How Many Feathers Does a Chicken Have?

How Many feathers on a chicken?

How Many Feathers Does a Chicken Have?

Have you ever wondered how many feathers a chicken has? I know I have! I decided to do some research to get the answer; what I found out was pretty interesting. I had no idea a chicken had so many different kinds and types of feathers, here is what I discovered.

The average amount of feathers on a chicken is about 8,000 total feathers, which fall within eighteen various feather categories. Indeed, larger breeds can have more, while smaller breeds can have less. Most breeds of chicken have about ten primary feathers and fourteen secondary flight feathers on their wings.

Did you know a chicken can have up to eighteen different types of feathers on its body? Talk about me being blown when I discovered this. Below I’ll show you what I learned and what the feather purposes are.

What Kind of Feathers Do Chickens Have?

A chicken (poultry) can have up to eighteen different feather types on their body. There are six main types of feathers out of those eighteen categories: Contour, Flight, Down, Semiplume, Filoplume, and Bristle.

We will go over the six main feathers types, and then discuss the eighteen different categories that those feathers types can be found in.

What Are Semiplume Feathers?

Semiplume feathers are found underneath the contour feathers and are used for insulation, they are a mix between contour and down feathers. They are long and rachis with barbs at the end.

What Are Down Feathers?

Down feathers are soft and fluffy. Down feathers help keep your chickens warm by trapping air close to their body. Down feathers are located at the base of the contour feather.

feather, down feather, bird feather
Down Feather – Soft

What Are Bristle Feathers?

Bristle feathers are found located around the nostrils, eyes and beak. They are often found in insect eating birds, and act as a funnel. You often have to look closely to find them, but they are there. Bristle feathers also help keep dust and pests away from their faces.

What Are Contour Feathers?

Contour feathers are found everywhere on the bird, except the beak, legs, and feet. Contour feathers are responsible for giving the bird it’s color, but they are only colored at the end, which is the only part you can see. Contour feathers become downy feathers at its base to help insulate the bird.

What Are Flight Feathers?

Flight feathers are long, stiff, and asymmetrically shaped. Flight feathers are located on the wing and tail of the bird and are used to generate both thrust and lift.

It is a common practice to trim back flight feathers of chickens. Trimming back flight feathers will not hurt your birds, and will make them less likely to escape a fence, or end up in a high place that you can’t reach.

What Are Filoplume Feathers?

Filoplume feathers are hair-like feathers with soft barbs near the end. Unlike other feathers, Filoplumes instead of being attached to muscles, filoplume feathers are attached to nerve endings. Filoplume feathers help send messages to the brain that give information about the placement of feathers for flight.

What Are The Types of Feathers

  • Beard
  • Crest
  • Ear tufts
  • Flight coverts
  • Fluff
  • Lesser sickles
  • Main tail feathers
  • Muff
  • Neck hackles
  • Primary flights or primaries
  • Saddle feathers
  • Scapulars
  • Secondaries
  • Sickles
  • Tail coverts
  • Vulture hocks
  • Wing bar
  • Wing bow coverts

Beard Feathers

Beard feathers are feathers that project from below the beak. This type of feather is only in bearded breeds.

Easter Egger Bearded Chicken
Easter Egger Bearded Chicken

Crest Feathers

Crest feathers project upwards from the head, these feathers are only in crested breeds. Crest feathers are made up of semiplume feathers.

If you have ever seen a chicken with what appears to be a poof on it’s head, you have seen crest feathers.

Crested Feather Chicken
A crested feather chicken

Ear Tufts Feathers

Ear tufts feathers project from the ear, these feathers can be found in almost all breeds of chickens.

Flight Coverts Feathers

Flight covert feathers are short feathers covering the base of the primaries and secondaries.

Fluff Feathers

Fluff feathers are the soft feathers on the underside of the bird. Like many feathers they are used for insulation, fluff feathers will fluff up and trap air inside to keep the chicken warm.

Lesser Sickles Feathers

Lesser sickles are only found on roosters, they are long curved feathers of the tail, below the sickle feathers.

Main Tail Feathers

The main tail feathers are the long straight feathers forming the tail, the are under the coverts.

Muff Feathers

Muff feathers project below and around the yes. This is only found in bearded breeds.

Neck Hackles Feathers

Neck hackles are the long feathers of the neck.

Primary Flight Feathers

Primary flight feathers or primaries are the longest and outermost feathers of the wing. They are often symmetrically paired on the wings of or tail of a bird.

Saddle Feathers

Saddle feathers are feathers covering the back or saddle before the tail coverts; in roosters, they are long and pointed, these feathers are divided into upper and lower saddles.

Scapulars Feathers

Scapulars are the short feathers on the uppers side of the wing near the body.

Secondary Flight Feathers

Secondary flight feathers are the long flight feathers of the inner part of the wing.

Sickle Feathers

The two longest curved feathers of the tail, sickle feathers are only found in roosters.

Tail Covert Feathers

Tail covert feathers are short feathers covering the base of the main tail feathers of a rooster, and most of the tail in hens.

Vulture Hock Feathers

Vulture hock feathers are the stiff feathers projecting downwards behind the leg, this is only found in some breeds.

Wing Bar Feathers

Wing bars are short feathers covering the base of the secondaries and of the flight coverts.

Wing Bow Covert Feathers

Wing bow covert feathers are short feathers covering the upper part of the wing between the scapulars and the wing bar.

Final Thoughts

When I started doing this research I had no idea a chicken had so many feathers!

Up to 18 total feather types can be found on a chicken, each with their own purposes. I never thought it would be so interesting to know how many feathers where on a chicken, and that there were so many different types.


Will be adding more details as we can, this is just a start 🙂

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Jody Fitzpatrick

Hi, I'm Jody. I'm married to Mikayla. We are a great team and love to raise chickens. They are a handful but a real pleasure to watch. I have learned a lot through my wife and still learning every day. We hope to pass on our knowledge to you.

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