So, how many legs does a chicken have? Well, if you’re new to chicken anatomy, this is one question that’s likely to raise a debate. While some people believe chickens have two legs, others argue they’re four. Technically, chickens have two legs, two wings, and four toes on each leg. Those that argue the total number of legs are four usually consider the wings as part of the legs.
Now, there are many reasons why it’s important to understand the anatomy of the chicken. As a poultry farmer, understanding the different parts of a chicken is important as it allows you to describe them easily in case your chicken develops a problem that demands a vet checkup.
Secondly, you all know that chickens are a popular food in most parts of the world. So, whether it’s ordering a chicken dish in a restaurant or buying packed chicken pieces in a butchery or a supermarket, knowing how many legs, wings, and limbs a chicken has is crucial. That said, this guide will discuss the anatomy of the chicken as well as answer some pressing questions you might have regarding chicken legs.
Chicken Common Body Parts
If you’re a poultry farmer, the first step to understanding your backyard chickens is recognizing their different body parts. At least by understanding the various parts, it will be easier for you to handle any worrying symptoms your chicken might acquire such as illness or injury. So, let’s list some of these fascinating parts of a chicken.
|Comb & Wattles||The comb and wattles are considered the heating units of a chicken. They’re both red with the combs sticking on top of the head and the wattles hanging under the beak.|
|Beak||The beak is considered the mouth of a chicken.|
|Wing||Chickens have two wings with each wing consisting of four types of feathers. These are the primaries, secondaries, coverts, and tertials.|
|Sickle Feathers||Sickle feathers are only present in roosters. These feathers are for decoration and attraction.|
|Saddle||Saddle feathers are found on the back of both hens and roosters. These feathers are for decoration purposes. Roosters have more saddle feathers than hens.|
|Hackle||Hackle feathers are found on the neck area of both sexes. Hackle feathers on roosters are fluffier and more attractive.|
|Main Tail||Tail feathers help chickens to gain balance when walking or flying. Males have more attractive tail feathers than females.|
|Ear Lobes||Ear lobes are fleshly skins that are located under the ear holes. They can come in different colors depending on the breed.|
|Cloaca||This is an orifice at the back of a chicken. It serves as the reproductive system, for urinating and for releasing eggs (in the case of hens).|
|Hock Joint||The hock is like the knee. It’s the joint that separates the thigh and the shank.|
|Shank||The shank is the leg of a chicken. In roosters, the shank is where the spur grows.|
|Spur||The spur is a bone that grows at the bottom of a rooster’s shank.|
|Claw||A claw is a limb that projects backward from a chicken’s ankle.|
|Toe||Most chickens have three toes and a claw. Toes are the ones that get in contact with the ground.|
What are Limbs?
Now, to understand how many legs chickens have, you need to start by understanding some of these terms. Limbs, for instance, are body parts that are outside the actual body. They consist of wings, legs, and the head. In trees, the limbs are the branches that extend from the stem.
In addition to the limbs, there are other smaller appendages such as the toes, claws, spurs, earlobes, beaks, combs, and wattles among others. The limbs are made up of various bones, joints, and muscles that enable a chicken to walk, jump, run or fly.
How Many Limbs Do Chickens Have?
The reason why we’ve defined what limbs are is that most people tend to confuse limbs with legs. In fact, this is one of the main reasons why you’re reading this guide to try and correct this misconception. Limbs are appendages that are outside the actual body. So, in humans, we have both legs and arms as part of our limbs.
In chickens, the wings and the legs are considered limbs. So, in this case, most people will argue that since chickens don’t fly, the wings are not part of the limbs. Therefore, the total number of limbs should be two. Well, the truth of the matter is that wings are counted as limbs. Therefore, chickens have four limbs and not two.
Do Chickens Have 2 or 4 Legs?
Now, this question might sound stupid to most. However, considering that most people usually confuse limbs with legs, you’ll notice that this question does make sense. We mentioned that chickens have four limbs that include two wings and two legs.
Since legs are not the same as limbs, chickens, therefore, have only two legs. Remember, chickens walk in an upright posture using their two legs. They’re not like cats or dogs that walk horizontally with all four legs.
Now, the two legs in your chickens have different advantages. One is to allow your chickens to walk quickly and efficiently while the other is to allow them to fly in case of predator attacks. Lastly, legs allow your chickens to successfully perch on branches to roost.
How Many Toes Does a Chicken Have?
Again, most people tend to confuse chicken toes with limbs. I’ll not talk much about the limbs as I already defined them earlier. Regarding the toes, these are the ones that get in contact with the ground. Most chickens have four toes that consist of three facing forward and one claw facing backward. This alignment is essential as it guarantees good stability to your chicken when it’s walking or standing.
However, there are some rare chicken breeds with 5 toes on each leg. These breeds include the Dorking, Sultan, Faverolle, Houden, and the Silkie Bantam. To inspect the toes, you should place your chicken on a desk to have a clear view.
