Chickens do have elbows, yes. Despite having wings instead of arms, chickens have a lot of the same bones and joints as us in their skeletal system. This includes the humerus and the radius/ulna, which are joined together by their elbow.
But Chickens Have Wings Not Arms!
Obviously, chickens have wings, not arms. They still have a lot of the same bones as we do in our arms though.
Chickens are able to bend their wings at the elbow, as you may have noticed if you’ve ever seen a chicken flapping.
This is because they have a humerus bone, just as we do. Which is the top bone in our arm attached to our shoulders. They also have a joint at the end which connects to the radius as we do.
Therefore the joint connecting these two bones together is their elbow. It’s not easy to see under all their feathers, but you can feel it if you gently get a hold of a chicken.
Or, you can take a close look at a chicken wing prepared for eating. This is always easier, but as I’m more into raising chickens than eating them, I prefer to examine live chickens.
Related - Ever wondered if chickens have fingers? (Don't worry, you're not alone)
How Does a Chicken Wing Move at the Elbow?
A chicken is able to move their elbow joint much the same as we are, too. They have skeletal muscles which include biceps and triceps, and these allow them to extend and open their wings, or contract them.
The Avian Skeletal System Is Designed for Flight (Chickens Are Not!)
The skeletal system of a chicken is fascinating really. If you take a close look, like most birds they are clearly designed to be able to fly.
Yet, years of selective breeding to make them fatter so we can get more meat per bird and bigger eggs means chickens can no longer fly.
At least not very well. Some, such as the California White are pretty flighty. But a decent sized fence is enough to keep them enclosed.
Some interesting points to prove this is that chickens have small light skulls, aerodynamic beaks, and gizzards to chew their food instead of teeth.
All of these design features make them a lot lighter for flight. Chickens also have some hollow bones, which are called pneumatic bones.
All birds have hollow bones as it greatly reduces their weight too. They also have some bones called medullary bones. These are an important source of calcium, which chickens need when laying eggs.
Finally, obviously, birds’ wings play an important role in flying. They need strong fluid joints at their shoulders and elbows.
Do Chickens Have Knees?
This is another common question; whether or not chickens have knees. It's a valid question, because most of the time their knees are also well hidden by feathers.
The confusing thing about chickens legs is that the first bend you see halfway up their leg is actually their ankle.
Chickens, like a lot of animals, actually walk more like they're on their tiptoes and the front of their feet that they do flat footed like us.
So, that first joint you see bending backwards in the opposite direction that a knee would, is their ankle. Slightly further up their leg and usually completely hidden by feathers are their knees.
Related - I wrote more about chicken's knees here.
Is Your Chicken a Flight Risk?
Raising chickens in the backyard is rewarding and fairly easy. The main concern most owners have is losing the chickens or some harm coming to them.
Chickens are prime targets for Predators. I've covered a number of things you can do to protect them and some of the predators to look out for on the blog before.
The risk of losing a chicken because it simply wonders off or flies away is low. Chickens tend to stay close to their coops and source of food, and who can blame them.
Some owners do clip the Wings of their chickens to ensure that they don't escape. This is a safe and painless procedure. if you're concerned that your chickens are going to escape or simply annoy your neighbours, this is something to consider.
I don't like doing it, and I think most owners feel the same, but sometimes it’s necessary to ensure the safety of a flock.
It's worth looking into how well your breed of chickens can fly. I say this because a number of times I've known chickens not to show any sign of flying, only for them to decide one day that they're going to go have some fences.
So, now you know, the skeleton of a chicken - and most birds for that matter - isn't all that different from ours really.
Chickens do have elbows, as well as shoulders, knees, ankles, and most of the other joints and bones we have.
I hope you enjoyed this short lesson in avian anatomy. At the very least, you know have some new trivia to impress your friends with!