Anatomy of a Chicken

The Anatomy of a chicken.

by Karen.



Tip To Tail

There are several types of chicken combs.  Between my 4 chickens I have 2 single, and 2 pea combs.  Single Combs are dominant in Rhode Island Reds and Pea Combs are often seen in Ameraucana or Araucanas.  My chickens with the Pea  Combs are the ones who lay the green/blue eggs.









Wattles aren’t just for laughing at.  Blood flow from the comb to the wattle helps regulate the chicken’s temperature.




When chickens eat, the food they consume for the day is stored in their Crop.  This sac at the very front and bottom of the chickens chest gets bigger and bigger as the day goes on and the chicken eats more and more.  You can feel it with your fingers.  After the crop, the food moves to the chicken’s gizzard where it’s “chewed”.  Chicken don’t have teeth, so they eat small pebbles and stones, which they store in their gizzard.  These stones in their gizzard, “chew” up their food.





The vent is the workhorse of the chicken.  It’s the star of the show.  The vent does it all.  Poops, pees, lays an egg.  It all comes out of the same place.  The vent.  Think of it as the chicken Vaganus.


Vent Up Close



The anatomy of a Chicken.

by Karen.


  1. yowza, could have done without the vent so up close and personal! Cute hens tho!

  2. Liz S. says:

    Omg! I did not expect such an up close and personal picture of a chicken’s ass!

  3. JebberA says:

    As my mother would say … “you’re something!” Yup Karen, you’re something indeed.

    As often the case with your blog, I learned something new. I learned that I want to wash all my eggs.

  4. Diane T says:

    Good Lord. Can we just see feathers and eggs? Much prettier. I think I just entered the realm of no chick/egg eatin’ Chicken violater Karen ! lol You are like the Hef of chicken nekid. eek.

  5. Janey says:

    You gave us a Warning for your pic falling down the stairs but we just get to scroll blissfully unaware to chicken taint? Wow.

  6. Jenn says:

    Having been up close & personal with my polish crested hen’s “vaganus” during a prolapse episode 2 years ago, I can say this is probably as close as you want to get.

  7. You can’t shock me, I have cleaned chickens (as in disembowelled them). As a child. It explains a lot.

    • Karen says:

      Good! I wasn’t really looking to shock. I just figured, well … the vent’s the most important part. Can’t really do the anatomy of a chicken and not show that! By the way … you frighten me. Now. ~ karen

      • Honora says:

        Thank you for these pics.
        We just received our first chicks. 15 in all. After 4 days I have one or two that do get pasty butts. Reading and understanding the “workings” of the vent and necessity for proper care is so important.
        So far so good. Thinking of developing a chick bidet.

  8. Rita says:

    VAGANUS. perfect description and probably no truer word spoken! For that very reason, I always always ALWAYS wash my hens’ eggs before I crack ’em! And by ‘wash’ I mean ‘SCRUB’ …. with soap!

  9. gloria says:

    T. M. I. I think I was more grossed out by the black boogers in the nostril than the vent shot. I must say though, a pretty clean vent. But what do I know?

  10. Liz E. says:

    This post is awesome. And very informative. And beautifully photographed.

    I particularly like the expression of the chicken that’s peering at you as you’re taking a photo of its vent. She’s all, “What on earth are you doing back there?”

    For some odd reason, I found the extreme closeup of the nostril more disturbing than the vent. Perhaps because it looked less clean.

    • Karen says:

      Liz E – They get dirt in their nostrils sometimes from rooting around looking for bugs and stuff in the dirt. It isn’t beak boogers. Just so you know. 🙂 ~ karen

  11. Kitt says:

    Wow, learn something new every day! Chicken vents are freaky.

    (p.s. I think it’s “wattle.”)

  12. Amber Lew says:

    My first thought was “who’s Vaganus?” Then my husband explained it to me. Which takes us to the new insults you have inspired in him. For example, calling someone an assvag. Or, for a more subtle insult, calling someone a vent. In the case of a ginormous asshat, they shall be called “Vaganus Prime”.

