If you keep chickens and you’ve noticed that your chicken’s beak is turning black, then you’re probably quite concerned for the health of your chicken.
The good news is that if your chicken’s beak is turning black it may be nothing serious and even if it is serious – the problem can be treated.
Your chickens beak may appear to look black due to some build up of dirt, in which case giving it a clean can help or that the beak is broken and has become infected, that’s a bigger problem. Some chickens do show a change of color in the beak later in life.
We put together this guide to help walk you through what needs to be done.
Why Is My Chicken’s Beak Turning Black?
There are three main possible reasons that a chicken’s beak turns black and two of them are nothing to worry about.
It’s A Natural Change
Some species of chicken either begin with black beaks or have their beaks turn black over time, it’s just a natural attribute of the kind of chicken they are. If this is what’s going on with your chicken, it ought to be fairly obvious – it’s nothing to worry about.
The black color is, in fact, an absence of the pigment normally present in the beak and is caused by the pigment producing cells below ceasing to operate. It’s not painful and doesn’t cause the chicken any distress when this happens.
In fact, there’s at least one species of chicken where this happens completely throughout the body and even the flesh is black! You can see an example in the video below:
If you want one, you’ll need to be prepared to pay a pretty penny for it – they retail for up to $1,500 per bird!
The Beak Is Dirty
Some chickens just aren’t great at cleaning themselves and you wouldn’t be the first chicken owner to become concerned by a color change in the beak which just turned out to be impacted dirt on the beak. The good news is that you really don’t have to worry if this is the case.
Pick the chicken up and take a good look at the beak, if it appears that it might be encrusted dirt, take a damp cloth and give the beak a gentle cleaning. Don’t use any chemicals for this – just be gently persistent, don’t forget that the beak is sensitive. This will be more than enough to shift any dirt.
The Beak Has Been Broken
There is also, sadly, the possibility that the chicken’s beak is broken. This is a more serious issue and though you may be able to treat it – you may also need to take your chicken to the vet if the break is particularly serious.
The blackness here is likely to be caused by bleeding into the material of the beak and will reflect the pain and unhappiness that the chicken will be feeling.
How To Maintain A Chicken’s Beak
Before we touch on how to repair a broken beak – we ‘re going to share our collection of products that we recommend that you keep on hand for the care of chickens beaks.
The good news is that most chickens’ beaks maintain themselves. Their constant use as they peck at things, wipe them on rocks, etc. will ensure that the keratin layer stays at a useful length and does not interfere with the working of the jaw.
If you keep your chickens confined to a run, you should always supply them with a piece of rock (a house brick will do in a pinch) for the purpose of maintaining their beaks.
The other things you need for a beak maintenance kit are:
- Dog nail clippers – these can be used to trim the keratin around the beak, it’s important to note that you must never trim beyond the keratin layer with dog nail clippers as this could cause a much more severe injury.
- Wound & infection treatment – ask your vet for the local brand we’ve used Verticyn Plus’s Poultry Care which comes in a spray format. This is for cleaning the wound and disinfecting it.
- Bloodstopping powder – this helps the wound stop bleeding as the name suggests.
- Tweezers and a nail file – for dealing with awkward motions and for making small modifications to the beak.
- Nail scissors – also handy to help make adjustments to the beak.
- Superglue gel – the repair agent that you’re going to use
- Cotton swabs – they’re great for cleaning things with
- Old towels – for drying, wiping, etc.
If you have this kit to hand, it makes it much easier to deal with a chicken with beak problems and much less stressful too.
How To Repair A Broken Beak
To work on fixing your chicken’s beak, you’re going to need some nail scissors, wound & infection treatment, superglue gel (this is much easier to work with than regular superglue and reduces the odds that you will glue your chicken’s beak shut by accident), tweezers, a tea bag (cut it in half) and a pair of towels.
Wrap the chicken in a towel. This makes it much easier to hold them as you work and stops them from flapping their wings and hurting themselves (or you). Then place the other towel over the chicken’s face just leaving the beak poking out.
Give the beak a thorough cleaning using the wound & infection treatment but be careful, any tissue that has been revealed is going to be very, very sensitive. Then superglue any pieces of misaligned beak together and then use the tea bag as a gauze to overlay the area that you’ve worked on.
If there are any rough bits or sticky out bits – give them a gentle filing with a nail file and then just gently paint over your tea bag gauze with another super thin layer of superglue. Then let it set.
You must be very careful when using superglue near a bird’s mouth as if it touches any exposed tissue or the chicken’s mouth – it can cause more problems than it solves.
If you don’t feel up to the task of repairing your chicken’s beak – visit a vet, instead. If the area appears to be infected, also visit a vet as they will want to prescribe antibiotics.
Post-Repair Chicken Care
It’s important to care for your chicken as it recuperates from a beak repair. You shouldn’t change what their diet because this can cause an imbalance in gut bacteria which can make them sick and run down. You should, however, ensure that the food is in very small pieces and as fresh as possible – the more they eat, the faster they will heal.
Why Do Chickens Have Beaks?
Chickens use a beak rather like an extra hand and they can help them to move things around, clean themselves, communicate with other chickens, grab hold of things, investigate the world, as well as, of course, eating and drinking. They can also use their beak as a weapon of war and attack other chickens with it.
Thus, a chicken’s beak is a very important part of its body and it’s perfectly sensible for a chicken’s owner to be worried when the beak changes in front of their eyes.
What Is A Chicken’s Beak Made Out Of?
The bottom and top halves of the beak are known as “mandibles”. Each mandible consists of a basic layer of bone which is then overlaid by a substance called keratin. Keratin is what human hair and fingernails are made of (and rhino’s horns are made of it too for that matter).
The mandibles are also full of nerves and blood vessels. That can mean that an injury to the beak is intensely painful for the chicken. This can be so upsetting for the chicken that if it is not tended to – they chicken opts to starve to death rather than inflict further pain.
Just like fingernails and hair, the keratin layer on a chicken’s beak continues to grow throughout the lifetime of the chicken and it’s important to maintain this effectively and you may need to give your chicken a hand trimming its beak, if its ordinary activities don’t keep this in check.
Hopefully, now you know why your chicken’s beak is turning black and what to do about it. There are three main reasons for this and only of them is anything to worry about. However, if you have ruled out these three options and you’re still concerned about your chicken’s beak – we’d strongly encourage you to talk to your vet.
There is an outside chance that a disease or parasitic infection is to blame, though this would be very rare. Sometimes, the only way to put your mind at ease is to consult a medical professional.