Farmers and other breeders of poultry have long known that the comb, that reddish display of spiky skin on top of chicken heads, can be a reliable indicator of health and vigor. Now scientists have demonstrated that hens with the largest combs produce the most eggs — and roosters have it all figured out.
“Hens with the largest combs are like to get a bigger dose of sperm from roosters,” according to a paper presented this week in the science journal PLoS Genetics by scientists at Linköping University in Sweden.We raised our hens from day-old chicks in brooder houses, then they went outside on the range until they started laying. In the fall we'd cull the old hens and bring in the best of the pullets from the range. Mom would select the pullets, and mostly used comb size for the selection. We'd start with 900 chicks and end up with maybe 750 layers, with the remainder sent off to NYC as fryers.