Complete Guide To Chicken Combs: Types, Frostbite and More…

Chicken combs come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Some of the most common combs include the buttercup, cushion, rose and the classic single comb.

The comb is a fleshy red hat and serves more purposes than you think!

With all the variations in types it can sometimes be difficult to find out which comb your chickens have.

Although it may be intimidating it does not take an expert to tell chicken combs apart. With our guidelines below you will be identifying your chicken combs like a professional in no time.

Read on to learn more about the many types of chicken combs and what they do for your chickens…

Chicken Comb

What Is A Chicken’s Comb?

A chicken comb is a growth on top of a chicken’s head.

It is usually a red color and fleshy.

However on occasions the comb can be shades of purple or even black.

In total there are nine recognized types of chicken combs: buttercup, carnation, cushion, pea, rose, single, strawberry, V and walnut.

Interestingly a chicken’s health is tied to the appearance of their comb. A sickly looking comb is one of the first telltale signs that something is wrong with your chicken.

A healthy chicken will have a vibrantly colored comb. Depending on the type of comb shape it may even be standing up and looking strong.

The comb on younger chickens may look pinker – this is normal because they have yet to fully develop.

These variations are all normal.

However if your chicken’s comb looks pale or withered then it might mean that there is something wrong with your chicken (more on this later).

Why Do Chickens Have Combs?

Chicken Comb Close Up

There are lots of reasons why chickens have combs.

The first reason is because combs help chickens regulate their body temperatures.

When the environment and air temperature is warmer, it causes blood in the chicken’s body to pump faster. This causes blood to reach (and leave) the chicken’s comb more often which helps to reduce their body heat and cool down.

The bigger the comb the warmer the environment and air temperature can be since more heat is released with a larger comb.

A chicken’s comb is also an indicator of status in the chicken world.

Generally the rooster with the largest comb sits at the top of the pecking order.

A chicken’s combs is also a useful way to check on their health.

This is also connected with sexual attraction between chickens. Female chickens will be attracted to a male chicken with a vibrant and large comb because it implies that the male chicken is very healthy and likely to pass on strong genes to their offspring.

Finally it helps to tell each chicken apart.

In general roosters will develop combs faster than hens and they will also have more pronounced and larger combs.

Types of Chicken Combs

Buttercup

The buttercup comb looks like two single combs have been added together.

Interestingly only one breed in the world has this comb: the Sicilian Buttercup.

This comb type is great for chickens that live in warmer weather because the comb’s shape helps the chicken to cool down quickly.

Carnation

The carnation comb is also a rare comb shape.

Only the Empordanesa and Penedesenca breeds have this comb.

Its shape is similar to a single comb except it has some extra spikes and looks more like a crown.

Cushion

The cushion comb is very small and low to the head.

Unlike other combs that are bumpy and textured, this comb is very smooth.

It looks like a little cushion sitting on top of the chicken’s head.

One of the most popular chickens to have a cushion comb is the Chantecler. Due to its small and compact size the cushion comb is excellent for chickens that live in colder climates because it helps to prevent frostbite and preserve body heat.

Pea

Ameraucana

Pea combs are extremely small.

They have three ridges with the middle ridge being slightly taller than the other two. Each of the ridges has tiny bumps on them for texture.

Some of the most popular chicken breeds that have a pea comb include Brahmas and Ameraucanas. Due to its small size the pea comb is great for chickens living in cooler climates due to the fact that it is less likely to get frostbitten.

Rose

Golden Laced Wyandotte Close Up

Rose combs are extremely flat and hug the head.

This comb has many small bumps on it and ends in a spike like shape.

Some breeds that have a rose comb include Wyandottes and Dominiques.

Again because this is a small comb, chickens that have it are well suited to cold climates and are unlikely to get frostbite.

Single

Single combs are the most common type of chicken comb.

When people think of a chicken comb this is the one they think about.

It is thinly shaped and has five or six serrations (points) on the comb that resemble mountains. The serrations tend to be smaller at the front and back of the comb and more pronounced in the middle of the comb. Although this comb is known to be upright it can be lopsided and floppy in hens.

Both the Leghorns and Ayam Cemani have this comb type however the Ayam Cemani has a black comb.

The Ultimate Ayam Cemani Care Guide Cover

Strawberry

The strawberry comb is a flatter and low growing comb.

It is called the strawberry comb because they look like strawberries. It curves forward slightly with the thickest part of the comb resting on the beak.

The Malay breed is one of the most popular chickens with a strawberry comb.

V (Devil’s Horn)

Sultan

The V comb looks just like the letter V.

This comb is made up of two short towers that split off in different directions.

They almost look like little protruding red horns from the chicken’s head. This comb is also nicknamed the Devil’s Horn due to how it makes the chicken look.

V combs are rare and are not seen on many chickens.

One of the few breeds that has this comb is the Sultan.

Walnut

Walnut combs are lumpy and round.

Because they have grooves this comb looks like half of a walnut is sitting on top of the chicken’s head.

While walnut combs are generally red, the Silkie has a purple colored walnut comb.

