Chickens do have tails, yes. They have tailbones as part of their skeleton, and you can see they have tails if you take a good look. Chickens have tail feathers too, with roosters having additional feathers in the form of sickle feathers.
Why Do Chickens Have Tails?
Birds in general have tails as they use them to make maneuvers while flying, as well as to provide some additional support and balance while taking off and landing.
But, chickens don’t fly, do they?
Well, at least not very well they don’t, no. This hasn’t always been the case though. All modern breeds of chicken come from the jungle fowl.
They’ve all been selectively bred to display different characteristics. For the most part, chickens have been continually bred to be larger so that we can get more meat and eggs from them.
The downside of being heavier and larger is that they can no longer fly as far. I say downside as it would be a detriment for wild chickens.
But obviously, for domesticated chickens in the backyard setting, it's actually a positive as they aren’t as likely to escape.
I think it's easy to forget that chickens are birds sometimes. They have wings, beaks, tails, feathers, and all the other characteristics birds have. They’re just too big to fly!
What Is Wry Tail in Chickens?
Now you know that chickens do in fact have tails, you may have heard the term “wry” tail before and wondered what it means.
Wry tail is a condition that causes a chicken's tail to bend to one side. In my experience, it's always the result of a genetic condition and doesn't cause the chicken any pain or discomfort.
If you have a chicken with a bent, crooked, or wry tail, it's nothing to be worried about. You're not going to win first prize at any poultry shows, but that's really the only downside.
What Does It Mean When a Hen's Tail Is Down?
Chickens’ tails point slightly upwards when they're in a normal position. if your hen’s tail is pointing down, this is a sign that there might be something wrong.
I've read various causes and reasons for this and spoke to some other backyard chicken owners in the community, it seems to mean one of three things most of the time:
Your hen is egg bound - Egg binding or being egg bound means a chicken has an egg physically stuck inside. This will be causing them some pain and discomfort, and can even be as serious as killing the chicken if left alone.
There are a few ways you can tell if a chicken is egg bound for sure, as well as several ways you can help them. It’s worth investigating if their tail is pointing down as it's such a potentially serious problem.
Your hen is low in the pecking order - Sometimes a down tail is a just a sign that the hen is being submissive as they are low in the pecking order. As long as they’re not being picked on or bullied, this is nothing to worry about most of the time.
Your hen is unwell - It may also be a general indication that there's something wrong with your hen. Not always, but it’s worth investigating. How does your hand look otherwise? Does she have a healthy red comb and Wattle? Is she moving around normally?
Do We Eat Chicken Tails?
The tail also referred to as the parson’s nose and haunch is a part of a chicken that is eaten, yes.
It's not commonly found packaged up on supermarket shelves. but when you cook a whole roast chicken is easily identifiable and I think most people eat it.
In some parts of the world, it's discarded. It's seen as being too close to the chicken’s waste system and deemed potentially toxic. I’ve even read some articles that claim eating a chicken’s tail could cause cancer, which is of course nonsense.
It’s higher in fat and more calorie-dense than other parts of the chicken. So, pass on the tail if you’re on a diet.
Now you know, chickens do in fact have tails. Some roosters have large, colorful tail feather displays, while hens have more subtle tail feathers.
The meat of a chicken’s tail is edible, and often will be eaten when a whole chicken is cooked. It’s not a popular cut though, and it’s high in fat.
If you’re interested in reading more about specific body parts and chicken anatomy, please check out some of the related articles:
- Where to locate a chicken’s knees and ankles.
- Why chickens have small brains (but are still smarter than you think)
- The reason why chickens do not have nipples.
Image credits - Photos by Georg Bommeli and Brett Jordan on Unsplash