As a chicken owner, you’re likely familiar with the various bumps, ridges, and warts that can develop on your birds’ combs. But now you are seeing black spots on your chickens’ combs and wondering what the cause could be. Although black spots may look terrible, the reasons behind these spots are not always malignant. Today, you will learn about the causes and treatments for black spots on a chicken’s comb. Let’s begin.
What is a Chicken Comb?
As you may already be aware, a chicken’s comb is a fleshy, red, and sometimes bumpy structure that sits on top of their head. It’s made up of cartilage and skin, and is covered in tiny blood vessels that help to regulate the bird’s body temperature. The comb also serves as a secondary sexual characteristic, as its size and shape can indicate a bird’s gender and overall health.
Different chicken breeds have different types of combs, ranging from single combs, to pea combs, to rose combs, among others. While combs are a normal part of a chicken’s anatomy, changes in their appearance or the development of black spots can be a sign of injury, disease, or other health issues.
Causes of Black Spots on Chicken Combs
There are many reasons why black spots may show up on your chicken’s comb. Let’s explore some of the possibilities.
The most common cause of black spots would be dirt or dried blood on the comb. Chickens can be brutal towards one another, especially when one chicken is being bullied by the others. When chickens have their combs pecked, it can cause the blood vessels just beneath the surface to rupture. Blood pools under the skin forming a hematoma, or bruise. So, those black spots you see are bruises. The hematoma under the comb will heal and disappear over time.
Disease and Infections
Black spots on a chicken’s comb can also be a symptom of certain diseases, such as avian pox or fowlpox. These diseases are caused by viruses that can be transmitted by mosquitoes or other biting insects. It can also be transmitted through direct contact with other infected birds or contaminated surfaces and water.
Fowlpox is especially debilitating though self-limiting. With love and care, a chicken with fowlpox will recover within weeks or months of getting the disease. However, until that time, fowlpox will impact the bird’s health greatly. Other symptoms of these diseases may include scabs, lesions, or a decrease in egg production. In some cases, the black spots may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as coughing or sneezing, indicating a respiratory infection.
Also, bacterial and fungal infections may cause black spots. The most notable include:
- Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus. These bacteria infect open wounds or scratches on the comb, leading to inflammation and blackened skin on the comb.
- Aspergillus and candida. These are fungi that can infect a chicken’s comb, causing black spots.
Some breeds are better suited for the cold than others. But when temperatures drop below freezing, all chickens are at risk of developing frostbite on their combs and wattles. Frostbite occurs when the tissue becomes damaged as a result of exposure to the cold.
Initially, the affected tissue may appear red and swollen, but as the tissue dies, it can turn black. Frostbite can be prevented by providing chickens with adequate shelter, insulation, and protection from the cold.
Fleas and Mites
Fleas themselves don’t typically cause black spots on a chicken’s comb, but their bites can cause irritation and inflammation, which could lead to the formation of a scab or lesion that could appear as a black spot. Fleas are more likely to be found on a chicken’s body, rather than on their comb. However, if a chicken is infested with fleas, they could be more susceptible to other health issues, such as anemia or respiratory infections, which could also cause black spots on the comb.
The same is true for red mites. Though black spots are not entirely common, these mites do cause irritation and inflammation. This potentially leads to the formation of lesions and scabs on the comb and wattles that look like black spots. Other symptoms of a red mite infestation may include restlessness, decreased egg production, and pale combs and wattles due to blood loss.
If you suspect that your chickens have a flea or red mite infestation, it’s important to take steps to control the infestation through regular cleaning and disinfection of the coop, and the use of appropriate insecticides or natural remedies.
Treatments for Black Spots on a Chicken’s Comb
The treatment for black spots on a chicken’s comb will depend on the underlying cause. In some cases, the spots may be harmless and will disappear on their own without treatment. However, if the spots are due to an injury or infection, treatment may be necessary.
If you have determined that the black spots are caused by scratching or pecking at the comb, the first thing you must do is disinfect the injury. Gently cleanse the comb with some warm water and mild soap. Afterwards, apply some disinfectant, like hydrogen peroxide or iodine. These are safe for chickens in small quantities. If the wound is deep or looks to be getting infected, it is best to take your chicken to the veterinarian.
Bacterial and Fungal Infections
If the black spots are due to a bacterial or fungal infection, the bird may need to be treated with antibiotics or antifungal medication. These medications can be administered orally or topically, depending on the severity of the infection.
It’s also important to identify and address any underlying factors that may be contributing to the development of bacterial infections, such as poor sanitation or overcrowding in the chicken coop. Regular cleaning and disinfection of the coop and other areas where chickens spend time can help reduce the risk of bacterial infections.
Has your chicken come down with avian pox? If the black spots are due to a viral infection, such as avian pox or fowlpox, supportive care is typically the only treatment available. This may include keeping the bird comfortable and well-nourished, and administering medication to help relieve any associated symptoms, such as pain or fever.
The scabs and lesions caused by these viruses generally fall off on their own or dry up. But there may be some cases where these scabs and lesions have to be manually removed.
You can also get your chickens vaccinated for viruses like the avian pox. However, vaccines are not effective for treating birds that are already infected with the virus.
Treating fleas, mites, and other parasites on (or in) chickens typically involves a combination of insecticide treatment and environmental management.
There are many kinds of insecticides available for chickens. These can be applied directly to the bird’s feathers and skin, and may be administered in the form of sprays, powders, or dusts. It’s important to follow the instructions on the product carefully and avoid getting the insecticide in the bird’s eyes, mouth, or nostrils. Diatomaceous earth (food grade) can also help prevent fleas, mice, lice, and other parasites that may cause external injuries and black spots on chicken combs.
You should also routinely deworm your chickens. Some products can be mixed into your flock’s water supply, making it easy to keep your chickens from getting infested with internal parasites.
It’s important to repeat the insecticide treatment and environmental management as needed to ensure that all fleas and mites are eliminated. The frequency of treatment will depend on the severity of the infestation and the specific product being used.
Keeping your flock free of black spots may be just as easy as keeping their habitat clean. By regularly cleaning and disinfecting the chicken coop and nesting boxes, you can prevent bacterial and fungal infections from forming. Furthermore, make sure the coop is well-ventilated to prevent any moisture buildup.
Next, give your chickens enough space and plenty of places to take a dirt bath. As mentioned earlier, chickens may develop black spots when they are injured. Overcrowding can exacerbate bullying and make chickens lash out at one another. Dirt baths are also essential when keeping chickens. Your birds are going to want to lounge in dirt, as that is how they clean their feathers and keep parasites from latching on.
Regularly check your birds for signs of infection, such as swelling or discoloration of the comb or other areas of the body. Early detection can help prevent the spread of infection to other chickens. If need be, quarantine those that have black spots on their combs until you can accurately diagnose the cause.
Finally, you can watch this video where farmers try to diagnose the disease of a rooster with black spots on the comb:
Final Thoughts on Black Spots on Chicken Combs
A range of factors exist that may lead to black spots developing on a chicken’s comb. Your chickens may have a disease, such as fowlpox, or they may be getting bullied. Sometimes, the black spots are just dirt. By understanding the causes of black spots on chicken combs, you can select the right treatment. Sometimes, there is not much you can do, so support your chickens with a clean environment and routine health checks.
Valerie has been content writing since 2016 for websites and companies all around the world. A traveler, dancer, martial artist, Valerie loves gathering experiences and wisdom. Her travels have taken her to over 20 countries, and she hopes to see more of the world soon.