  13. Julie says:

    The look on the hen’s face in the first vent photo is priceless!

    • Diana says:

      Hey Julie,
      I thought the same and giggled because the chick looks at it would say:”You!!! Even if you`re jealous, get off!!!”
      So I didn`t look at the vent….

  14. Julianna says:

    The next time my 5 year-old gets me with “Guess What? Chickenbutt!” I’m showing her this picture! Or will that scar her for life? Hmmm. Nah. Totally doing it.

  15. Kate says:

    Holy smokes, Karen, I’m at work here! I’m not sure if I just violated our company internet use policy with the vent.

  16. Elle says:

    In a web full of cats pictures – this is so refreshing!
    I’ve never seen a chicken ear before – didn’t even think about it before.
    When my kids are back from school I’ll show them where the eggs they love so (my eldest can eat half a dozen eggs every day if not stopped in time) come from(chuckle)

  17. Sarah says:

    Great photography!

  18. Deborah says:

    *WHAM!* That is me hitting the floor after viewing your hen’s *private parts*….sheesh…is there no modesty afforded your hen’s? You never cease to amaze me with your posts…always an adventure!

  19. Antonia says:

    Great photos as always!

  20. Marta says:

    Hi Karen! My good friend in Georgia keeps a handful of chickens and claims that the egg color of each chicken matches the inside color of their ears. Have you noticed this?

  21. christine hilton says:

    Ew.I hate chickens now.

  22. Elizabeth says:

    Is it really called a waddle? I’ve been calling it a wattle all my life.

    • Karen says:

      Elizabeth – LOL, no, you’re right. It is “wattle”. I was having “issues” when I wrote the post. ~ karen

  23. Not offended by the chicken vaganus here…but what cracked MY ass up was the first shot of the “vent”–where your chicken is giving you the lookback! As if to say…”WTH are you taking a pic of?

  24. Ann says:

    Way cool Karen,

    But how did you ever get those chickens to be still enough to get those shots.

    BTW-have any of your girls gone broody yet? 2 of mine started in just this week. My oh my, what an experience. I am still trying to break the broody cycle to get them laying again. And yes, they can go broody with no rooster and no eggs to sit on.

    • Karen says:

      Ann – Not yet. That’s, along with a prloapsed Vaganus, is something I still have to look forward to. ~ karen

    • Amy in StL says:

      This is weird, I know, but according to my almost 90 year old dad when a chicken goes broody you put a bucket over it for a day. I have no idea how that works; but it apparently breaks the cycle.

    • Rita says:

      We have a six year old Buff and she gets broody every Spring, for about a month’s duration, every single year. She’s about 2 weeks behind schedule this year. The first year, being novices, we thought she was egg-bound and gave her warm baths for about a week. LOL! Now we just let her sit … and wear really thick gloves when we go in for eggs….

  25. Anita says:

    Chicken porn fisrt thing in the morning. I would have never guessed that is what would happen today. 😉

    • Sherry says:

      Bahahaha, now I’ve laughed so hard I won’t be able to sleep….it was kind of erotic starting at the head that way…. poor chicken…. but seriously – that was interesting – hope looking at this porn doesn’t mean I have to wipe my ‘history’

  26. Karen Boreham says:

    The “vent”(such polite prephrasing, by the way) surprisingly was so much cleaner than the nostril.

  27. Melody Madden says:

    Interesting Karen. I feel totally versed on the anatomy of a chicken now but those pics scared me … Especially of one with the creepy eye .. May have nightmares

  28. Lyn says:

    All I can say is, I just love your blog! Never know what you’ll get, but it’s always interesting!

  29. Kris says:

    Love Love Love your chicken stories (all your stories really)…have a new backyard flock and enjoying going back and reading all your posts of the process!

  30. Rachel says:

    Thanks again for enlightening me Karen…I grew up on a chicken farm and turns out know nothing about the anatomy of the chicken !

