If you’ve ever watched the movie Chicken Run you may have been misled into thinking chickens have a big shiny set of teeth which they use for smiling and chewing their food!
In reality, this isn’t actually the case, but chickens do have an interesting way in which they eat and digest their food which is completely different from our own way of eating and digestion.
Chickens don’t have or need teeth because they swallow their food whole and don’t need to chew their food. The food a chickens eats is then softened and broken down inside the chickens’ digestive system over a period of time.
Read on to find out more about the myths about chickens having teeth along with the full facts on how they grind up and digest their food without any need for chewing.
So, how do chickens eat without teeth?
When it comes to eating chickens are eating machines, especially if its something they really go mad for.
My chickens love their corn and grain mix which I give them late in the afternoon, they gather around my feet to the point where I can’t move and when I throw down the corn they peck like crazy to get every last piece eaten up.
When chickens eat food in this way they just want to eat as much as they can in one go before the other chickens get it all, so chewing really isn’t an option!
Once chickens swallow their food, the pieces are still whole and need to be broken down so the food can be digested properly. Firstly the food will move into the chickens’ crop where it’s softened before moving on for digestion, it’s then mixed with digestive juices before passing into the gizzard to be ground up.
Read on to find out more about these organs and what they do and also the things which you can do to help things along.
This article was first published on November 12, 2020 by Pentagon-Pets.
What is a chickens crop?
When chickens swallow their food whole it goes into the crop where it’s softened down.
A chickens crop is an oval-shaped organ which fills up with food that’s eaten by the chicken. The crop is located in the chest area of the chicken and it’s normal to see this area expanding when the chicken has eaten a large meal.
Once the crop is filled the softening process will take place over a number of hours before the food is ready to pass onto the next stage of the digestion process.
The time it takes for food to soften in the crop will depend on the type of food the chicken has eaten. This is why it’s a good idea to feed corn and grain to chickens later in the day so it can soften during the night as they sleep.
What is a chickens gizzard?
Once pieces of food have softened in the chickens crop it moves through to an organ called the Proventrculus (or stomach) where it’s mixed with digestive juices, before it passes into an organ called the gizzard.
The gizzard is a strong muscular organ which grinds (or chews) up the food which has been softened in the crop and digestive juices before it moves on through the intestines. Chickens eat small pieces of grit which pass into the gizzard to aid this grinding process further.
This means that a chicken’s body effectively chews up food hours after it’s been eaten rather than at the time of eating.
Do chickens bite?
Chickens don’t bite as such because they don’t have teeth but they do sometimes peck humans and other animals if they’re feeling threatened, if they think something is food or just because they’re being inquisitive.
Hens will tend to peck more when they’re younger and they think everything is a food item, one of their favourite things to peck are toes because they resemble worms and they’ll also peck at something shiny such as buttons or buckles on shoes.
It’s unusual for them to peck at humans in an aggressive manner unless they feel threatened.
Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article that was first published on November 12, 2020.
The exception of this rule are roosters who in some cases can be very feisty and like to prove that they’re in charge of their girls by packing at the feet of anyone who looks like they could be a threat.
Chickens will also peck at each other if one is stepping out of line in the pecking order, this is particularly common during feeding time where the top chicken or chickens like to keep the lower chickens in order.
Some roosters will also peck at female hens to keep them in line and they will also peck at their backs quite aggressively during mating.
Why are hens’ teeth so rare?
The reason people can be misled into thinking that chickens have teeth is because of the saying ‘as rare as hens’ teeth’.
The term as rare as hens’ teeth basically means that something is non-existent because as we now know, chickens don’t actually have any teeth making them not only rare but also non-existent.
It’s since been discovered that chicken-type animals who had teeth did live in prehistoric times, however, this is not the case for modern-day birds who have evolved to be completely toothless.
What is an egg tooth (in chickens)?
Another reason why people can be fooled into thinking chickens have teeth is because chicks do actually have something called an ‘egg tooth’ when they first hatch out of the egg.
The egg tooth isn’t a tooth as such, it’s a small and extra part of the beak (on the very end) which helps the chick to break out of the egg when it hatches. The egg tooth breaks off very soon after hatching because its no longer required.
I hope this post has helped you to find out more about chickens teeth (or lack of)! You might also like to read the following related post:
Do chickens need a light at night?
Will chickens use a cat or dog flap door?
Our recommended coop
Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.
This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on November 12, 2020.