Bird Anatomy Tips

Before we can begin to understand what our birds might be trying to tell us, we need some basic understanding of bird anatomy.

There is a lot to growing a bird!

Our birds, whether we keep them as pets or simply to fill our morning omelet orders, often become a much bigger part of our lives than we ever might have imagined. Luckily for us, we and our feathered friends are not so different from one another. Just like you and me, birds have a way of letting us in on what they are feeling. Whether they are upset about the weather, cranky because they are out of feed, or not particularly fond of their neighbor one nesting box over, they are not shy about letting us know.

Before we can begin to understand what our birds might be trying to tell us, we need some basic understanding of bird anatomy. Starting from their heads you might notice their comb resting on the tops of the heads and their wattles under their beaks. Both of these are extremely vascular areas important for temperature regulation. Chickens and other avian species do not have sweat glands like we do so this allows them to cool down on warmer days. 

You can also pay attention to the earlobe on the side of the head behind the eye. These are typically red or white and can give some indication to the color eggs your hens will lay. White earlobes would indicate white shell eggs while red earlobes indicate a shell with some extra pigmentation. This may mean a wide range of browns, blues, and greens. 

Finally, the lower part of the leg- from the knee joint to the toes- is referred to as the shank. This area has scales rather than feathers and is usually somewhere between bright yellow and white. The coloration comes from carotenoid pigments found in their diet. This can come from feed ingredients such as corn or marigolds. However, this coloration can serve as a great indicator of how well your birds are laying at a particular time. If the hen is laying well, you can expect her shanks to be bleached or white due to pigment deposition in the egg yolk. If the hen is not laying or not laying very well, you can expect her shanks to stay yellow. 

It is always a good idea to be familiar with the ways your birds might tell you that they are not feeling their best as well. Often this comes in the form of lethargy which means lacking energy. You may notice that your birds are not up and moving around as much or their heads hanging lower than is normal. It is also common to see discoloration of the comb and wattle as well as rattling or wheezing when they breathe. All of these things can indicate health issues in your flock. 

Although we may not always like to admit it, we and our birds are not all too different. We get a little cranky when we do not eat on time or even a little tired when we are not feeling our best. With that being said, the best way for you to boost your roost is to get to know your flock.  Luckily, Southland Organics is here to help. 

Watch the video below:

The Author
Allen Reynolds
Poultry Development
Allen has worked in the poultry industry for 15 years, gaining experience in raising birds, house operations, equipment and bird health. As our Poultry Development Rep, he is passionate about improving the lives of farmers through natural poultry solutions and education. In addition to outstanding customer service and superior poultry support, he is also involved in helping growers through our Poultry Biosecurity Youtube Channel. Allen works to stay up to date on the latest industry news to bring relevant topics to our subscribers. He is often seen as the host, sharing profitable tips and tricks to poultry farmers. Outside of the office, Allen enjoys working on the farm, scuba diving, and riding dirt bikes.