  31. Angela says:

    Now I know more about a chicken’s vajayjay (gotta love Oprah!)than I ever wanted to know! Always entertaining…

  32. Carol S says:

    I’ve learned something new for the day. (Whew, got that over with!)
    LOL aside, I do so enjoy your educational blog, Karen. Internet education at its’ finest. Carry on! 🙂

  33. I think I just changed my mind about wanting chickens. *_*. Or I may be Vegan now. Either way, I still want your coop.

  34. Wow. Amazing. And I am very impressed that you were able to capture these photos.

    I haven’t been following as closely as I should, but wasn’t there a possible legal issue about you keeping chickens in your neighborhood? Hope all is well with that.

  35. Karol says:

    “Vaganus”, now that’s a good word.

  36. Amanda says:

    I think it’s particularly amusing how your subject was looking back at her rear while you were photographing….LOL. For us chickenless folk? Very educational. Thank you!!

  37. Shari says:

    “VAGANUS” (giggles)Love it!

  38. Mary Kay says:

    Thank you Karen – I learned something new – and got a good chuckle and a OMG to start my day!

  39. Lynn says:

    Vaganus! Thusly named from this day forward.

  40. Deb says:

    Well Karen, until today my knowledge of chickens had been limited to Southern fried or rotisserie. You have cast a frightening new light on the subject…or to be more specific …the subject’s ass. I think I’ll pass on the omelet this morning! Oh, many thanks as well to Trisha Rose for that added visual! I may be back to red meat exclusively, if you can promise me NO cattle ass pictures.

  41. Linda says:

    Thank you so much Karen for adding a new word to our almost-but-not-quite-naughty vocabulary. “Vaganus” has now become a part of our family. LOL. On a side note, does it make me strange that I didn’t even bat an eye at the uber-close up? I actually found it very informative as I have been reading up quite a bit on chickens with the plan of starting a small flock of my own and never have I seen the vent mentioned. Thanks so much for the info Karen! One of the many reasons I love you and your blog.

  42. Sandy says:

    As an owner of chickens myself, I found this to be interesting. I learned a few things I didn’t know. Don’t think I will be getting that close to the butt but glad you did. I had never seen one that close before. Leave it to you to do it for us. lol. I so much enjoy your post.

  43. Julie says:

    Your chickens REALLY love you.

  44. Larita says:

    Is it weird that the part that grossed me out the most was the nostril? I’ve been around chickens, but not pet chickens so have never gotten close enough to actually see that little detail.

  45. Kipley says:

    They are so sweet.(The chickens) People should know where their food comes from anyway. The hen turns part of the cloaca (vent) and the last segment of the oviduct inside out, “like a glove.” The egg emerges far outside, at the end of the bulge. So it cannot contact the walls of the cloaca and get contaminated by stools or urine. Moreover, the intestine and inner part of the cloaca are kept shut by the emerging egg, and their contents cannot leave when the hen strains to deliver the egg. Therefore, eggs are always clean as they are laid. However, sometimes a hen, stomping around the nest with dirty feet, will get the egg dirty anyway.

  46. marilyn says:


  47. Jasmine says:

    The proper term is cloaca but I like vaganus better. 🙂

  48. Jamiek says:

    “Vaganus”, HA! You crack me up! However the close-up almost caused a spew of my morning coffee.

  49. Melissa says:

    I once heard that the chicken’s ear color determines its egg color… brown eggs, I presume?

  50. AmieM says:

    Heehee Vaganus. Now I have a new dirty word!

  51. Jean says:

    Love this! It goes well with your video post “See a Chicken Lay an Egg!”

  52. Mary Werner says:

    Another new word – I refer to boy parts as their Penini to match the Vajajay. Talk about Blog Candy – I won! I won! I have a great new word to use Vaganus!!!! Thanks, Karen

  53. Melissa Leach says:

    Wow, I’m not sure what to say…my eyes have seen things I never, ever expected to see. Thanks for that. Karen. Thank you Kipley for your two cents.
    I am now educated in the anatomy of a chicken including its Vaganus. Wow…

  54. Eew! was feeling sick as I read this, have just baked scones (they’re in the oven), and didn’t wash the eggs…, thanks to Kipley for clearing up the poo/egg/wee debate.
    Karen, I never knew a chicken’s ear was so close to its eye! And vaganus is a brill word!

