Black Spots on Chicken Comb: Top 15 Causes & What to Do

Big chicken with black spots on his comb

Generally, seeing black spots on chicken comb can be worrisome. These black spots may appear for different reasons, including environmental factors, pest infestations, or health-related issues.

What’s more, they can be difficult to treat without proper knowledge. You might not know what’s causing your chicken’s black spots and how to fix them.

Luckily, this guide will help you understand what precisely black spots are, why they appear, and how to treat them correctly so that your backyard chickens remain healthy and happy. Let’s begin!

What Causes Black Spots on a Chicken’s Comb?

Black spots on a young chicken with black and white feathers

Black spots on a chicken’s comb can be the result of many factors, ranging from environmental conditions to pests and diseases. Here are the top 15 causes behind these concerning discolorations.

1. Frostbite

Frostbite is a common cause of black spots on a chicken’s comb. The comb and wattles of chickens, especially roosters, can turn black due to freezing temperatures.

Specifically, when frostbite occurs, you may notice a black or dark discoloration of the comb. This injury leads to tissue damage, which can blacken and form dark spots or even thick dark scabs on your chickens.

The effect of frostbite can be seen on backyard chickens of any age and is particularly concerning in breeds with larger combs.

Watch this video to see a chicken’s comb turning black due to frostbite:

Chickens and 🥶 Frostbite

2. Flea Infestation

A flea infestation can also cause black spots on the chicken’s comb. There are many parasites that suck blood from chickens causing spots to appear.

In response to flea bites, a chicken’s comb may develop black spots, which are essentially blood clots formed beneath the skin.

Unfortunately, when one chicken in the flock gets infested, it is often a sign that others may also be affected.

3. Fungal Infection

Fungal infections can result in black spots on a chicken’s comb. More often than not, if you notice a black or dark mark on your fowl, it may be a fungal lesion.

Depending on the severity of the infection, the fungus causes the skin on the comb to discolor, which may lead to black, raised, or crusty spots.

4. Fowl Pox Virus

The fowl pox virus is a common cause of black spots on a chicken’s comb. This viral disease leads to the formation of lesions that may turn black over time.

To put it in perspective, the spots on the chicken’s comb resulting from this virus are typically raised and look like warts, making it easy to identify.

5. Dehydration

Chickens suffering from dehydration can experience black spots on their combs. This is because the skin of the comb is very thin, and it does not have much fat or muscle tissue to protect it from dryness.

6. Injury

Injury is another reason that can cause black spots on chicken pea combs. Particularly, if a chicken injures its comb, the injury site may develop a black scab as part of the healing process.

This scab can turn into a black spot on the comb when it dries up and falls off.

7. Fowl Cholera

Fowl cholera is a contagious bacterial disease that can cause black spots on the comb. In most cases, infected chickens may develop dark spots on their bodies due to internal organ damage, including the comb, wattle, and legs.

Other symptoms of this condition include loss of appetite, cough, and green-watery diarrhea, and it can lead to death within 24 hours of infection or even earlier if left unaddressed.

8. Peck Marks

Pecking is a normal behavior in chickens. However, you should note that aggressive pecking can cause black spots on a chicken’s comb, especially if that fowl is being singled out by the others.

When a hen or rooster gets pecked, it may cause a lesion that will turn into a black scab over time.

9. Avian Influenza

Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, can cause black spots on the chicken’s comb. To be more specific, this viral infection causes the comb to change color, which can become black or show black spots.

All in all, bear in mind that this virus can infect chickens of any age or breed, resulting in respiratory issues and other signs of illness.

10. Red Mite Infestation

Red mites are tiny parasites that can also cause black spots on a chicken comb.

The mites feed on the blood of the chicken, generating small black spots to appear on the comb. However, these spots are actually dried blood and may look like little scabs.

11. Avian Ringworm

Avian ringworm is a fungal condition that can cause black spots on a chicken comb. This is a contagious disease, meaning if you notice a black spot on one chicken, others in the flock may also be at risk.

