What disguised ears you have dear hen! All the better to hear you humans! From first glance, you may think that hens can’t have ears. But like us, and many birds, they have two, one ear 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. If you gently lift up the ear flap you should see a clean dark round hole, that is their ear lobe. Did you know that hens actually start to develop hearing on day 12 of incubation?
The Anatomy of a Hen’s Ears
There is a myth that 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 Ameraucanas, who lay blue eggs, and their eye lobes are definitely not blue!
If the ear becomes infected this hole 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 the unsteadiness 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 is always on point throughout their lifetime. This is something that humans are not able to do and is the major cause of deafness in people. One day perhaps the humble hen could lead the way in curing deafness in humans?
If you would like to ask Gaynor a hen health question please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Hen Central on 01884 860084. To support our Advice Line we ask for a nominal donation to help fund this service so that we can continue to help your hens.