“Feel the crop,” I read on a chicken blog. Crap. I did my research, but I had no clue what a crop was. Was it the red thing on the head? My peeps seemed to just have fluff there. “Are the wattles turning a deep red?” another experienced chicken owner asked. Waddles or wattles? I should know this. But I didn’t. So I Googled yet again.
I was embarrassed, but you don’t have to be. Here are four common chicken parts explained for our new and prospective chicken owners. They’re not really all that tricky, but hey, you don’t know what you don’t know.
- Comb. That thing on the top of the chicken’s head that sticks up and (typically) turns bright red as they mature. Yes, both chickens and roosters have bright red combs. And they come in a variety of styles: pea combs, rose combs, single combs, walnut combs, etc. You get the picture. The comb helps a chicken stay cool.
- Wattles. Those flapping things that hang down under the beak. Like combs, they help chickens stay cool and they become a deeper red as the chicken matures.
- Crop. If you’ve only had mammals for pets, you might not know that many birds and other animals have crops. It’s a part of the chicken’s digestive system, and is used to temporarily store food and water before it moves through the rest of the digestive system. When the crop gets low or empty, a chickens will feel hungry again.
- Vent. Chickens have one hole, and that is the vent, also known as a cloaca in more technical terms. Chickens poop and lay eggs from here, which might be surprising to new chicken owners. While their digestive and reproductive systems are quite separate, chickens are the masters at economizing by using one hole to get both jobs done.
What chicken terms were confusing to you when you first started your flock?