How Many Calories Are in a Chicken’s Leg?
A chicken’s leg consists of a drumstick at the bottom and a thigh at the top. This part of the chicken is considered meaty and very delicious, especially when cooked by a professional chef. Now, in a 3.5 oz (100 gram) serving of a drumstick without skin on, the total amount of calories you’ll get is about 175.
You’ll also get about 28 grams of protein and 6 grams of fat. Remember, when it comes to calorie count, about 70% of the calories come from protein while 30% come from fats.
Now, considering the drumstick/chicken leg has skin on it, the calorie count will automatically increase to around 216 for the same 3.5 oz serving. The reason for this is that skin has more fats and calories.
Which Animals Walk on Two Legs?
Now, the animal kingdom consists of many species of unique creatures each possessing unique specifications. When it comes to legs, some animals have none while others have dozens. Legs are crucial parts of the body as they help in locomotion, jumping, walking, and running.
While legs come in all sorts of numbers, those that use two legs for mobility are considered bipedal or bipeds. Bipedalism is the use of two legs to walk. Among the animals that use two legs to walk include humans, primates, kangaroos, penguins, and birds. Chickens are among those animals that are considered bipedal.
What’s the Name Given to Chicken Legs?
Chicken legs are often referred to as drumsticks. The reason for this nickname is due to the shape of the leg when it’s raw. Now, a chicken leg consists of two parts, the meaty thigh at the top and the drumstick at the bottom. The drumstick is the part that has a small knob of bone protruding.
When the chicken is cooked, most of the meat will accumulate on the top thigh section leaving the bottom section with an exposed bone. This look gives the leg a drumstick appearance, hence the name. So, the next time you see a drumstick on the menu, just know it’s simply a chicken’s leg.
What are Spurs in Chickens?
A spur is a pointy growth that develops at the back of a rooster’s shank. This growth is claw-like and resembles another toe developing at the back. A spur is hard like a bone and is formed by keratin, the same material that forms human nails and hair.
At first, spurs exist as small bumps at the back of the shank. In hens, it remains as a small bump throughout their lives. However, in roosters, this bump begins to form a sharp tip as the chicken ages. Eventually, what you get is a long, hard, and extremely sharp spur. Roosters use spurs for protection against predators and for defense when fighting with other roosters in the flock.
Do Hens Have Spurs?
Yes, they do. Hens develop spurs. In roosters, spurs develop in all roosters once they age. In hens, this is a rare feature that only occurs in specific chicken breeds. A good example of such breeds is those in the Mediterranean class such as the Polish, Minorca, and Leghorn among others.
In hens, you should note that spurs take a very long time to grow. Once they do, it’s always advisable that you trim them to lower the risk of injuries.
What’s the Purpose of Claws in Chickens?
Although chickens are not birds of prey, their claws are never considered useless. One of the main uses of chicken claws is scratching the ground when foraging or when sand bathing. Another crucial role of the claws is to help the toes to grab the roosting rod when getting ready to sleep.
Which Part of a Chicken’s Leg is Edible?
In most cases, the part of a chicken’s leg that’s edible is the meatiest part which happens to be the thigh and the drumstick. When a chicken’s leg is cooked, most of the meat accumulates at the top of the thigh leaving the drumstick exposed.
The area below the drumstick is the shank and is considered to have less meat. So, most people don’t actually eat this part. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any chicken feet recipes. These recipes are there and most people enjoy eating chicken feet a lot.
Why Do Chickens Develop Curled Toe Paralysis?
First, curled toe paralysis is a condition that causes chicken toes to curl inwards. This condition is most common in young chicks and is caused by a lack of Vitamin B2, commonly known as riboflavin. You see, when chicks hatch, they require feeds with enough riboflavin to meet their growing demands.
Since some commercial chicken feeds have lean amounts of riboflavin, this causes chicks to become riboflavin deficient causing them to develop curly toes.
Another reason that can cause riboflavin deficiency is feeding your chickens in a run that has direct exposure to UV rays. Remember, UV rays can destroy riboflavin easily. Therefore, if you happen to expose your commercial feeds to direct sunlight, the riboflavin in the feed will get destroyed and will not benefit your chicks.
Therefore, to prevent this condition, you should feed your chicks with fresh starter feed that’s not more than 2 months old. Also, you should provide your chicks with supplemental sources of riboflavin such as feeding them vegetables and cereals.
Of course, you’ve seen a chicken at one point in life. So, most of the things we’ve discussed here are easy to visualize. What actually creates confusion is the terminology where some people refer to the legs as the limbs or the toes. Thankfully, we’ve managed to clear the air for most of you. So, if you’ve read this guide up to this point, then I believe you’ve understood the entire chicken anatomy.
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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!!