Infected chickens will develop black spots as the fungus grows and spreads, causing discomfort and distress. It’s important to note that hens and pullets can also show these symptoms.

12. Sunburn

Just like humans, chickens can also get sunburned, which may result in black spots on their combs. This can be pretty painful for the chicken and should be checked out by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

I used to raise chickens in a backyard coop in a sunny location. One summer, I noticed black spots appearing on my chickens’ combs.

After some research, I realized the cause was sunburn. The coop was getting too much sun, and the chickens didn’t have enough shade to protect themselves.

13. Vitamin Deficiency

A deficiency in specific vitamins, particularly vitamin A, can cause black spots on the comb of chickens. This condition can affect both hens and roosters and may become severe if not addressed.

14. Mosquitoes

A chicken with black spots on the comb may be suffering from mosquito bites. When a mosquito bites a fowl, it can leave behind a small wound that may become dark over time.

Ultimately, the dark spots on the comb caused by mosquitoes are not usually a cause for concern but should be monitored closely, as they could develop into an infection if left untreated.

15. Dirt

Lastly, dirt is a simple and common cause of black spots on chicken combs. Chickens spend much of their time pecking at the ground, and dirt can get stuck on the comb and appear as black spots.

How to Treat Black Spots on Chicken Combs

Black spots on red chicken comb

Treating black spots on a chicken’s comb will depend largely on the cause. Yet, once you have identified the source of the issue, you can implement a proper treatment strategy.

Here are 11 effective ways to treat black spots on chicken combs:

1. Clean the chicken coop

Scrubbing the chicken coop is necessary for treating black spots on a fowl’s comb. The coop needs to be cleaned and disinfected regularly to ensure a hygienic environment for your backyard chickens.

So, remove any dirt, droppings, or parasites that may contribute to black spots. Moreover, fresh bedding may be necessary to keep the coop sanitary, helping your infected chicken return to full health.

2. Gentle handling

When treating black spots, gentle handling of the chicken is important. Chickens with a comb that’s turning black may be in pain, and rough handling could worsen the condition.

Simply put, be careful not to cause more injury while treating your chicken’s black spots.

3. Frostbite treatment

For frostbite-induced black spots on a chicken’s comb, you need to treat the frostbite first. The treatment process should be gentle and gradual.

In case of severe frostbite, it’s highly urged to consult a poultry pro who can provide the proper medical intervention.

4. Fowl pox vaccine

If the cause of black spots in your chickens’ combs is fowlpox, a vaccine against that disease is an effective treatment. This preventative measure helps control the spread of the disease within your flock.

Specifically, the vaccine works against any form of fowl pox — wet and dry — that causes the comb to blacken.

5. Anti-pecking measures

If bullying is the cause of your chicken’s black spots, then you must take action to prevent it from happening. The best way to do this is by separating the chickens into different pens.

This will allow each fowl to have its own space and prevent them from pecking at each other.

6. Environmental control

Optimizing the environment is vital for treating black spots on a chicken’s comb.

A friend of mine, Jake, also runs a local chicken farm. He started noticing black spots appearing on his chickens’ combs, a problem he hadn’t faced before.

I advised Jake to focus on environmental control. I helped him clean and reorganize the coops, providing more ventilation and shade. Surprisingly, this simple change led to a significant decrease in the black spot issue.

Pro Tip: Adding diatomaceous earth (DE) to your chicken’s dust bathing area does not just control odors; it is also a great way to maintain your flock’s feather health and prevent external parasites.

7. Antibiotics

If you know the reasons for the black spots are bacterial, appropriate antibiotics may help. That said, make sure to check with your veterinarian before administering any sort of medication to your infected chicken.

8. Pest control

If pests cause the black spots on your chicken’s comb, you should eliminate these pesky little bugs before they spread any diseases. This can be done through the use of poultry-friendly pesticides.

