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What are the red things on chickens called?

If you’ve ever looked at a chickens face closely it might seem like there’s a lot going on there and especially if the chicken is a rooster.

Once a chicken reaches maturity their faces develop and fleshy red appendages grow on the top of their heads and below their chins. If you’re here on this page you’re probably wondering what these are and do they serve any purpose?

The red thing which grows on top of a chickens head is called a comb and it can appear in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the breed. The red flap-like growths under a chickens chin are called wattles and will these will grow in size as the chicken matures and ages.

Read on to find out more about the purpose of a chickens comb and wattles along with more info on the various types.


Why do chickens have wattles and a comb?

The exposed skin of the comb and wattles is thought to help chickens to regulate their body temperature, however, their main purpose is for display.

As with many birds, the male rooster tends to be more attractive than the female, along with the comb and wattles, many roosters also have impressive plumed tails and feathers of various colours.

They use all of this to their advantage so they can be the most impressive bird who wins over the hens in the flock.

As well as being top bird amongst hens, the rooster also wants to look as scary as possible to ward off any potential competition from other males as well as protecting his hens from danger.

A rooster with a large bright red comb and wattles will not only look more attractive to hens, but they can help to make it look as threatening as possible.


Types of chicken combs

Chickens have various types of chicken combs depending on the breed, below are some of the main comb types:

  • Duplex or Horn Comb – a V-shaped comb found in the rare breed La Fleche.
  • Leaf Comb – a leaf-shaped comb found in the Houdan breed.
  • Pea Comb – a small comb which is flat at the front and peaks towards the top.
  • Rose Comb – a large bumpy comb which peaks at the top.
  • Single Comb – one single comb with upward-pointing spikes.
  • Strawberry comb – a bumpy comb which resembles a strawberry.

One of the most common combs you seen in backyard hybrid chickens is the single comb (see image on the left).

The size and appearance of the comb can vary a lot between breeds, for example, the Leghorn which has a large floppy comb which hangs over to one side almost covering their eye.

Image of various types of chicken combs

Chicken comb development

Chicken comb development is a good guide of the age of the chicken and will show when a hen is ready to start laying eggs for the first time.

As the chicken reaches around 16 to 20 weeks old they will have developed a small comb and wattles, which will continue to grow until they’re fully matured.

The image below shows a close up of one of our hens on the same week that she started to lay eggs when she was around 20 weeks old. The sudden growth of the comb and wattles will usually occur a few weeks before they reach this stage.

Before this, young pullets will only have a very small comb and they’re not visible at all in young chicks.

Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article was first published on November 24, 2020..

As well as comb growth, it will also darken in colour as the chicken matures and as a hen reaches laying age. The wattles, face and earlobes will also darken at the same time.

Image of a chicken at laying age

FAQ’s about chicken combs and wattles

Do hens have wattles?

Like roosters hens also have wattles under their chins, but they’re usually much smaller than the wattles you’d find on an adult rooster. A hen’s wattles grow and develop once they reach laying age at around 18-20 weeks old.

Are all chicken combs red?

Although the shade of chickens combs and facial features can vary from breed to breed, these are all varying shades of red. A chickens comb will darken as they become older and reach maturity.


Related articles

I hope this article has helped you to find out more about chickens wattles and combs, you might also like the following post:

Do chickens have ears?

Ex-battery hens laying soft eggs – why & what you can do

Why do chickens chase you?

Why do Chickens Peck Your Feet?

Verm-X for chickens – how and when to use it


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This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on November 24, 2020..

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