Chicken Comb Turning Black: Causes + What to Do

The color of a chicken comb depends on its species and genetics. Some have red, brownish, dark purplish, or dark bluish combs. If your chicken comb is usually bright red and starts turning black, you should be worried because that indicates that all is not well.

A chicken comb can turn black due to infections like avian influenza, infectious tenosynovitis, or frostbite. If the color change is accompanied by other symptoms like loss of appetite, diarrhea, or respiratory distress, the chicken should be isolated and treated immediately.

Frostbite is the main cause of a black chicken comb in winter. If the comb has only a black patch, there may be no need for concern. An insignificant injury or normal pecking may have caused such a spot. But, if more black patches or spots arise, quickly intervene to safeguard your flock from further infection or even death.

Chicken Comb Turning Black
Chicken Comb Turning Black

Causes of a black chicken comb

It will be frustrating to see your bird affected by a disease or condition you can protect it from. Generally, dirty living space is the cause of most chicken ailments, including the comb turning black. A black chicken comb may be a result of:

1. Frostbite

During cold months, your chicken is capable of conserving its body heat. It does that by limiting the amount of blood transported to the comb. Remember, the appendage is very vital in releasing excess heat from the body.

Reducing the oxygen, blood, and warmth delivered to the comb leaves your chicken susceptible to frostbite. Consequently, the organ may appear spongy and black.

Some of the potential signs of frostbite are:

  1.  Appetite loss
  2. Blackening of the tissues
  3. Swellings
  4. Tissues feeling cold and or hard

2. Avian Influenza

In the past, the infectious virus caused many losses in the poultry market. But, it is not easy for the infection to attack your backyard birds.

The infection generates a disease known as Gumboro. The lice spread the disease on the chicken’s body.

At the onset of an infection, the comb often is coarse and indented on top. The chicken may also have a runny nose and appear uninterested and lethargic. Chickens having avian influenza will lie or sit in a spot adjacent to each other, particularly when the weather is cold.

You may get an infection if you handle your ailing chickens without wearing gloves and an overall suit. A chicken having a white comb may also mean that it has already been infected with milder forms of the disease before eventually turning black.

3. Fowl cholera

It is brought about by the same pathogens known for causing stomach flu in people. Your bird may contact fowl cholera via contact with the eye of mosquitoes or an ailing bird directly.

Young and point-of-lay hens are at greater risk of contracting fowl cholera. Fowl cholera may also attack the lungs leading to pneumonia.

4. Fowlpox

The disease is mainly caused by cats, birds, mosquitoes, and swine. Fowlpox is highly infectious and can also be recognized by purple patches on the chicken’s comb.

Dry fowlpox yields abnormal tissue growth on the chicken comb, leading to the formation of black scabs. On the other hand, wet fowlpox affects the respiratory system and the interior area of the beak. Your chicken may thus experience struggles in eating and respiration.

Other signs and symptoms of fowlpox may include:

  • Inflamed joints and or comb
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite

5. Heart and or liver issues

When there is damage to your chicken’s heart or liver, the body’s normal functioning tends to slow down or stop. There is a below-par circulation of blood.

Apart from the comb becoming black, other potential signs and symptoms of a heart or liver issue are diarrhea, sluggishness, and nausea. It may also be floppy, and in case the hanging part of the comb is bleeding or infected, it should be attended to before it harms the chicken.   

It should not always alarm you when your chicken’s external organ changes its color. Sometimes, the changing of the comb color may be a sign that your bird is healthy. For example, the comb may turn black with more testosterone production.

How to manage and keep chickens comb from turning black

A sudden dark shade on your chicken’s comb should worry you since it indicates a domestic fowl’s compromised well-being and health.  A healthy chicken comb is a vital part of the chicken body that is usually bright red and upright. Here is how to manage and prevent the comb from losing its original color:

1. Fowl cholera

To treat fowl cholera, medicate your poultry with antibiotics for around 14 days. If your birds have refused to eat for days, try force-feeding them with treated poultry mash.  An oral syringe may help in administering the treatment. Keep the chicken house clean and wash the comb with an antibiotic ointment since the disease tends to linger around longer.

2. Fowlpox

Treatment for fowlpox may involve the application of plain vaseline. Avoid treating your bird with sulfur remedies as they can harm the fragile skin. A few weeks before the cold months start, vaccinate your poultry to strengthen the body against germs and natural elements such as rain.

3. Cleanliness

Keep the hutch clean, disinfected, and dry. For instance, mites and lice use dark, wet environments for their cover. The moisture content in the chicken coop should also be monitored since it can provide a perfect living condition for germs and parasites that cause poultry illness.

4. Frostbite

To discourage frostbite, prepare the chicken coop for winter. Check that the coop is properly insulated and has no gaps to allow sneaking in air and/or wind.

You may incorporate a heat lamp in the coop to provide the necessary warmth. Importantly, always get rid of chicken poop as it can rot and attract disease-causing germs and parasites. The droppings are about 85% water and thus generate a lot of moisture in the hutch.

To avoid frostbite in a cold and wet environment, keep hardy chickens, such as buckeye,  Australorp, Blue Andalusian, and German Langshan. The chicken breeds share similar traits. They have small combs, have feathered feet, and originate from cold environments.

5. Frequent checkups

Allow your poultry to be examined frequently by a professional and experienced local vet. This gives you a greater chance of detecting the particular issue with your chicken and comb early and providing the right care and treatment.

Diseases that can make a chicken’s comb turn black or dark include the infectious tenosynovitis, which can be difficult to treat. However, the symptoms are always clear, and if there is a constant check-up, the infection can be contained early before it spreads.

6. Control mosquitoes around the coop

Eradicate or minimize the population of mosquitoes around your chicken coop. Mosquito bites can cause black spots on a chicken comb. Planting mints or marigolds around your bird’s housing may help create an unsuitable environment for mosquitoes and thus keep them away. Other plants known to keep bugs away are the mosquito plant and lemongrass.