  55. Beth says:

    Vaganus. Awesome.

  56. Melissa L. says:

    Wow! Who would have thought YOUR readers could be so uptight? Personally I think it’s a great post, and wasn’t grossed out in the least. Do people not realize that every living creature has exit holes? As for me, I’ll still eat eggs and chicken and yes, I still want some backyard girls of my own!

  57. Danielle m. says:

    Oh. Em. Geeeeeee! I love the look your chicken is giving you as you snapped the vent shot. “LADY!!?”. That’s my stuff!

  58. Natalie says:

    Oh my goodness. I definitely know how to identify the vent now. This was very educational. It’s interesting to know that the wattle isn’t just for laughing at. 🙂 You are hilarious!

  59. Nancy says:

    Caption for first picture of vent..”WHAT THE HELL IS SHE DOING NOW??” (Said while giving you the chicken finger)..Yes chickens do have fingers..I bought some at the store!!

  60. Barbie says:

    I had chickens and I didn’t know all that stuff!
    Karen you are truly something special.
    You MUST have been such a FUN child! Truly!

  61. Trish says:

    Love the vent shot. Mostly for the facial expression of the chicken, who’s vent you shot…whhattt?!?!

  62. Shauna says:

    WOW, you are amazing! Your chickens are amazing and so cool to let you take such personal pictures. This is some of the best explanations I’ve read. The crop had always stymied me – even looking at sites who has drawings of chickens. Pictures truly are worth, well, no I did need your words too.

  63. lindyb says:

    Very educational, but somehow the Easter pic of the egg with the bum feather stuck to it seems less cute!

  64. dave says:

    i am dissappointed that you did not identify where the chicke mcnuggets come from

  65. kelliblue says:

    EEEEEWWWW! Chicken porn!!!

  66. Angela says:

    So…do chickens ever just stop laying eggs? Then what? Please tell me that you would never eat them!!!!

  67. Pam says:

    HI Karen,
    A very timely post, I work with vets and we got to talking about chickens today. Apparently there are chicken sunglasses. I think your babes need some,
    mostly for the photo ops.

  68. maria says:

    OMG! I have to stop reading your posts at work, but can’t resist my education class/chuckle for the day. Have to say your chickens must adore you — how did you ever get close enough to take these great shots — did you have help from the fella? Just luv the expression of your chicken — “What ‘cha doing back there?”

    • Karen says:

      Maria – Ohhhhhh the chickens are pretty tame. In fact I’m gonna do a video on just how tame in the coming weeks. I don’t mind telling you .. they love me with all of their little chicken hearts. ~ karen!

  69. nancy says:

    Once I sewed up a chicken’s crop. The poor chicken had been slashed by something bad enough for her food to fall out while she was eating, but not bad enough to stop her from walking around eating. I got a curved upholstery needle and some quilting thread. While a friend held her, I just sewed her up. and she lived happily ever after.

  70. Kera says:

    I have gotten to know my 1 week old Buff Orpington’s crop better than I ever dreamed— she’d been impacted. I think she ate some bedding perhaps? I am not sure. But, it must feel good when I massage it because more than once she has fallen asleep on my lap during the massage. I am crossing my fingers that she makes it to pullet-hood.
    How did you get your chickens so tame? We are handling our babies as much as we can, but they are terrifed of us (except Goldie the Buff Orpington who I think will be a little monster once this crop issue is resolved– demanding crop massages as least once a day. Perhaps she’ll like pedicures as well…)

    • Karen says:

      Kera – It depends on the chicken’s personality. And breed. Rhode Island Reds are hilariously curious and brave for instance. Plus I handled them a LOT from Day 1. But only 2 of them like to be picked up. The other two will tolerate it for a little bit, then run away. ~ karen

    • Ann says:

      None of mine really loved to be picked up. The older 4 are Wyandottes and they tolerate being handled if it is late in the evening or they are on the nest. But the new crew(only 2 months old) consist of 2 Americanas and 2 Welsummers. Neither set want to be picked up at all

  71. Maureen @theThriftyLass says:

    But the lips? There was no mention made of whether a chicken does in fact have lips. Or not.

