Have you ever looked at your chicken eating or drinking and wondered, “do chickens have tongues?”
I know I have.
Chickens do have tongues, yes. Small tongues that they aren’t able to stick out at us, but they play an important part in how they digest food and drink water.
Here’s a closer look at the digestive system of a chicken and how they use their tongues.
Do Chickens Have Teeth?
Chickens do not have teeth, no.
This is because they do not need teeth to grind up their food as we do. Instead, they have an organ called a gizzard, which grinds up their food for them.
This is also why chickens need to eat grit. Their gizzard uses strong muscular contractions to grind up the food with the help of rough grit.
This also explains a common saying people use; “Rare as hen’s teeth.” If something is very unlikely or can’t be found, you have just as much chance of finding a hen’s tooth!
Do Chickens Have Taste Buds?
It was long believed that chickens either didn’t have any taste buds, or they had so few that it didn’t have a big impact on their motivation or enjoyment of food.
Recent studies have shown however that chickens have around 240-360 taste buds. This is still far less than us as we have around 10,000 taste buds, and most cattle have 15,000-20,000.
While there is an obvious connection between the number of taste buds a species has in their mouths and their sensitivity to food, you also have to factor in the size of an animal’s mouth.
Chickens have small beaks. They do respond to the taste of chemical stimulants when being tested, so they are able to taste different foods.
What Does a Chicken's Tongue Look Like?
If you haven’t seen a chicken’s tongue, you’re not alone. Even if you own backyard chickens, you’re not going to see their tongue unless you look for it.
Their tongues are small, about the same size and shape as the bottom of their beaks.
This is why, if you do see it, you’ll notice it sits on the bottom of their beaks. It’s pointy, and although I haven’t touched one it does look very smooth.
How Do Chickens Drink Water?
We intuitively use our tongues to help us taste water as we drink it, and direct it down our throats.
We are also able to move our tongues a lot more than chickens are and we have more control over using our throat to swallow.
Hence, we are able to drink by pouring fluid into our mouths and swallowing it.
If you watch chickens drinking, on the hand, they peck at the water then open and close their beaks while tilting their heads back.
It doesn’t look like the most comfortable way to drink, but it works for them.
This is because they have to let the water run down their necks. They don’t have the throat muscles and control over their tongues like we do to help guide the water.
Here’s a video of chickens drinking some water during a hot day if you need a visual to help understand this.
Related Content - How long can chicks go without water?
How Do Chickens Eat and Swallow Food?
There’s a little more to how chickens eat than just pecking at food and swallowing it.
Chickens peck at food to break it up. I’m sure you’ve seen them pecking and flicking at large pieces of food.
When they eat, there are a couple of interesting things to note if you get up close and watch them.
The first is that they will use their tongues to help guide the food into their esophagus. The second is that they have a hole in the roof of the mouth. This hole is called choana.
The choana connects to their nasal passages to help them breathe. Don’t worry though, it closes when they swallow food or water so nothing can go or come out of the wrong hole.
Food then goes into their crop, which is kind of like a food storage area at the front of their breasts. It then moves into their gizzard when it’s ready to be digested. The gizzard is what “chews” up food by using muscles and grit to grind the food up.
In Summary - Do Chickens Have Tongues?
So, now you know the answer to the question, do chickens have tongues?
Yes, they do indeed have tongues. Small pointy tongues that you can see sitting on the bottom of their beak if you take a good look.
They don’t have the range of movement we do with our tongues but they do use them to help them eat and drink.
Can Chickens Taste Spicy Food?
With a limited number of taste buds - around 240-360 - and more importantly, looking at the reaction from people giving their flock spicy peppers, it certainly appears although chickens cannot taste spicy foods.
How Strong Is a Chicken's Sense of Smell?
They do not have a strong sense of smell, no. They do have nostrils and can smell things, but (luckily) for them they aren’t offended by bad smells.
Can a Chicken Stick Its Tongue Out?
Nope. As I explained in the article above, chickens have a small tongue with a very limited range of motion. They can’t stick it out, and you’ll only see it if you take a close look in their beaks.
How Does The Tongue Work? NCIB Informed Health.org
The Digestive System of a Chicken - Dummies.com
Sense of Taste in Chickens - NCIB J Nutr Food Science