DOUBTS ABOUT THE MAGICAL WORLD OF POULTRY? #ASK THE EXPERT!
Chickens’ comb evaluation.
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Does the color and size of the comb tell us anything about hens’ health?
The comb of chickens (roosters and hens) is a secondary sexual character and is influenced by several factors: breed, age and hormonal activity, nutrition, production activity and health status.
Let we consider simple crested breeds as an example: depending on the breed, there are individuals with a highly developed crest (Italian, Livornese, etc.) and others with a smaller crest such as the Plymouth Rock or Rhode Island.
The white Valdarnese breed, for example, is among those Italian breeds with the most developed simple crest.
Obviously, age also influences the development and color of the comb as it is influenced by hormones.
When chickens change their feathers (molt) or when there are few hours of light per day (short photoperiod of less than 12-14 hours light/day) the comb is less developed and more faded because the animals are in a reproductive pause.
The crest also functions as a reservoir of dyes (the red/yellow used to color the yolk of eggs) and therefore a diet rich in carotenoids, green grass, etc. favours its colouration.
These reserves of coloring agents are then used in egg production, and so production intensity also influences the coloring of the crest in hens: the more a hen produces, the greater the use of yolk coloring agents and the more faded the coloring of the crest will be.
Finally, the health situation also influences the coloring of the comb: however, it is necessary to carefully evaluate the different situations since, as mentioned above, a faded comb is not always an indication of disease.
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