You may notice tiny hairs in the chicken skin when biting into a juicy chicken wing. At first glance, these appear to be small hairs or fur on the chicken. However, chickens don’t have hair like mammals, and thousands of small hair-like feathers are ready to develop. Chickens are covered in several feathers that serve different purposes, from insulation to flight.
While most feathers have an orderly structure with branching barbs, some resemble hair. Feathered chicken legs are a good example. While chickens do not have hair, when eating chicken, people often call the small chicken hairs on chicken “hair” or “fur.” Upon inspection, you’ll find hair and feathers very different, although there are similarities.
In our guide, you can learn more about the little hairs on chicken wings and full feathers on a chicken. By the end, you’ll better understand the different kind of chickens, from a regular domestic chicken, to chickens with feathered legs, and if these are safe to eat. (Learn How Big Is A Chicken Brain)
Do My Chickens Have Hair on Chicken Wings?
Chickens have feathers, not hair, and you will find several types of feathers covering a chicken’s body:
- Contour feathers are the outermost visible feathers that create the bird’s shape and provide insulation to help regulate body temperature.
- Down feathers: These soft, short, and fluffy feathers sit underneath the contour feathers to deliver more insulation.
- Filoplume feathers: These are hair-like and look similar to hairs. However, they are very thin feathers with fine barbs. They are sensory feathers that relay information about positioning and movement to the chicken.
- Semiplume feathers: These are also hair-like but larger than filoplume feathers. They provide insulation and some water resistance in mature chickens.
Do Chickens Have Any Hair at All?
What is chicken hair called, and is it OK to eat chicken with this? Chickens do not actually have any hair like mammals. However, some feathers may appear similar to hair. The filoplume and semiplume feathers resemble hair. When plucking a chicken, these fine feathers can sometimes get missed and look like hairs.
Some chicken breeds have crests or puffs of feathers on their heads. These crested chicken breeds may appear to have hair because of the fluffy feathers on their crowns. But it is still just feathers, not actual hair.
What Is Chicken Hair Called?
You may notice small hairs on a chicken’s wings when eating them. These are not actually hairs and will most likely small underdeveloped feathers like hair that are hard to distinguish. As chickens mature, their feathers become more defined. On young chickens, the feathers may appear hair-like until they fully develop.
So those hairs you see are just immature feathers and are perfectly safe to eat if you spot them as you bite a chicken wing. You’ll find feathers are unique to birds, which developed so birds could fly and keep in body heat.
Instead of feathers, mammals have fur or hair. The proteins in fur, hair, and feathers are all different. Keratin is found in feathers, while keratin-associated proteins are found in fur. (Read Can Ducks Eat Dog Food)
Is It OK to Eat Chicken Feathers?
Many people wonder if eating the feathers is safe when eating chicken wings or other chicken meat. Don’t worry if you accidentally eat some chicken feathers. It’s perfectly safe to consume feathers. Keratin makes up most of a feather. Keratin is not edible, so the feathers would pass through the digestive system without breaking down. Small, soft-down feathers probably won’t hurt you if you eat them.
How To Remove Chicken Hairs or Feathers?
Use tweezers or a small knife to pull out any hairs or chicken feathers still on the chicken before cooking it. Grab the feather close to the skin and pull gently in the direction it grows. You can also use a sharp knife or razor to shave the skin carefully. Shave against the way the feathers are growing.
Last, rubbing a damp paper towel over it can help grab and pull out tiny hairs or feathers. The water helps the feathers stick together, making them easy to take off. Just don’t rub so hard you damage the skin. While you can eat what looks like chicken hair, many believe it may contain bacteria, so it is safe to remove them.
Which Kind Of Chickens Have Feathered Legs?
You won’t find all chicken breeds have feathers on their legs; they have scales. However, some have feathers down to their feet. These are found on the favorite chicken breeds here:
- Silkie chickens: Known for their fluffy, hair-like plumage and feathers on legs and feet.
- Cochins: Have abundant feathering on legs and feet, giving a furry appearance.
- Brahmas: Large breed with profuse feathering on legs and toes.
- Dorkings: Ancient English breed with five toes and feathery legs.
- Faverolles: French breed with a beard, muffs, and feathered legs.
- Sultans: Small breed featuring a crest, beard, muffs, and feathered legs and toes.
