb can also signal heat exhaustion, so keep an eye out on extremely hot days and provide lots of cool water, shade and water-laden treats like watermelon and cucumber slices.

Non-laying pullets that are not fully developed yet also tend to have pale combs. In fact, one sign that eggs might be in your near future is the deepening of the comb color, especially when accompanied by the submissive squat.

Incidentally, when a chicken lays an egg, her body draws blood to her vent, and as a result, her comb will get pale, but immediately turn red again once she lays her egg.

A pale comb can also indicate the presence of internal worms, especially when accompanied by watery droppings and a drop in egg production

A worm treatment is highly recommended if you confirm a case of internal parasites through a fecal test by your vet.

Purplish or Dark Red Comb Color

A purplish comb signals a lack of oxygen in the blood, poor circulation or respiratory/breathing issues.

Your chicken could have something caught in her throat if you notice her comb suddenly turn purple. In extreme cases, it can be the indication of a stroke or heart attack.  

If you suspect your chicken has suffered a stroke, consulting a vet immediately  is your best course of action.

Avian flu is another possibility if accompanied by other symptoms such as: 

  • lack of coordination
  • soft-shelled eggs
  • decreased appetite
  • lack of energy
  • diarrhea
  • swelling of the comb, head and eyelids
  • nasal discharge
  • decreased egg production
  • coughing
  • sneezing

Brown or Black Spots or Crusty Comb Color

One black spot on a single chicken's comb is normally not cause for alarm. It might merely be a scab from a pecking incident, scrape or other minor injury.

However, multiple black spots or patches that start white and then turn black, especially along the edges of the comb and appearing during the cold weather, generally signal frostbite.

A coating of coconut oil or Fresh Eggs Daily Herbal Salve can help prevent further frostbite and also help heal the currently afflicted areas

If you are battling frostbite, be sure your coop is well-ventilated. Moisture in the air will cause frostbite before the cold will. 

Brownish or black spots on the comb that appear in the warmer months can signal a case of fowl pox in your flock, especially when accompanied by:

  •  lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss 
  • if the scabs start off yellow, then darken
  • scabs on other unfeathered areas of the body, such as the eyelids or in the mouth

There is a vaccine against fowl pox, but fowl pox can be carried by mosquitoes, so keeping your chicken run and yard free of mosquitoes and your chickens' immune systems healthy is the best preventive.

White Spots on Comb

White spots could be a bit of fungus or just a dry area. Dabbing the area with some apple cider vinegar might help, then applying some coconut oil or Fresh Eggs Daily Herbal Salve to help the area from drying out further is beneficial.

Rosy, Deep Red Comb Color

A nice rosy, deep red comb is the sign of a healthy, happy laying hen or mature rooster!

Keeping an eye on your chickens combs can help you pinpoint possible health issues before other symptoms become evident. Remember, dark pink or red combs are healthy combs! 

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