A chicken has one gizzard. The gizzard is basically an organ that grinds up food. A lot of animals and birds have gizzards, typically if they do not have teeth to chew food.
The gizzard is just one of the many fascinating parts of a chicken’s anatomy. In this article I’m going to explain:
- What a gizzard is and how it works
- Why chickens need gizzards
- Where the gizzard is located
- And how many gizzards chickens have
Does a Chicken Have One Gizzard?
Chickens only have one gizzard. In fact, I did a lot of research and was unable to find any birds or animals that have more than one gizzard.
The gizzard is a powerful muscle that forms part of the digestive tract that essentially ‘chews’ up food to be digested by contracting.
Chicken’s only need one of them (otherwise they’d have more than one), and are perfectly able to break up some tough foods.
What Does the Gizzard Do?
The anatomy of a chicken isn’t that complex, but unless you’ve studied it in some form, you’re not going to know how a chicken’s digestive system works.
The gizzard, in particular, is an organ that you may not have come across. It’s not like we have a gizzard, and even though it’s edible it’s rarely found for consumption.
However, it’s a fascinating organ and plays a crucial role in the digestive system of chickens, and so many other animals.
Also referred to as a gastric mill and a ventriculus, the gizzard is what breaks up tough foods for chickens to digest the minerals and other nutritional content.
This is why chickens eat grit. Grit, like stones and other coarse materials, are used by the gizzard to break down the food while the organ is contracting.
Chickens do not have teeth, without a gizzard they simply would not be able to break up food enough to digest it properly.
Related - Why do chickens need grit?
Where Are the Gizzards Located on a Chicken?
A chicken’s digestive system doesn’t start and end with the gizzard. When a chicken first swallows food, it goes into its crop.
The crop is like a storage area for food. A chicken will peck away gobbling up anything and everything it comes across during the day, then at night the crop empties into their stomachs.
A chicken’s glandular stomach, which is also called the proventriculus, is a short organ. Its purpose is to secrete hydrochloric acid and pepsinogen to help break down food.
The food then enters the gizzard, where it can be chewed up and broken down. With the help of grit, the gizzard is like a large muscle that contracts with a good deal of force.
Some food will be passed back and forth with the stomach as it’s broken down and the minerals are absorbed by the chicken.
Pretty impressive stuff when you think about it!
Can You Eat Gizzards?
Gizzards are edible, yes. In fact, they are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world - most notably across southeast Asia.
They’re also more commonly eaten in Japan, Indonesia, and Africa than they are in the U.S. and Europe.
I think it’s more common to find turkey gizzards on the menu than it is chicken, but I’m sure you can find some to try if you’re interested to know what gizzard tastes like.
I’ve tasted gizzard myself, many years ago. The best I can remember is that it didn’t have a strong flavor, and it tasted more like rich gamey meat than chicken.
It’s the texture that is more memorable. As you may expect, an organ that plays such a powerful role in the digestive system is quite chewy.
I didn’t mind the chewy, strong, texture, but I know that this is what puts a lot of people off eating gizzard more than once.
It’s Why Chickens Do Not Need Teeth!
The gizzard essentially performs the role of teeth by chewing and breaking up food to be digested.
We have teeth, so we don’t need a gizzard. Our stomachs also play a role in breaking up food, as a chicken’s stomach does, too.
As to ‘why’ chickens and other birds have gizzards, it really comes down to evolution.
Birds evolved from a group of dinosaurs that walked on land. They eventually developed feathers, wings, and started to fly.
The absence of teeth is a huge advantage for flying species. Teeth are heavy and harm the aerodynamics of birds.
There are also theories that birds do not have teeth as it enables them to develop in the egg and hatch quicker.
Lizards that do have teeth take up to 60% longer to develop and hatch as a result. Something that harms their survival rate in the wild.
Either way, it’s evident that chickens have evolved to be great at what they do - surviving predators, laying delicious eggs, and providing meat for us to eat.
Admittedly, the meat part is something that has been selectively bred by humans over a number of years as chickens have been gradually fattened up!
Related - Can chickens fly over fences?
You’re now an expert in the digestive system of a chicken, and more specifically what a gizzard is and the crucial role it plays.
There is a lot more going on inside a chicken than simply eating and digesting anything they can get their beaks into!
Image credits - Photo by Jan Kraus on Unsplash
Explained: Why birds don't have teeth - SkyNews
Are Chicken Gizzards Healthy? - SFGate