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Hen anatomy: do hens have ears?

Do hens have ears? It’s really not that daft of a question, honestly! Because they’re so well hidden, you’d be forgiven for questioning whether or not hens have ears. But simply put, they do! 

Like us, and many birds, they have two ears located on each side of their head. And much like our own, they have eardrums, an inner, middle and outer ear and they hear just as well as we do! 

The reason you may not have noticed them is because they are hidden by a dense amount of feathering to prevent bits of dirt getting inside. If you gently lift up the ear flap you should see a clean dark round hole, which is their ear lobe. Did you know that hens actually start to develop hearing on day 12 of incubation? 

Do hens have ears?

As you can see from this graphic, a hen’s ear is located as you’d expect, on the side of her head, with the ear lobe just beneath.

hen anatomy of the ear

Can hens hear well?

When it comes to a hen’s hearing, rest assured they can hear you perfectly well, even if sometimes they have selective hearing! Just shake a dish of food and you’ll soon tell whether or not their ears are working properly. After all, before they were domesticated and reared for meat, chickens lived in the wild and faced daily threat from predators, meaning they had to be on the listen out constantly. 

There is a myth which suggests that the colour of the ear lobe will dictate the colour of their eggs; however, this simply isn’t true. If you look at breeds like the Ameraucana, who lay blue eggs, their ear lobes are definitely not blue! 

Can hens suffer with ear problems?

If a hen’s ear becomes infected it may be full of a yellow waxy substance. Ear infections can cause loss of balance, staggering and a ‘drunken’ appearance. This is probably one of the most undiagnosed problems with unsteadiness often being attributed to a stroke or neurological problem. It is easy to cure but will require antibiotics from your vet. 

The most amazing thing about hens is their ability to regenerate any damaged hair cells in their cochlea (inner ear) meaning that their hearing remains perfect throughout their lifetime. This is something that humans are not able to do and is the major cause of deafness in people. 

Visit our Hen Health page for more advice, view our Hen Examination Guidelines or click here to find your nearest Hen Friendly Vet

If you would like to ask us a hen health question please call our Hen Helpline on 01884 860084.  

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