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Backyard Chickens

Chick FAQs: Navel Edition

Chick FAQs: Navel Edition

Do chicks have a belly button? Chicks have something like a belly button called a navel. The navel is located on the chick’s belly below their breastbone.


Why do chicks have a belly button or a navel? A human’s belly button exists so the mother can provide her baby nutrients in the womb. Chicks have a navel for a similar reason. When a hen lays a fertile egg, it contains the yolk which holds nutrients for the growing chick embryo. Around three days before your chick hatches, the small intestine and the remainder of the yolk (that wasn’t used during development) are internalized into the chick’s body and the body cavity is formed make up the navel.


Why do the chicks need yolk?  The yolk has multiple functions in a newly hatched chick. It contains maternal antibodies which can protect chicks from getting sick. The yolk also provides a source of energy for newly hatched chicks who may have limited access to feed.


What can the navel tell me about my chick? Looking at your chick’s navel is a way to assess chick quality and keep an eye on those chicks that may need some extra help. If the navel is not fully developed at hatch, it is an open wound and puts the chick at risk for infection. This is called an open navel.


Why would my chick have an open navel? There are multiple causes for an open navel. Maybe the eggs got too hot or cold during the incubation period. For larger eggs, they may have a greater risk of losing egg weight during the incubation period. (Egg size can also be affected by age of the parent flock, older birds tend to lay larger eggs.)

 

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