Welcome to our series "Feathered Friend Friday." Every Friday I write a post with interesting facts, photos, or funny stories about our chickens and guineas. If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here.
Today's FFF is all about chicken combs! In case you don't know, the comb is the fleshy growth on top of a chicken's head (the circle shapes hanging from their chins are called wattles).
It's so interesting to me how combs can vary widely from chicken to chicken. There are about ten different types of combs for all the different breeds of chickens. Here's a great illustration I found on pinterest of all the different comb styles.
The major function of combs and wattles is to help cool chickens down, since they don't sweat (they do pant when they get really hot). Blood from the chicken's body travels to the comb and wattles where it reaches the surface and gets cooled down by the air, then it is recirculated back into the body. Chickens with larger combs are therefore more heat-tolerant. Chickabod (a white leghorn with a folded single comb) is a prime example of this.
She does well in the heat because of her small body size and huge comb. Jobin (a Delaware with a single comb) does pretty well in the heat also.
Buttercup (our golden laced wyandotte - my mother-in-law's favorite) doesn't tolerate heat as well as Chickabod and Jobin because she has a small rose comb.
However, Buttercup fares much better in the winter than Chickabod and Jobin because
larger combs are more susceptible to frostbite when the temperatures drop. If not treated (applying vaseline will help to prevent frostbite) they can actually get frozen, turn black, and fall off. Yikes!
Apparently combs can also help in the mating process, as roosters are attracted to hens with bright red combs, typically signifying they are fertile and regularly laying eggs. Although our roosters don't seem to care - they'll hop on anything that comes their way!