Funky Flock Features

Photo of Kassandra Smith

Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

Last Updated: 08 January 2019

Feathered feet, five toes and beards- chicken breeds sure can have a lot of fascinating anatomy!

It can often be overwhelming to try and keep on top of all these extra ornaments and appendages- what do they do, how did they come about, where is it again?

If you’re having a little trouble distinguishing your chicken breed's crest from their muff, Backyard Chicken Coops is here to help- read on for everything you need to know about your feathered friends' funky features.


Crests are the extra feathering found on a chicken's head, and is often enhanced by an enlarged skull, found on some chicken breeds. This cranial distortion is formed by by a type of cerebral hemorrhage and is generally confined to breeds that have full crests. If a chicken has a crest, it is likely that they will not have a singular comb, and instead will have a more broad or circular shaped comb.

Breeds with crests: Houdan, Appenzeller Spitzhauben, Polish

an extra funky polish chicken with a crest full of feathers

Beards & Muffs

Beards and muffs are the additional feathers that are grouped on the head area of particular chicken breeds, and are caused by an incomplete dominant gene. The beard is found under the chin, while the muffs are found on the side of the face- generally you will not find one without the other. The beard and muff will be more prominent in some breeds, while in others it will be less detectable. Some exhibitors and fanciers selectively breed fowl to emphasise this feathery feature.

Breeds with beards and muffs: Faverolle, Russian Orloff, Houdan


Vulture Hocks

Vulture hocks are quite a rare appendage, only found in very few chicken breeds. They are straight and long downward-pointing feathers (they somewhat resemble flight feathers),that grow from the lower part of the thighs - where most chickens would have soft, downy feathers.

Breeds with vulture hocks: Sultan, Belgian d’Uccle

Feathered Feet & Legs

Feathered feet in chicken breeds is a trait that originated in Asia before selective breeding allowed this trait to evolve into other fowl. The extent of the shank and foot feathering will vary between breeds- some having their entire legs and feet covered, like the Booted Bantam. With extra feathering comes extra responsibility. Feathered feet will often pick up nasties such as mud or droppings so they may require regular cleaning. While those chicken breeds with feathered legs become more susceptible to scaly leg mite, so they should also be given a once over occasionally.

Breeds with feathered feet and legs: Booted Bantam, Cochin, French Faverolle


Five Toes

While most chicken breeds only have four toes, select few have a fifth toe- also known as a polydactyl. The polydactyl, while not serving an particular purpose, is an important feature of both Dorking and Silkie breeds, are a part of the breed standard criteria. If these breeds are born with 4 or 6 toes, it is a genetic fault.

Breeds with five toes: Dorking, Silkie, Sultan

No matter the breed, every chicken needs a place to call home, and Backyard Chicken Coops has the perfect coop for every flock - feathery feet and all!

Sources and further reading

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