Perhaps you think chickens are mammals like many do? This question commonly pops out to many beginners who have never had any chicken on their backyard.
There is a very big difference between chickens and mammals. In fact, there is a slight resemblance between chickens and reptiles but no resemblance at all between them and mammals.
I have decided to tackle the question whether chickens are mammals to help you get a better understanding of the real difference between them.
Are chickens mammals?
Chickens are birds or what others refer to them as fowls and not mammals. They belong to the same family with other poultry like geese, ducks and turkeys.
Taking a closer look at chickens, you can tell that they have very unique physical characteristics from those of mammals.
For you to understand better, continue reading to know what makes chickens different from mammalian animals.
They lay eggs
Chickens do not give birth but rather they lay eggs. Their reproductive tissues are designed to produce eggs but do not have a womb to carry a foetus and later give birth.
For chickens to have their young, they first have to lay a certain number of eggs. After they have enough eggs, they will get broody and sett on the clutch for 21 days.
After this period, baby chicks are hatched and the mother hen will now take the responsibility of raising them. Since chickens lack mammary glands, they don’t suckle their young.
Although some birds feed crop milk to their chicks, that does not mean that they suckle them.
Baby chicks are hatched precocial meaning they will start to look for food right at the moment they break the eggshell.
On the other hand, mammals give birth to a live young one. They then suckle their babies until they are big enough to be weaned and eat solid food.
However, not all mammals have the ability to give birth. The echidna and the duck-billed platypus are two species of egg-laying mammals.
Chickens have feathered bodies
The body of chickens is covered in feathers to keep them warm. Although they are warm blooded animals, they are not able to regulate their own body temperatures like mammals do.
They develop heat regulating organs on their bodies like combs and wattles. Because their skin is covered by a dense blanket of feathers, these organs will help lose excess heat from their bodies.
Mammalian skins are covered by fur or hair. They can regulate their own body heat where the fur and hairs trap a layer of hot air when cold.
When it is hot, the mammalian blood vessels move close to the skin surface and widen to loose of excess heat in a process called vasodilation.
When cold, the mammalian blood vessels will move under the skin surface to retain heat in a process called vasoconstriction.
Chickens have no teeth but have beaks
Chickens are equipped with beaks to eat their food. They eat through pecking at and picking grains, insects, seeds, nuts and other foods.
Most of the foods chickens eat are swallowed whole. This is because they lack teeth to bite, chew and grind it into fine particles.
To grind food, chickens rely on an internal muscular organ called the gizzard. Inside this special organ, food is grinded down with the help of grit which is made up of small stones, pebbles and sand or crushed oyster shells.
Mammals have a mouth which they use it as an eating organ. They eat through biting, crushing, breaking or suckling.
In some animals like Chihuahua dogs and cats, they will lick up any liquids like milk or other edible fluids they get.
They walk and work with legs
Chickens have two legs unlike most animals like Pygmy goats that have four legs. The same legs that these birds walk on are used as working tools.
They will scratch the ground turning the earth trying to look for anything they can eat. These legs are not strong enough to burrow deep holes like moles do.
On chicken legs, there are four well-spaced toes with short claws. The claws are sometimes used as a weapon to defend against enemy attacks.
On male chickens, there is a long claw on each leg called the spur that is used as a defense tool in case there is an enemy attack.
Chicks have an egg tooth
Chicks are not born but rather they are hatched. This means that they will develop outside the mothers’ body and inside the egg.
On the other hand, the young of mammals develop inside the mother’s body. After the gestation period is over, they will come out through the birth canal.
For chicks to make their way out of the egg, they have to break out. For them to do this, they rely on a horny structure called the egg tooth.
After they are done breaking the egg shell, the egg tooth falls of and its job is done.
The most popular sound in the world is the crow of a rooster. This is their main identity and is mostly heard early in the morning.
Hens do not crow but will produce their own sound especially after laying of an egg. They can also be heard producing soft whistles or cackle sounds depending on the mood and environment.
On the other hand, mammals produce different sounds depending on species. Humans talk, elephants trumpet, monkeys gibber and lions roar.
All these sounds chickens and mammals produce are their own way of communicating with each other.
Chickens have scales like reptiles
Chickens have scales on their legs. When we talk of scales, what comes on our minds are reptiles like chicken snakes.
Just like in reptiles, scales help provide protection to chicken feet and prevent water loss. Assume chickens feet had no scales; what would they look like?
The scales on chicken feet will peel and come off at a particular stage of their lives. This happens when they start to molt where some chicken breeds will even shed their body feathers.
Chickens bones are less dense than that of mammals
Chickens have less dense boners which are almost hollow. This makes them light and can try to fly lifting off a few inches from the ground.
Although they are not adept flyers like Canadian geese, they will flap they wings and glide for short distances.
The hollow bones lack bone marrow which is common in mammals. In the bones, there are air sacs which make flight more efficient in birds like finches.
So what makes some think chickens are mammals?
Chickens live on the farm alongside other farm animals like sheep, horses and goats. Living together does not mean they are mammals they aren’t.
Their meat is edible just like that of cattle and is said to be more nutritious like fish is. This makes a few think that they belong to the same family.
They live in hierarchical groups where the leader is the rooster. If there is no cock to take the lead, a dominant hen who ranks on the top of the pecking order takes the lead.
This behavior is common on other farm animals like goats where there is a herd leader who goes first or settles disputes in case of any.
Chickens hatch their chicks while mammals give birth. Most will mistake them to be mammals because they will all have their young at a certain stage of their lives.
Are chickens omnivores?
Yes! Chickens are omnivores. These feathered friends will eat seeds, grains, weeds, bugs, tasty mealworms, insect and even fruits.
As we know, omnivores are those animals that eat meat and plants like pigs and human beings do.
Chickens are mammals final thoughts
Chickens are not mammals and they will never be. There are notable physical differences between chickens and mammals.
Although they are all animals, they exhibit different behavioral characteristics. Most mammals also have a longer lifespan than that of chickens.
Living together and having similar lifestyles with mammals, this does not make them mammals.