The chicken wings may appear to have hair on the above chickens, but that isn’t the case. These chickens make great pets, and the chicken gets a lot of attention because of their looks.
Do Feathers Cover All Chicken’s Body?
A chicken’s body is covered in feathers except for a few areas. Chickens’ beaks, eyes, and feet do not have feathers. Instead of fur, these areas are covered in scales. The beak comprises a keratin coating made from the same material as human hair and fingernails. The nictitating membrane is a clear scale that protects the eyes. This helps clean and moisten the eyes.
However, the remainder of a chicken’s body, including the head, neck, torso, wings, and tail, is fully covered in the main types of feathers for warmth and protection. Aside from the hairdo, chicken breeds with crests than non-crested ones don’t differ much. Polish chicken breeds have fluffy crowns and feathers on their bodies are a prime example. (Read Can Chickens Have Peaches)
How Many Feathers Does a Chicken Have?
Chickens have thousands of feathers; exact numbers vary from one chicken breed to another. Here you can find averages of the different types of feathers they have:
- Contour feathers: 5,000-6,000 covering the bulk of the body.
- Flight feathers: 100-300 on the wings and tail to help flying.
- Down feathers: 1,500-3,500 for insulation and warmth.
The number of feathers depends on the chicken’s breed, age, nutrition, season, and whether it can fly. For example, chickens to fly have more flight feathers compared to heavy, flightless chicken breeds.
Overall, an average of chickens have feathers numbering 7,000-10,000.
Do Baby Chicks Have Feathers?
When baby chicks hatch, they have a covering of delicate down feathers to keep them warm and protected. Within the first 2-3 weeks, young chicks grow juvenile contour feathers, which lack the barbicels that interlock with adult feathers.
By 6-7 weeks old, chicks develop adult feathers. The contour feathers are well-defined with interlocking barbs and barbicels. The feathers increase in number and are sleeker and smoother. It takes 12-24 weeks for chickens to transition from baby down to full adult plumage. Once their final feathers grow, they require continued maintenance to remain in good condition.
What Do the Feathers on Chickens Provide?
Feathers serve several critical functions for chickens:
- Insulation: Feathers on the body retain heat and prevent heat loss. The fluffy down feathers are especially insulating.
- Water resistance: The outer feathers are coated in waterproof oils that allow chickens to stay dry.
- Flight: The strong flight feathers on the wings allow some chickens to fly or at least glide short distances.
- Display: Roosters mainly use their colorful feathers for mating displays to attract hens.
- Camouflage: Feather patterns and colors help hide chickens from predators. Junglefowl has mottled brown and black feathers to blend into the forest.
So feathers provide chickens with insulation, waterproofing, protection, flight, display, and camouflage; thus, chickens rely on feathers and plumage for survival.
While eating chicken wings, you may notice what seems like hair, although the wings have feather-like fibers, not real hair. Since chickens are covered in feathers, any hair-like strands are very fine feathers-like hair. Even black chickens don’t have actual hair, and the wings are supposed to have small feathers that may appear furry.
Feathers help chickens fly, keep warm, and attract mates. So next time you eat chicken feathers or meat with hair-like strands, remember it’s just part of the feathering that chickens naturally have. Chickens don’t make actual hair – their fluffy feathers stand up and seem like hair, or the feathers stand up when the chicken is angry.
Are chicken wings supposed to have hair?
No, chickens only have feathers. They do not have any actual hair or fur. Keratin is the main protein and is the same found in human fingernails and hair growth.
Why do some feathers look like hairs?
Small feathers are called filoplumes, and semiplumes resemble hairs. Immature feathers on young chickens also appear hair-like until they fully develop. This depends on breed of chicken, as some have feathers on their feet and body. (Read Can Ducks Eat Pumpkins)
Can chickens fly?
Some breeds, like junglefowl, can fly short distances. Heavy chickens can fly short distances.
How often do chickens molt their feathers?
Chickens molt once per year, usually in late summer or fall. Molting replaces all the feathers over several weeks or months.
Which chickens have feathers on their legs?
Chicken breeds like Silkies, Cochins, Brahmas, and Faverolles have fluffy feathers down their legs and feet. Most chickens have scales on their legs.
Is it OK to eat feathers when eating chicken?
Eating small, soft feathers is perfectly safe. Just chew them thoroughly before swallowing to prevent choking or obstruction.