Do chickens have ankles? Looking at their feet it’s hard to tell at first. Their toes sit almost flat to the ground, and their feet don’t pivot as ours do as they walk.
The answer is that chickens do in fact have ankles. Poultry keepers call their ankles “hocks” or the “hock joint”, and it’s the joint you see halfway up their legs. That’s right, it’s almost as if they are walking on their tiptoes!
What Kind of Feet Do Chickens Have?
Chicken’s feet, and this applies to birds in general, only have part of the ankle bone that we do as part of their feet.
Most mammals (this includes us) have all of our ankle bones included as part of our feet. This is why when you look at a chicken, you can see their ankle doesn’t touch the ground as ours does.
Their extra toe doesn’t have any function though. It doesn’t even touch the ground in most instances.
Chickens have strong, sharp claws. Their claws are relatively short, however, as they are used for scratching and scavenging for food in hard ground.
If you watch a chicken walking, you’ll notice their toes provide their base and balance. As they walk, they bend at the ankle, or hock, as well as their knees which are hidden under their body feathers.
Related – Do chickens have knees?
Do Chickens Have Feet, Talons, or Claws?
The distinctions between talons and claws are slight and these two words are often used interchangeably.
Technically speaking, chickens have feet with claws – they do not have talons.
This is because, by definition, a claw is a curved, pointed nail on the end of an animal’s digits. While a talon is a sharp, hooked claw found on a bird of prey.
Chickens are not birds of prey. They are capable of catching and killing insects, small rodents, and some other types of prey, but not in the same manner as say an eagle or an owl.
In fact, chickens are the prey for large birds of prey!
Interestingly, all talons are claws. But not all claws are talons. So, you can use these words interchangeably for birds of prey with talons, but not for chickens and other birds with claws.
Related – Do owls eat chickens?
What Do Chickens Use Their Feet For?
Most things in the animal kingdom are “designed” the way they are to suit a purpose, and a chicken’s feet are perfectly designed for what they do.
They walk on their toes so they’re light-footed and able to spring into action if needed. Most birds hop on their feet as they fly a lot, but obviously chickens have been bred for their meat and are too heavy to fly any real distance now.
A chicken’s toes are very flexible and their claws are sharp. They’re great scavengers and need to use their nails to dig for food and to make shallow holes in the dirt to bathe in.
The positioning of their toes, with 3 at the front and 1 at the back, enables them to form a strong grip on perches. Which is how they’re able to sleep on a roosting bar without falling off.
Spurs look a bit like an extra toe, so it’s easy to confuse this for another toe. Although it’s clearly raised off the ground and looks different if you can get close enough.
Roosters use their spurs as a weapon. They use them to stab and scratch any other animals – or humans! – they feel they are a threat to their flock.
Now you know – chickens do have ankles, just not exactly where you’d expect to see them as their feet, legs, as much of their skeleton is very different from ours.
If you’re getting close to your chicken’s foot to take a good look, be careful if it’s a rooster. They can use their spurs in an instant as a weapon and take it from me, it’s painful!
Image credits – Photos by Arisa Chattasa and Artem Makarov on Unsplash