One of the most prominent and defining features of poultry birds is their beaks. They use it for different activities but most especially for eating food. But do chickens have teeth?
Well, the answer is no, chickens don’t have teeth.
Unlike humans, chickens don’t have teeth, but once in their lives, they develop an egg tooth that eventually disappears.
But what is its purpose, and why can’t we see any chicken with teeth?
If you want to know everything about chicken teeth, then you came to the right place.
In this article, we’ll also discuss:
- Why chickens don’t have teeth
- How do chickens eat without teeth
- And how important are beaks
So if you want to learn more about chickens, this is for you!
Do Chickens Have Teeth?
Let’s start with the male ones. Do roosters have teeth? The simple answer is no. They don’t have even a single tooth.
How about hens? Do hens have teeth? No. That’s why they rely on their beak and grit for food digestion.
But it’s a different story for their chicks because, unlike roosters and hens, they have teeth when they’re still inside their shell, which is called an egg tooth.
And it’s the only tooth they’ll ever have in their entire life.
What is the egg tooth for?
Simply put, the egg tooth is the harder area on the tip of the chick’s beak, and baby chicks use it to break their shell when they’re developed enough and ready to face the world.
However, they lose the tooth just a few days after the hatching, leaving them only their beaks with no teeth at all.
But why don’t birds have teeth?
Why Don’t Chickens Have Teeth?
While the answer is still a mystery yet to unfold, what we know for sure is that chickens are prey animals.
Since they’re at the bottom of the food chain, that could be the reason why they have developed a dine-and-dash system.
It allows them to eat quickly, digest, and fly away instantly for their safety.
Even though teeth are very helpful, they can hinder a bird’s flying abilities.
On the contrary, having no teeth gives them an edge when flying.
It also helps prevent them from getting their beaks deformed and hampering their flying abilities.
But if chickens don’t have teeth, then how do they break their food into pieces?
We’ll dig into that in the next section below.
How Do Chickens Eat Without Teeth?
Since chickens have no teeth, they must resort to other methods to break and digest large foods into pieces.
So, how do chickens eat without teeth?
One way is by repeatedly pecking at it and banging it against the ground to break it into small pieces until they’re able to swallow the food.
They then store it in the chicken’s crop, which refers to the balloon-type pouch located at the base of the neck, on the right side of the center.
The food they consume during the daytime combines with water and other liquids and good bacteria and stays in there.
They usually look round and full at bedtime because their crops are full.
But it empties and looks flat in the morning. Therefore, they need to forage for food to fill their crops again.
The food stored in their crop goes down the digestive tract, and when it reaches the gizzard, that’s where the chewing occurs.
While foraging for food during the daytime, they also collect and pick up small stones and pebbles and swallow them.
What Are Grit Used For?
Do chickens eat them on purpose? Is it harmful?
Well, grit is used in the gizzard to break down the food until it’s tiny enough to pass through the intestine.
Those who don’t allow their chickens to free-range provide them with commercial grit because these birds need constant replenishment of grit supply.
You can offer it free-choice to your poultry birds as well in a separate dispenser or chicken feeder.
But it’d be easier if you could let them forage because they know when they need to get more grit and where to find it by themselves.
You don’t have to worry about them overfeeding or overconsuming grit because they know how much to eat through their instincts.
It’s worth noting, though, that grit, pebbles, and stones don’t provide any nutritional value.
However, it’s still important for digestion, so they eat them along with their usual chicken feed.
But are they safe for your flock? Will it have a negative impact on their digestive system?
Interestingly, every chicken gizzard is well-protected from grit thanks to their multi-layered gastric cuticle membrane, which is composed of a carbohydrate-protein complex.
So, you don’t have to worry about your chicken’s grit consumption.
The Anatomy of Chicken Beaks
Chicken beaks are conical in shape and slightly bent. That’s why they can easily scoop their food up.
The tip of the maxilla or the beak’s upper half perfectly fits and overlaps with the mandible or the bottom half.
If the chicken is well-groomed and perfectly healthy, you won’t see any gap between these parts of the beak.
However, there are times when the lower beak or mandible grows bigger than the upper one.
It could result in eating problems because it can make pecking difficult.
In such cases, chicken beaks must be trimmed or filed down.
Some chicken owners DIY chicken beak trimming, but it’s best to leave it to your avian vet to ensure your bird’s safety.
Beaks are sensitive, and messing up the trimming can cause bleeding and put your bird’s life at risk.
Chicken beaks are composed of tissues, dermis, and bones, and they’re protected by keratin, a hard skin surface that surrounds them.
As for chicken tongues, they’re triangular in shape and can be found inside their beak.
Its role is to capture food with its tiny spikes and push it toward the back of the chicken’s mouth.
Just like humans, chicken tongue comes with taste buds that allow them to have a limited sense of taste.
Chickens also have nostrils which are located on top of their beak.
Why Are They Unique?
Chicken’s digestive system is built differently from humans. But since they’re common prey in the wild, it’s helpful for them, especially at times of danger and attacks.