Pro Tip: Using the right kind of sand for your chicken coop can help deter pests such as lice or mites, aside from being a great material for keeping your coop clean.

9. Balanced diet

A balanced diet plays a critical role in the overall well-being of your chicken, including the state of its comb. If the cause of black spots is a vitamin deficiency, supplying a well-rounded diet can help treat the issue.

10. Anti-fungal medication

If the black spots on your chicken’s comb are due to a fungal infection, anti-fungal medication is required.

The treatment varies depending on the severity of the condition but a topical anti-fungal ointment or cream is commonly used. However, always consult a vet before starting any treatment on your fowl.

11. Consult a poultry pro

Finally, if you’ve tried various treatments and the black spots on your chicken’s comb persist, it’s time to consult a poultry professional.

Always remember that some conditions are difficult to cure without professional help. Thus, don’t hesitate to seek assistance if you’re unsure of the cause or if the black spots continue to spread or worsen.

What Does a Healthy Chicken Comb Look Like?

Vibrant and healthy chicken comb

A healthy chicken comb is typically a vibrant, plump red comb. This bright color indicates a chicken’s good health and vitality. However, don’t be alarmed if you don’t see red; there are various reasons for a different color.

For example, specific chicken breeds like the Ayam Cemani and Kadaknath naturally have black combs. This unique feature is normal for these breeds and does not suggest any health issues.

What Does an Unhealthy Chicken Comb Look Like?

An unhealthy chicken comb can display evident changes. For example, black, purple, or white spots may appear, suggesting possible health issues. These are clear indicators that something is amiss, and your chicken may need medical attention.

In addition, dehydration or heat exhaustion can cause the comb to become a pale pink color.

Below is a photo of a pale chicken comb:

Pale and unhealthy chicken comb

Simply put, a comb that deviates from its normal color, especially when the comb becomes black or unusually light, is a warning sign that chicken keepers should not overlook.

Frequently Asked Questions

Fungal disease in laying hens

What Do Mites Look Like on a Chicken Comb?

Mites on a chicken comb may appear grey, dark brown, or red. While they themselves don’t look like black spots, the wounds they leave behind can.

This is one of the reasons that can cause black scabs to appear on a chicken comb.

How Do You Treat Fungus on Chicken Combs?

Fungal issues on chicken combs can be treated with anti-fungal creams.

Although the removal of crusts is also possible, it’s generally not recommended. This is because improper handling can worsen the black spots and cause more harm than good.

What Does Fowl Pox Look Like on Chickens?

Fowl pox on chickens initially presents as ash-colored, raised blisters. As the disease progresses, these blisters transform into larger, yellow bumps. Finally, these bumps darken and take on the appearance of wart-like scabs.

These changes can be among the reasons that cause black spots on a chicken’s comb.

If you’d like to share your experiences with black spots on chicken combs, please drop them in the comments! Also, if you have more questions on how to treat this condition, feel free to ask!


seraphine January 16, 2024 - 10:47 am

I live in the Los Angeles area, and none of the vets will treat a chicken. There are no bird vets around anymore. I noticed black spots on the comb of one chicken and will check her more closely tomorrow. How will I distinguish a viral from a bacterial cause? Or do I just treat for both [I know I shouldn’t, but…].

cropped Chicken farmer Ella Harvey from Daily Chickens.jpg
Ella Harvey January 23, 2024 - 12:15 am

Hi there! It can be challenging when local vets aren’t available for poultry care. For distinguishing between viral and bacterial causes of black spots on a chicken’s comb, it’s often about observing other symptoms. Viral issues might include respiratory signs (like coughing or sneezing) or lethargy, while bacterial infections could cause swelling or discharge. However, it’s crucial to avoid treating without a clear diagnosis, as this could lead to complications.

Have you tried contacting animal rescue groups in the Los Angeles area? They might have resources or recommendations for avian vets. Keep a close eye on your chicken, and best of luck!


Leave a Comment

You may also like