Chicken Comb Problems

White Chicken Comb

Why Is My Chicken’s Comb Pale?

A healthy chicken comb is vibrant in color and firm to the touch.

However sometimes their comb can turn a pale pink color.

An abnormal looking comb can indicate that your chicken may have some health issues like mites or lice.

There are a variety of reasons why your chicken’s comb might be pale in color.

First of all it could indicate that your chicken is suffering from anemia. Anemia in chickens is often caused by fleas, lice and mites. In this situation you should treat the pests. Some techniques include carefully cleaning the coop and dusting the chicken for those common pests.

Once you have removed the pests their comb color should improve.

Similar to pests a pale pink comb could also mean that your chicken has some internal worms.

Make sure to check their poop and watch for watery droppings. To improve the color of the comb your chicken should be treated for worms as soon as possible.

A light comb can also indicate that your chicken has overheated. In order to treat this you should provide cool water and make sure they have some shade.

Finally it can be a sign that your chicken is about to molt.

Molting is a period during which chickens are losing and re-growing feathers. This is completely natural, normal and healthy. In this case there is nothing for you to do except wait until the chicken finishes molting.

After that the chicken’s comb should return back to normal.

Other Common Comb Problems

Funny Chicken Combs

There are several common comb problems with chicken combs that you should look out for:

  1. Multiple black spots on your chicken’s comb is a sign of frostbite. Frostbite is when the water in the chicken’s body tissue freezes. Blood cannot travel to the area and causes the tissue to die. Once the tissue has died it turns white or black. You should never remove these black areas (even when the chicken is healthy again). The dead tissue helps to protect the healthy tissue. You can prevent frostbite by simply moving your chickens into a warmer area or providing them a heat source so that they can warm up.
  2. Fowl pox is another comb problem many chicken owners have to deal with. Fowl pox is a highly contagious virus that causes white spots throughout the chicken’s body. They eventually turn into little warts and then scabs. The only thing to do is quarantine the infected chickens and wait the infection out.
  3. Avian influenza is generally nonfatal and will pass without issue. However there are strains that are deadly to your chickens if not treated right away. Symptoms of avian influenza include swelling in the face, respiratory issues, dehydration and a blue comb. You might also find that your birds have other symptoms as well, including blood coming from their nose. Unfortunately the only way to prevent the spread of the deadly strain of avian influenza is to euthanize infected birds.
  4. Pecking is a natural part of chicken behavior and curiosity. However sometimes this pecking can become excessive and damage the comb. Any chickens that are bullying flock members should be removed to prevent further injury to the comb (more on this later).
  5. Dubbing is the practice of removing a chicken’s comb. It was primarily used back in the day when cockfighting was popular. You should avoid dubbing your chickens. Chicken combs are an essential part of the chicken’s body that help to regulate their temperature, form pecking orders and so much more.

Keeping Your Chicken’s Comb Healthy

Flock Of Chickens

If you want your chicken to have a health comb then you need a healthy chicken.

This means you should be following good biosecurity measures, feeding them well and giving them plenty of space.

After these basic steps there are a few keys thing you need to do to keep your chicken’s combs healthy.

One of the biggest issues with combs is pecking.

You will need to use your own judgment to decide if the pecking is excessive or not.

When chickens are pecking too much you should remove the bullies from your flock.

However if the pecking is only occasional then you will need to treat the injuries as they come and keep a close eye out for any dramatic changes in behavior. Do not worry if the injury seems to be bleeding a lot. The comb gets a lot of blood flow from the body and wounds here will tend to bleed more than in other areas. Just apply pressure to the wound and wait for it to stop.

Another common issue with combs is frostbite.

During the wintertime you need to keep your chickens warm enough.

Remember once their comb gets frostbite it will not recover. You should keep them warm and use ointments or creams to protect their comb when the weather is freezing.

Apart from these two issues you should keep a close eye out for fowl pox and avian influenza.

Summary

It might be due to the number of comb types there are but there is so much to learn about chicken combs.

Although there are only nine types of combs each breed has their own variation on the comb type, making them completely unique.

Some combs are better for warmer climates and some are better for cooler climates.

For such a seemingly small part of the chicken’s body, chicken combs play a significant role in their overall health.

In general they are a great indicator that something is wrong with your chicken and are a reliable prompter to look for any underlying issues that might be impacting your chickens.

Hopefully you were able to learn a lot about chicken combs.

What was your favorite chicken comb fact?

Let us know in the comments sections below…

Chris Lesley Bio Picture
Chris Lesley has been Raising Chickens for over 20 years and is a fourth generation chicken keeper. She can remember being a young child when her grandad first taught her how to hold and care for chickens. She also holds a certificate in Animal Behavior and Welfare and are interested in backyard chicken health and care. Her work has been shared on HuffPost, Mother Nature Network, Community Chickens, Mother Earth News and many more outlets. Today Chris keeps 11 chickens including 4 Buff Orpingtons, 4 Rhode Island Reds and 3 Silkies. She is our backyard chicken expert at Chickens And More, and shares her knowledge on raising healthy, happy chickens with our readers. You can contact Chris at chris@chickensandmore.com

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