Since their organs do the job of chewing the food for them, they spend less time eating and gobbling up the food.
Therefore, if there’s a predator stalking them, they can easily run away because they digest it while moving.
But the days of being toothless might be ending soon due to the latest studies regarding chicken beaks.
The old saying “as rare as a hen’s teeth” may not be applicable in the future due to recent developments in studies about growing hen’s teeth.
What did the researchers find, and why is it a huge discovery? Let’s find out below.
Growing Teeth on Chickens
Many scientists believe that chickens had teeth but lost them 80 million years ago.
While it’s unknown how, what we know for sure is that it’s possible now, thanks to technology and various research efforts of scientists worldwide.
How did researchers manage to grow teeth on chickens?
Well, according to Matthew Harris, the lead researcher from Wisconsin, the secret is isolating the latent genetic pathway that encourages teeth growth.
By turning the gene that’s involved in the growth of skin, hair, glands, and teeth in the oral cavity, the underlying tissue responds to the signal and enables it to grow teeth in chickens.
This research is a breakthrough because the teeth grew naturally; they didn’t import anything from other animals into the chickens.
The University of Manchester team member Professor Mark Ferguson believes that the study on the reactivation of latent genetic pathways could eventually assist in curing people with scarring, where tissue regeneration is required.
Uses and Importance of Birds’ Beak
Every bird has a beak which is crucial for their survival. And our feathery friends use their beaks in different ways.
But its primary functions include eating, grooming, nest building, and defense.
But how do they exactly use it for that purpose?
We’ll dig into that below.
Foraging and Hunting
Chickens pick up seeds, corn, and grains through their beak. It’s what helps them break fruits and vegetables down into smaller pieces for easier swallowing.
Since the chicken beak is short and not that thick, it’s not designed to tear meat or sip nectar.
Building a nest requires time, skill, and a beak.
Since they don’t have hands to carry out this task, birds collect the materials and construct and shape the nest with the help of their beak or bill.
Feeding Their Young
Birds also use their beaks to feed their young, who cannot feed themselves.
Each bird has a unique bill shape that allows them to hunt for food and bring them back to their nest.
Whether they’re bringing insects, seeds, meat, or berries, their beak enables them to fulfill their duty to their offspring.
Birds also utilize their beak to remove bugs, dirt, loose feathers, and other debris from their body.
This way, the birds can stay in perfect shape and be ready for flight.
Without a beak and preening routine, poultry birds’ plumage will become either oily, matted, or plagued with mites and other parasites.
Regulating Body Temperature
Another vital function of beaks in chickens is it allows them to regulate their internal body temperature.
According to a study conducted by Glenn Tattersall, a zoology professor at Canada’s Brock University, by pumping blood through their beaks, toucans expel up to 60% of their body heat.
This way, they don’t lose water, and they can save energy for other activities like singing.
Chickens can also expel heat in a similar way.
When the bird is threatened or attacked by a predator, it will utilize its beak to peck, stab, or bite the predator.
It’s a built-in defense mechanism for vulnerable poultry birds.
Although their beak is not enough to protect themselves, they can still cause injury and hurt their predators a little.
Frequently Asked Questions About Chicken’s Beak
Here are the answers to other common questions about chicken beaks and teeth.
Do chickens have teeth and a tongue?
Chickens do have triangular tongues, but they don’t have teeth.
Unlike us, chickens break their food by banging it against the ground, and after swallowing, the gizzard will digest their food with grit in their gizzard.
Are chickens toothless?
Yes, chickens are toothless, but their gizzard makes up for their lack of teeth.
This powerful muscle that contacts and chews food into tinier pieces also receives a little help from the grit that chickens get when foraging for food.
Do chickens bite?
Chickens don’t bite; instead, they peck at things or at people.
They peck at anything that looks tasty and shiny.
Although their beaks are tiny, it’s sharp and can cause damage, especially if accompanied by germs. A little bite or scratch can cause infections if your poultry or waterfowl carry bacteria and diseases.
Do Chickens Have Teeth: The Final Recap
Chickens, the most domesticated fowl on the planet, don’t have teeth.
But they have beaks which is a great alternative for teeth. It enables them to catch their food easily, groom and protect themselves from large predators.
It also allows them to expel heat out of their body, thus helping to regulate their internal temperature.
Even if they can’t chew their food due to a lack of teeth, their gizzard was built to chew the food for them with the help of a little grit.
Having no teeth is also advantageous for chickens because it allows them to be alert and fly away quickly if a predator attacks them while eating.
Now that we’ve answered “Does chicken have teeth” and talked about the importance of their gizzard and grit, don’t forget to add their grit into their diet.
It doesn’t provide any nutrients, but it helps grind food into smaller, digestible pieces, making their digestive process quicker and smoother.
Do you want to know other cool facts about chickens?
Check out the article below to uncover the mystery behind chickens’ lack of sweat glands and their unique heat dissipation methods aside from beaks.