Chicken Spurs: Who Gets Them?

We Know Roosters Have Spurs, but do Hens Have Spurs?

Chicken Spurs: Who Gets Them?

I’ve got a flock of mixed breed hens and a few roosters. In the beginning, my knowledge of chicken spurs was limited to the roosters. But then one day I noticed my brown leghorn had a spur on one of her legs. That gave me pause.

What is a Chicken Spur?

A chicken spur is actually part of the shank bone that’s covered with a hard layer made of keratin; the same thing found in our fingernails and hair. Spurs are routinely found on roosters and they’re used for protection and fighting. In cases of poor rooster behavior, those spurs are used to chase humans away from the chicken coop. Many times this is a dominance issue and can be worked out so everyone can visit the coop safely.

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How Does a Spur Develop?

All chickens, regardless of whether they are hens or roosters, have a small bump or spur bud on the back of their shanks. In hens, this bump normally stays dormant throughout their lives. In roosters, the bump starts to develop as they age. It gets longer and harder and eventually forms a sharp tip.


If you have a flock of backyard chickens which includes a rooster, you’ll want to keep an eye on your rooster’s spurs. They can grow too long and be a hindrance when the rooster walks. They can also curl as they grow and reach back to the leg, cutting it. Spurs can be trimmed if necessary. They are like a dog’s toenails and can be clipped in the same way. But, they can bleed if clipped too short, so it’s important to clip small amounts at a time and have something on hand to stop the bleeding. I use corn starch when I clip my dog’s toenails. I’ve only mistakenly clipped her nails too short twice, but I found the corn starch to be very effective at staunching the blood. There are also a variety of styptic powders available for purchase and they work well too. For my roosters, their spurs haven’t grown too long and we’ve not had the need for trimming.

What About the Hens?

So, we know hens start out with the same spur buds as roosters and this gives them the potential for growing spurs. For some breed strains, both the hens and roosters develop spurs from a young age. In that case, the owners are normally aware of this and spurs on both sexes are expected.

It’s a little-known fact about chickens, but hens of any breed can grow spurs. This doesn’t usually happen until the hens are older and this is the case for my hens. They are all over three years old.

There are also certain chicken breeds that more commonly develop spurs; Mediterranean breeds such as the Leghorn, Minorca, Sicilian Buttercups and Ancona, and Polish hens are known for growing spurs.


In my case, the spur on my Brown Leghorn made sense since she’s a Mediterranean breed. I inspected the rest of my flock out of pure curiosity and noticed that Big Red, my New Hampshire hen had some development on one of her spurs. It wasn’t as long or pointed as the Brown Leghorn’s but it was definitely there. Both Big Red and my Brown Leghorns are five years old.


Once noticed, a hen’s spurs should be watched. Just like a rooster’s spurs, they can grow too long and may need a little grooming from time to time.

11 thoughts on “Chicken Spurs: Who Gets Them?”
  1. I have a blue Orpington who was given to me by a breeder when she was about 1 1/2 years old. She’s very fluffy, so you don’t normally see her feet. She’s also very shy, so it took me a while before I realized she had spurs, over 1” long, behind those huge blue feet. They’ve never been a problem, and as far as I can tell, they don’t bother her.

    1. I was pleased to read your post. We discovered similar spurs on one of our 16 hens, and because we’ve only had chickens the last few years, we were intrigued. Her behavior is no different than that of the other hens, and she even fights with her chest (like the other hens) in an occasional disagreement. She’s a lovely hen, and (like we do all of our other girls) we love her. The rooster treats her no differently. Literally. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    1. Yes, it is normal, and on some breeds, they can grow quite long. Though rooster spurs are usually more pronounced, some hens do grow them so the existence/absence of spurs isn’t the best indication of rooster vs. hen. They shouldn’t be a problem unless she becomes aggressive and uses them as weapons.

  2. I have a black austrolorp hen(maybe a mix) that has long spurs. I think it’s interesting, although, she acts like a hen and is a good layer.

  3. One of my Rhode Island Red hens has a spur that is less than an inch long. It appears to cause her pain. She holds her leg up, limps, can’t put weight on it. I have felt her leg and joints for breaks, and for pain but there is no specific response. Her feet are equally warm, and it’s not bumblefoot. Any thoughts? Could the new growth of a spur cause lameness? Thanks!

  4. Hi , I have a 2yr old female chicken that has started to grow I think are spurs , but on the back of both legs. I thought after reading your column that if a female was to grow one it would only be one leg ? Do I need to be concerned by this, I’m not sure if she started to grow them since I’ve added some new chicks

    1. What breed is your 2 year-old? Female birds can grow spurs on both hocks. And there is such a thing as an intersex chicken, so some female birds can develop “male” characteristics. Unless the hen is damaging herself or others with the spurs, she should be fine.

  5. how does one catch a rooster to trim the spur? A large fishing net carefully? One can use some candle wax too to stop the bleeding if the quick was cut.

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