Backyard chickens have taken the world of pets by storm. More and more people have taken to the internet to discover what kind of life they could have with a backyard full of chickens. One of the things prospective chicken parents must consider is whether the chicken’s comb is suitable for the environment they’ll live in. Most people consider the comb to be a cosmetic feature, but the comb is a vital organ for the chicken.

new chicken divider What Is a Chicken’s Comb?

A chicken’s comb is the red, fleshy bit on the top of the head. It’s a critical part of the chicken’s body temperature regulation. This sensitive bit of flesh acts as a natural air conditioning system for the chicken.

The 9 Types of Chicken Combs

1. Single Comb

Sumatra Chicken
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The Single Comb is the comb we most often think of when thinking of chickens. It sits upright from the crown of the head and features distinct peaks. Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, and Faverolles feature this kind of comb.

2. Pea Comb

Brahma rooster
Image Credit: Yasser Al-Mulqi, Pixabay

The Pea Comb sits very flat and close to the chicken’s head. Its small size is fantastic for chickens who will be raised in colder climates. Ameraucanas, Buckeyes, and Brahmas have this comb type.

3. Carnation Comb

close up of a rooster in a chicken coop
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The Carnation Comb is a very rare comb shape. The Carnation Comb is similar to the Single Comb. However, there are extra peaks on this comb that form right angles with the edge of the comb. Only two breeds have Carnation Combs, the Penedesenca and the Empordanesa.

4. Strawberry Comb

Yokohama chicken
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The Strawberry Comb sits forward on your chicken’s head and gets its name because it resembles a strawberry! Yokohama and Malay chickens feature this comb type.

5. V Comb

Sultan Chicken
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The V Comb is sometimes called the “Devil’s Horn” because the two peaks arc out like horns. The V Comb is uncommon and only found in a small group of chicken breeds, including the Crèvecœur, La Flèche, and Sultan breeds.

6. Rose Comb

The Rose Comb sits very flat to the chicken’s head. The flat shape prevents the comb from becoming frostbitten and is ideal for those who will be raising their chickens in a colder climate. A true Rose Comb will have a spike at the back of the comb. Dominiques Wyandottes display this comb shape.

7. Cushion Comb

Chanticleer Chicken
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The Cushion Comb is like a small version of the Strawberry Comb. It resembles a tiny cushion sitting on your chicken’s forehead. Chanticleer Chickens have this comb shape.

8. Buttercup Comb

The Buttercup Comb is the signature feature of the Sicilian Buttercup chicken breed. They are the only chicken breed with this comb shape. It resembles the single comb; however, the peaks arc out and forms a crown atop the head.

9. Walnut Comb

Silkie Chicken
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The Walnut Comb is rounded, and the peaks cover the surface much like a walnut. Silkie chickens have this comb shape.

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What Is the Comb Used For?

Body Temperature Regulation

As blood flows through the comb and wattles, it easily transfers heat from the blood to the surrounding air. The larger the comb, the more heat is lost.

When exposed to cold air, the comb can easily become frostbitten. So, chickens who were bred for cold weather tend to have smaller combs and wattles, since less heat is lost through a smaller comb and the smaller size leaves less skin exposed to the cold air.

chicken's eyes
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Establishing Hierarchy

Chickens follow a strict pecking order. Every flock will have some more dominant hens and roosters. The more dominant birds will generally have larger combs. This isn’t a universal law, but most chickens will follow the birds with the largest combs.

Mate Assessment

When chickens are old enough to breed, their combs will grow. When assessing which rooster or hen to court, most chickens will go for the chicken with the biggest comb.

Health Indicator

A chicken’s health status can easily be determined by looking at its comb. A healthy comb will be saturated red, purple, or black and should be prominent. If your bird’s comb has shrunk or begins to look pale, it’s a sign that your chicken is unwell. A blue comb could indicate poor circulation.

A chicken’s comb is a very important part of a chicken’s health! The prospective chicken owner should know what a healthy comb looks like. Here are nine comb shapes you might see while researching chickens.

close up of a chicken's face
Image Credit: Didgeman, Pixabay

new chicken divider Final Thoughts

Chickens come in all different shapes and sizes just like people. Many different comb shapes help chickens survive in all different kinds of climates and environments. Any prospective chicken owner should know what a healthy comb looks like, so they can best take care of their chickens.

Featured Image Credit: VP Praveen Kumar, Shutterstock