Chickens are the most domesticated fowls on the planet. They are normally used for plenty of purposes, including their meat and their eggs, though some chickens are kept just for the sole purpose of being pets. Each year, various factories use about 50 billion chickens to process meat and eggs as main ingredients in many food products.
Chickens are flightless fowls, and even though there are some instances when chickens lift themselves up from the ground, they can’t really go any further in the air. Chickens are omnivores, but that doesn’t mean they eat animal meat. Instead, chickens feed on both plant materials such as grains and crops, as well as insects and worms. That said, this begs the question, “do chickens have teeth?”
Do Chickens Have Teeth?
Chickens do not have teeth in the traditional sense; instead, they have beaks.
You might have heard about the adage, “rarer than hen’s teeth”, which means that something is exceptionally hard to locate. In connection to actual chickens, their teeth really are extremely hard to find –it is because they don’t have any!
Generally, birds really don’t have teeth, since it would make flying more difficult. Birds do not require teeth to chew their food as well since they have an organ called the gizzard that digests their food well. Chickens may not be very good at flying like other birds, but the causes as to why chickens and other birds lack teeth are quite intriguing.
Why Don’t Chickens Have Teeth?
Teeth somehow hinder any bird species’ flying abilities, which may have helped them evolve without them. As you examine chickens and other birds, you’ll observe that they have a number of ‘design’ features that assist them in flying.
Chickens, however, are flightless birds. They are, nevertheless, still birds with many of the same characteristics as flying birds such as feathers, beaks, wings, and hollow bones that all work together to aid birds in aerodynamics. That being said, chickens (and all other birds) have no teeth as they are heavy, and lacking teeth is such a significant advantage in flying. If birds had teeth inside their beaks, they would deform it, and might hamper their effectiveness in flying.
Even though chickens have sacrificed their teeth for flight, they haven’t sacrificed their appetite. Chickens are perfectly capable of eating anything they want using their beaks.
How Do Chickens Eat Without Teeth?
Unlike most animals, chickens do not need teeth to break down their food because they have a very unique digestive system.
If you’ve ever watched a chicken eat, you’ll notice that they peck at their food to split or break it up a little before consuming it whole. Chickens continually peck and smash a huge chunk of food against the ground, trying to break it down into tinier bits enough to be consumed.
The broken down food is subsequently used to feed their crop. The crop of a chicken is a component of her digestive tract that is found on her breast. Food is held in the crop before it travels deeper along their digestive system. Chickens use their crops to store food. It’s usual for chickens’ crops to be round and full before bedtime, and then flat and empty in the morning. During the day, the food they ingest combines with water and other liquids, as well as healthy bacteria, and is stored there.
The digestive system of a chicken starts to work when it is sleeping. Food travels from the crop to its stomach, which is known as the gizzard. Chickens don’t have or need teeth because their gizzard is a powerful muscle that contracts and ‘chews’ up food into tinier, manageable pieces. Nutrients are absorbed as food passes from the gizzard to the small intestines.
Anatomy of a Chicken’s Beak
The chicken’s beak is conical in shape and mildly bent. It is made up of thin, hornlike membrane that is used to scoop up food. The tip of the maxilla or the upper half of the beak overlaps the mandible or the bottom half, fitting perfectly with each other. On a normal day, you shouldn’t see any gap between these two parts of the beak. The lower beak can sometimes grow bigger than the upper beak, so when this happens, chicken owners must trim or file them down. If it grows a little too much, it can interfere with the chicken’s activities like eating and pecking.
The beak is made up of a number of distinct components and layers. Keratin, a hard skin surface formed by the beak’s dermis, protects the dermis, inner soft tissues, and bone by surrounding the outer section of the beak.
A triangular-shaped tongue can be found inside the beak where its tiny spikes capture food and push it towards the back of the chicken’s mouth. Just because they don’t have teeth doesn’t mean chickens can’t taste their food as well. In their tongues are few taste buds that aid in their limited sense of taste. The chicken’s two nostrils, or nasal openings, are located at the top of the beak.
Other Uses of a Chicken’s Beak
Baby chicks have beaks too. The egg tooth, a hardened region on the end of a baby chick’s beak, assists them to chisel their way out of their eggshell. However, this single tooth is lost within a few days after the chick’s birth. Beaks are also widely used by chickens in smoothening their feathers and grooming themselves.
Do Chickens Bite?
Chickens do not usually bite, but there is a good chance that chickens will try to bite you. You don’t have to be afraid of being bitten, nibbled, or anything like that because chickens don’t have teeth. If they think you’re going to hurt them though, hens can peck you, but there’s still no need to worry because they usually don’t hurt. Roosters, however, will peck you a little harder, and can even stab you with their spurs.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/baiajaku
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