  72. Laura Bee says:

    Great post! You have very photogenic girls. From both ends! If you need them to sit still for 30 seconds, ypnotizing a chicken is a fun little trick. Have you tried it ever?

    • Karen says:

      I have not. I’ve heard people tell tales of flipping their chickens upside down and such but have never tried it myself. ~ karen

  73. Laura Bee says:

    I was taught the “line in the dirt” method. Gently hold them down & starting at the tip of their beak, draw a line out a few inches. Also will work if you set them on your lap & draw an imaginary line on your leg. It can be very relaxing. (for the chickens too!)

  74. Laura says:

    My husband says chickens don’t pee. Because they eat with their…….peckers. Sorry.

  75. mary c says:

    Such squeamishness. YEESH. I thought the photos were venterrific.

  76. Ellen says:

    omg… I seem to be the only one who thinks chickens are freakin’ ugleeeeeeeeeeee.
    glad I’m a vegetarian…

  77. Debbie says:

    The pictures didn’t phase me a bit. I kinda feel better after hearing how the vent (vaganus)( now part of my swearing lingo) works, since it does all the exiting for the chicken. I am working on getting my own chickens in the city I live. Thanks for the education. Get over it everyone, a butt is a butt……………..

  78. Marika says:

    That was wonderful albeit a bit gross, says the girl who stuck her arm up a cows ass for the radio. Think about that one for a second.

  79. Debby says:

    Hahaahahahahaha! Excellent report Karen. Now I’d like to see that with a cover and a title page please. That’s an “A+” my dear.

  80. Well….i can now say i have seen a vent..up close. Thank you and thank you walnut. I think.

  81. nancy says:

    Vaganus. Bwahahaha. Thanks. That made my day.

  82. Juliet says:

    I did miss something this May!! So glad you added the “Best of”!! Which one of your chickies drew the short straw on the vent picture??

    Lovely chickens. I have poultry envy! Do you get enough eggs to share a few with the number of chicks you have??

    • Karen says:

      Juliet – There are always a few to share, but so many people want them that there’s always someone who doesn’t get eggs. I have enough to give away about six a week or so. Sometimes more, sometimes less. ~ karen!

  83. Tracie says:

    Well, I don’t always comment, but I do have my morning coffee with you every day…at least I thought so until I realized I had missed the anatomy of a chicken. Guess it happens after all! I loved the window sill birds and the latest genious bucket re-vamp in particular. I have also been lovin’ “Boardwalk Empire” and “Master Chef Australia.” Thank you for your awesomeness!! And also the occasional “fella” pic doesn’t hurt…..:)

  84. Gigi says:

    Didn’t realize I had missed a post so I am glad for the Best Of. So, does the wattle on a chicken act the same way as it does on a turkey? I was told theirs changes shape and color when they are excited.

  85. Dallas says:

    Karen!! Have you ever experienced chicken mites in your flock?? I have two of my own backyard chickens and just heard about these mites!!! It sounds awful, do you do mite checks? Any advice would be appreciated….

    • Karen says:

      Hi Dallas – Thankfully I haven’t had mites. The one thing I do to help prevent things like mites is, I use Diatomaceous Earth. I just throw a handful into their nesting box, their sleeping quarters, the run and their dust bath every so often. And definitely every time I change their litter or straw. I even throw a bit in their drinking water every time I change it. It helps a tiny bit to cut down on Galvanized steel stink. (those waterers get gross smelling even if you bleach them). The DE is made of teeny, tiny jagged pieces of exoskeletons. Or something like that. When the mites and other soft body invaders crawl over the DE it shreds them basically. I’m not sure exactly how it all works, but it kills stuff and that’s all I need to know. So if you don’t have any yet, get yourself some DE. A huge bag isn’t cheap but it lasts FOREVER. Like … years. ~ karen!

