When learning about chickens, we tend to focus on their exterior parts such as their large combs and wattles, their colorful plumage, beautiful shanks, long beaks, and flappy wings. But, do you ever take time to learn how chickens look on the inside? Have you ever asked yourself questions such as do chickens have tongues or do they have teeth?
To answer this question, I’ll say chickens indeed have tongues. In fact, their tongues are an important part of their anatomy as they play a critical role in eating and digesting their food. Without the tongue, your chicken will struggle and might not even survive.
But, since chickens eat while facing down towards the ground, it’s hard to see their tongues as they’re generally slender and pointy. So, unless you hold the chicken and open its beak, it’s quite hard to see its tongues. With that said, this short post will discuss the chicken’s tongue including its role and some interesting facts about it.
How Does a Tongue Look Like?
Now that you know chickens have tongues, the next question you’re likely to ask is how do their tongues look like. The appearance of a chicken’s tongue is quite strange and can’t be compared to that of other animals.
Their tongues are pretty small, pointy, and triangular. In humans, the tongues are attached to the bottom of the mouth while in chickens, their tongues are attached to the bottom of their beaks.
About the texture, a chicken’s tongue is hard and sharp with tiny ridges of bumps that cut across the middle part of the tongue. Their tongues resemble those of cats, as they’re quite rough like fine sandpaper.
Speaking of the color, chickens have pale pink tongues. However, the color varies from breed to breed. Lastly, we have the size of the tongues, which is usually small just like the beaks. Since chickens don’t stick their tongues out as most animals do, it’s hard to see them.
What Do Chickens Use Their Tongues For?
Just like humans and other animals, chickens can’t survive without their tongues. The tongue is used to accomplish different functions such as tasting food, rolling and controlling the movement of food in the mouth, latching insects and bugs, and aiding in producing different sounds that are made by chickens. So, for a clear understanding, let’s discuss each of these functions in detail.
Now, when discussing the tongue, most people ask questions such as do chickens have taste buds? The answer is yes. Chickens have taste buds. Actually, their tongues have taste buds though they’re not as strong as those of humans. The reason for this is due to their small slender sizes.
But, despite being small, chickens manage to detect several tastes such as sweetness in food. However, they’re not able to detect the spices in different foods. This is the main reason why chickens can comfortably eat foods with hot pepper.
Now, chickens eat by pecking food left scattered on the ground. Their beaks perform the function of pecking food and putting it in their mouths. From there, the tongue takes over by controlling the movement of food in the chicken’s mouth.
Next, the tongue’s barbs help to push the food to the back of the throat where its swallowed and transferred to the gizzard (which is the first stomach). Still, on eating food, the tongue helps chickens to latch on small insects and bugs from the ground when foraging.
Yes, you heard me well! Some birds such as the parrot can communicate. Unfortunately, chickens, unlike parrots can’t verbally talk but rather produce a wide range of noises that allow them to communicate with other members of the flock. Since each sound has a different meaning, the tongues allow chickens to produce a diversity of noises, which is essential for their survival.
Do Chickens Use Tongues To Drink Water?
No, they don’t. Chickens don’t use their tongues to drink water. Now, dogs and other wild animals such as lions use their tongues to lap up water. Humans suck water and use their tongues to control the movement of the water when swallowing.
As for chickens, they use a very unique way of drinking water, which is not convenient for other animals. What they do is they peck the water using their beaks and then trap it inside. Next, they tilt their heads or beaks skywards to swallow the water.
Although it sounds like a lot of work, chickens do it so fast that you don’t even see them struggling. Now, both chickens and humans have holes that connect to their nasal passages. These holes are located on the roof of their mouths.
If you attempt to swallow water while tilting your head upwards, the water might easily enter the nasal passage and escape through the nose. To prevent this, these holes in chickens, also known as choana, have valves that close automatically when a chicken tilts its head to swallow water.
