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Do Chickens Have Tongues? A Look Beyond The Beak

A yawning chicken; its mouth open

Do chickens have tongues? Don’t worry; I get why you’re suddenly wondering about this.

It’s not often thought about – an animal’s anatomy and digestive process.

If you’ve raised meat chickens or repurposed an older laying hen, you’ve likely done the processing yourself.

When removing the gizzard and crop, you might be surprised to discover these play an integral role in digesting chicken feed.

This begs the question if chickens don’t have tongues…

Do chickens have tongues?

Indeed, the answer is yes, chickens do have tongues.

A chicken’s tongue is a triangle-shaped muscle that sits neatly inside its beak.

You’ll not often see a chicken’s tongue as they spend most of their time with their head down, pecking, scratching, and clucking at one another.

A guaranteed sighting occurs when an overachieving rooster delivers his best “cock-a-doodle-doo”.

The tongue protrudes slightly and rises from the bottom of the beak.

do chickens have tongues - chicken with open mouth

What do chickens have tongues for?


Much like us, our feathery friends use their tongues for tasting, though it is believed that many of their taste buds are along their throats and beaks.


“Dinner time!” sounds entirely different than “Danger, hawk overhead!” to a chicken.

The squawking, purring, and occasional dinosaur shriek of a broody hen communicates different messages to flock members or you.

A chicken’s tongue plays a part in making these endearing egg-laying songs and barnyard mixtapes.

Suppose you’re interested in speaking chicken or understanding the dynamic these beautiful creatures have established through sound.

In that case, you can visit Chicken Noises: How to Understand What They Mean to be in the know.

Foraging Finesse

Chickens need their tongues to slurp a grasshopper, slimy worm or manage a long piece of hay.

The chicken relies on their sharp beak for precision while foraging, but the tongue enables the bird to manipulate the feedstuff in the mouth.

The tip of a chicken’s tongue is rigid, referred to as the lingual nail. It assists in scooping food, bugs, and pellets from the ground.

Tiny lateral barbs aid in moving the food to the back of the throat.

Interestingly, chickens do not use their tongues to lap up water like most animals.

A chicken scoops water with its beak and then tips its head back, letting gravity carry the water to the back of the throat.

The Chicken Tongue And Beyond

If you were unaware this flighty poultry had a tongue, you’d be even more surprised to learn their tongues play second fiddle to the choanal slit and glottis in the mouth.

Though technically part of the respiratory system, the glottis sits at the base of the tongue, closing when food passes by, allowing food into the esophagus and not the windpipe.

The choanal split cradles the glottis when the chicken’s mouth is closed, allowing air passage into the trachea from the nasal cavity.

Neat, huh? The choanal papillae on the roof of the mouth should be blunt and rigid.

Signs of dull or rounded papillae could indicate a Vitamin A deficiency.

Using A Chicken’s Tongue As An Indicator Of Health

After this chicken anatomy lesson, you should consider examining your birds to see if they are showing signs of being ill, choking, or otherwise out of sorts.

Fowlpox or Black Tongue are two ailments that a chicken’s tongue can signal issue to a Vet or chicken keeper.

As important as examining the wings, feet, and vent to determine problems with your bird, the beak also provides insight into your bird’s health. Even their hidden tongues!


Fowlpox can present in many ways, specifically on the tongue and mouth, with lesions forming in the upper GI and respiratory tracts in the diphtheritic form.

This slow-spreading viral infection can affect the skin and internal organs.

While there is no treatment for fowlpox, prevention methods such as vaccinations are available when the bird reaches 12-16 weeks.

If you need another reason not to like mosquitoes, here it is.

Fowlpox is transmitted by biting insects and then to other chickens through an infected bird’s feathers, dander, scabs, and blood.

Chickens will usually recover from fowlpox within 2-3 weeks. However, quarantine for the infected chicken and a complete coop clean can prevent it from spreading to your entire flock during this time.

Black Tongue

If you raise waterfowl or geese, you’ve probably heard the importance of the vitamin niacin in their feed.

But did you know chickens also require a certain amount?

Niacin, or Vitamin B5, is imperative to the overall health of your chicken.

A lack of niacin could prove fatal for your feathery friend.

Niacin deficiency will prevent, just as the name suggests, your chicken will develop a black tongue.

Commercial feeds include niacin, but if you rescue a bird with this issue, beets, fish, and sunflower seeds will add extra vitamin B5 to their diet.

FAQs on Do Chickens Have Tongues

Do chickens have teeth?

Chickens do not have teeth.

However, they have an “egg tooth” at the end of their beak that assists in breaking out of the egg, then dries up and falls off within 24 hours.

Chickens do not need teeth due to their gizzard, a muscle that specializes in grinding and “chewing” their food.

How long is a chicken tongue?

As you can imagine, the length of a chicken’s tongue is short, given its small, narrow beak.

The tongue measures approximately 2.3cm.

Can chickens taste spicy things?

Have you heard of adding pepper flakes to your chicken’s scrap bucket to boost egg production?

Lucky for the chickens, they do not have “spice receptors” for taste buds, so what is spicy to a human isn’t for a chicken.

Unfortunately for a chicken, sweet taste buds are also missing from their palate!


Conclusion: Do Chickens Have Tongues?

Yes, chickens do have tongues! And beyond being an integral part of their digestive system, a chicken’s tongue can also be a good indicator of its overall health!

While the chicken ailments and issues we mentioned above sound alarming (and can be stressful for the chickens and their keeper), providing proper nutrition, clean water, and keeping a clean coop can prevent many of these problems from infiltrating your flock.

READ NEXT: Can Chickens Eat Mushrooms: Everything You Need to Know

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