      • Vanessa says:

        A friend of mine used that to get rid of bed bugs. She and her roommate put the DE all over her mattress and carpet and luggage. Left it for a few days and then vacuumed them all up. No more bed bugs! She explained it pretty much he same, the crushed shells cuts up there exoskeleton which they then die from. Do you think it would work on spiders???

  86. Dallas says:

    Okay phew! I already use DE…I’ll have to put some in the nesting boxes though never thought of that! And I might just have to do a bum check tomorrow just to ease my worries. Thanks for your help Karen!

  87. Jona says:

    Wow! This is really great! It’s simple with brief descriptions and great pictures! 😀 Thank you!

  88. Louise Barr says:

    Once I joined some Korean co-workers at lunch and they offered me some spicy, red stew, with meat that looked sort of like a puckered doughnut. After eating it (was textured kind of like a gizzard), I asked what it was. One of the guys said, “We don’t know the American word for it. But it’s chicken butt.” And yes, it certainly was! 😉

  89. Sharn says:

    Hi there I’m wondering if you may know wat to do next , I have a 2 yr old isa brown hen who has a swollen inner part of the bottom part of her foot I’ve tried to squeeze it and hope she had something in it but nothing came out I then took her to the vet where he suggested antibiodics orally however these didn’t make a difference , I then wrapped the foot and smothered it with magneplasm hoping it may draw out the object, prickle and currently it’s still swollen and red.wat do you think

  90. Great Tutorial.. just about blew coffee out of my nose when I read “Vaganus”.. !

  91. Alimah says:

    Hey Karen, thanks for this information. I never really know that the most important part of the hen


  93. Pingback: Flock of Chicken Terms: P-Z | Treats for Chickens

  94. amy freeze says:

    Thank you! I really appreciated the up close and personal pics. I’m a newbie to this 🙂
    The only thing that would have made it better would be pics of the areas when they are sick/have mites/etc. for comparison.

  95. Anita says:

    Thank you soooo much!! I am a two week long chicken chick. The pics were perfect, including up close and personal. I figure better to know all I can about my flock in order to care for them properly! My chicks are about three weeks old, fun watching them grow.

  96. Stephanie says:

    What an informative blog! Call me ignorant, but it never occurred to me that chickens have ears or earlobes! I don’t know how I thought they heard anything.?

  97. Ella Belle says:

    Wow! Thank you for the very informative photos on chicken anatomy! It was really interesting! I’ve always been curious about where the eggs come out and what it looked like. Kind freaky though that poop, pee and eggs all come out that same little hole! Yikes, I’m thinking I might not be eating eggs now for awhile, at least until this kind of fades from my memory ; ) BTW, not that I’m looking for chicken porno or something, but what about the boys? Chicken/rooster “peckers”? I’m wondering what those look like and how chickens actually mate. Does the pecker go in that vent, or is there another entrance? Just curious, hee hee.

    • Karen says:

      Chicken porn talk comin’ up. Roosters do not have “peckers” 🙂 Their mating is kindda violet with the rooster basically jumping all over the hen with his talons on her back. He lowers his vent to her vent, they meet up and he releases sperm from his vent into hers. Then he smokes a cigarette and she goes back to the girls and talks shit about him. Basically. 😉 ~ karen!

  98. Sandi says:

    Loved your interpretation of a chicken’s anatomy. It was simple, easy to understand, the photos were great but best of all down to earth & funny, hell funny! Still laughing! And yep still laughing again…

  99. Meagan says:

    Hey this is great for me! I laughed cause you have a sense of humor. Quite refreshing. when you have a mother who was training as a nurse when you were a kid, and you were a homebirthed child who went on to have three very wonderful homebirths herself with her own, you get really used to seeing and discussing a “VAGINUS ” and there really can’t be any sugar coating when it comes to knowing your shit.

  100. ann adams says:

    Please ! My hen had something going on ,so I picked her up to check her cloaca she had something comeing out , so I tried to help her …it was jagged ( I think IT WAS stick) up inside her and I pulled it out ….she seems to be ok ,but I have never seen this …..WHAT COULD IT HAVE BEEN HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF THIS …

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