A Deeper Look at the Chicken’s Taste Buds
Earlier on, we discussed the various functions of a chicken’s tongue where we listed three major functions. One of those functions is tasting. Here, we discussed the taste buds. So, in case you were wondering whether chickens have taste buds, then simply know they do.
Now, in this section, we would like to get deeper into a chicken’s taste buds. All chickens can taste food, which is all thanks to taste buds. However, chickens have fewer taste buds, which are in the range of 350. These are considered fewer than those of humans (10,000) and cows (15,000 – 20,000).
Now, there’s one obvious connection between the number of taste buds a particular species has and the size of its tongue. In both cows and humans, the size of their tongues is big thus creating enough space for more taste buds. Conversely, chickens have small beaks and small slender tongues that account for a limited number of taste buds.
Secondly, most of the taste buds in humans are located on the tongue. As for chickens, just 2% of their taste buds are located on the tongue with the rest located in the oral cavity. Lastly, the number of taste buds in chickens varies depending on the breed, age, and gender. For instance, roosters have more taste buds than hens.
Do Chickens Have Teeth?
Now, chickens are descendants of reptiles. However, they don’t have teeth as most reptiles do. The reason for this is that chickens have evolved and have a gene that prevents them from developing teeth. Instead of having teeth to use for cracking their foods, chickens have a gizzard instead.
The gizzard is located along the digestive tract of the chicken and its purpose is to grind food before its sent to the stomach.
Health Issues Affecting The Tongue
As we have discussed, the tongue is a key organ that plays a critical role in the overall survival of your chicken. Since it usually gets overused, the tongue can get injured or suffer from various health issues. So, in this section, we’re going to look at the various health issues that can affect your chicken’s tongue.
- Black Tongue: One of the major problems that cause the tongue of your chicken to blacken is an acute respiratory disease or simply a sign of Niacin deficiency. Other times, the tongue may be blackened, especially at the tip, due to severe drying when the chicken is breathing through the mouth.
- Fowl Pox: Fowl pox is a deadly virus that’s caused by mosquito or bug bites. This virus reveals itself in various ways such as black sores that appear on the combs, wattles, and legs of your chickens. It can also manifest itself through pale-skinned or white swollen lesions on a chicken’s tongue.
- Abnormalities: Although it’s rare, your chickens might have various deformities such as curved beaks. Such a deformity can make it hard for your chicken to swallow food leaving it with painful sores. Thankfully, such a deformity is treatable as it needs a vet to perform surgery to correct the problem.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Are Chickens Tongues Edible?
Yes, they are. However, due to the small size of their tongues, it’s hard to tell what they taste like. In most cases, people eat chicken tongues along with the head. This is different from cows’ or goats’ tongues, which are large and easy to tell the taste.
Q2. Do Chickens Stick Their Tongues Out?
No! Chickens don’t stick their tongues out as most animals do. The reason for this is that chickens have tiny tongues that have a very limited range of motion. However, there are cases when chickens might stick their tongues sideways. This happens when they’re sick or injured.
Q3. Do Chickens Produce Saliva?
Yes, they do. Since chickens don’t have teeth to chew food, they use saliva to wet the feed to make it easier to swallow. Now, the mouth of a chicken contains glands that secrete saliva. This saliva contains some enzymes such as amylase, which triggers the digestion of food by breaking complex carbohydrates before further digestion is transferred to the gizzard.
So, do chickens have tongues? The answer is yes. Although their tongues are small and hard to see, they play an essential role in their survival. For instance, tongues allow your chickens to taste food via the taste buds, direct food when swallowing, and produce different noises when communicating with other chickens. With that said, we believe that your question has been well answered.
Hello, I am John Reid. I have been raising chickens for the last 15 years. I have got my experience from my father. My father is the owner of a large chicken farm. This is our family business that has been continuing for over 35 years. I am very interested in backyard chickens and I know how to take care of them. You can learn more About Us here. Happy Reading!!