Successful chickens have the best combs

The red skin flap on a chicken’s head is called the comb, and it serves an important function in wild fowl. Males with the largest combs are preferred by females because it shows that they are a good quality mate. Scientists call the comb a ‘sexual ornament’ and have found that hens nearly always choose roosters with the biggest combs.

Comb size even affects relationships between females. Unlike some other animals, it isn’t the body size that determines who’s on top, but the size and colour of the comb. Females with the largest combs tend to be more dominant in the group, and yellow-red combs are better than pure red combs.

Weirder even still, hens with bigger combs lay the most eggs. The genes that code for comb growth are linked to bone density, and when bone density is high there is more calcium available for egg shells to develop.


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