Author Archives: Gail Damerow

Why Do Chickens Wipe Their Beaks?

Why Do Chickens Wipe Their Beaks?

The easy answer to the question “Why do chickens wipe their beaks?” is because they’re birds. Beak wiping involves rapidly scraping alternating sides of the beak on the ground or other surface. It’s an important activity for all birds, except maybe waterfowl.   But why they do it remains something of a mystery, even to… Read More »

Do Ducks Have a Penis?

Do Ducks Have a Penis?

A male duck has a penis, unless it falls off. But that’s getting ahead of the story.   Like most birds, chickens don’t have a penis. But ducks, geese, and other waterfowl are among the few species that do have a penis. It’s a long, corkscrew appendix that remains inside-out, tucked within the duck’s body… Read More »

Do Roosters Have a Penis?

Do Roosters Have a Penis?

Like the males of 97 percent of all bird species, a rooster does not have a penis. An incubated egg that will become a rooster starts to develop a penis, but early in the second week of embryonic development, a cell death protein called Bmp4 cloaks the incipient penis, causing it to stop developing and… Read More »

Keeping Turkeys With Chickens

Keeping Turkeys With Chickens

Conventional wisdom says you should never keep turkeys and chickens together, because turkeys are susceptible to blackhead, a disease with devastating consequences. However, lots of backyarders raise chickens and turkeys together without a problem, and with some benefits. Here are three good reasons to keep turkeys with chickens, and two reasons not to.   Thumbs… Read More »

How to Trim a Chicken’s Toenails

How to Trim a Chicken’s Toenails

A chicken’s toenails constantly grow, just like a human’s. Unlike a human, though, a chicken can often keep its own toenails trimmed back by scratching the ground while looking for things to eat.   Scattering a small amount of scratch grain or some mealworms on the ground encourages chickens to scratch and keep their nails… Read More »

Dust Bathing Chickens Get Dirty to Get Clean

Dust Bathing Chickens Get Dirty to Get Clean

If you’ve never seen a chicken dust bathing, the sight can give you quite a shock. Lying in the dirt while vigorously twitching its feet and flopping its wings, the chicken first looks like it’s having an uncontrollable fit. Then it lies perfectly still in the hole it just dug, looking like death itself. Go… Read More »

How Many Chicken Breeds Are There?

How Many Chicken Breeds Are There?

No one knows how many different chicken breeds exist in the world, because no one keeps track. Wikipedia estimates hundreds. In her book The Behavioural Biology of Chickens, Professor C.J. Nichol of the University of London has counted more than 500 “fancy breeds” worldwide, described as ranging “from the sublime to the ridiculous.” These vague… Read More »