Do Chickens Really Have an Umbilical Cord?

Have you ever looked at a chicken and wondered whether or not they have a belly button as we do? And if they do have a belly button, the only reason they would have it is that they had an umbilical cord while inside their mom.

flock of New Hampshire chickens
flock of New Hampshire chickens

But chicks aren’t birthed live, they hatch from eggs, of course!

But, on the other hand, all infant creatures need some nourishment while they are developing. How else can they grow prior to birth?

This is something of a perplexing question, then, one we need to get to the bottom of. So, do chickens really have umbilical cords?

Yes, chickens do have a cord that connects them to the yolk when they are developing inside the egg. The remnant of this cord can be visible post-hatching.

Interesting stuff! This might come as a surprise to some, but it is in fact true. Chickens, and all birds for that matter, have a yolk sac attached to them while they are growing inside the egg.

This sac provides them with the nutrients they need to grow. You might even be able to see the remains of it after they hatch.

There is a lot more to know about this interesting subject, and I’ll tell you all about it below…

What are Chickens’ Umbilical Cords For?

Chickens, like all infant animals, need a food source while they are growing, be that inside their mother’s womb or inside their egg.

For chickens, this food source is in the egg in the form of a yolk sac. This sac is attached to the chicken via an umbilical cord. The cord transports nutrients from the yolk sac to the rapidly developing chick.

The yolk sac is attached to the chicken’s intestine. It is filled with a yellowish liquid called yolk plasma.

This plasma contains proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that are essential for the chicken’s growth and development.

The yolk sac also serves another important purpose: It stores vitamins A, D, and E. These vitamins are essential for developing the chicken’s bones, feathers, and nervous system.

This cord is made up of two arteries and one vein. The arteries carry nutrients from the yolk sac to the chicken. The vein carries waste products back to the yolk sac where they are processed and eliminated.

The last bits of this nutritious substance is what will give chicks the energy they need to break through the egg and enter the world, and also survive for a time outside the egg. Without it, we wouldn’t have any chickens running around!

How Can You Tell if a Chick Still Has It?

The umbilical cord is not always visible after a chicken hatches. It often depends on how long it takes the chick to break through the eggshell.

If the cord is still attached, you will see a small, short tube protruding from the chick’s underside. This tube is called the umbilical stump.

What Happens to the Cord After a Chick Hatches?

As the chick continues to grow, the umbilical stump will gradually blacken, whither dry up and fall off.

Once it falls off, you will see a tiny scar or spot where the cord was once attached. This scar will eventually fade and disappear as the chick continues to grow.

When Do Chickens’ Umbilical Cords Fall Off?

This process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. It all depends on the individual chick.

It is worth noting that any signs of the cord hanging around or anything else protruding from this area can spell problems for your chick; it might even be some of their intestines poking though!

You’ll need to be alert for this eventuality, but generally you won’t need to worry too much as the umbilical cord will fall off on its own when the time is right.

Will Your Chicks Show a Belly Button or Scar?

Not for long!

As mentioned, they will have a little scar or spot near their vent where the umbilical cord was once attached, but this will both quickly fade as they grow and soon be entirely covered by a dense coat of feathers.

Get a good look, because it will soon be hidden for good. Though the umbilical cord is an essential part of a chicken’s development in the egg, it is only visible for a short time after.

Should You Do Anything About the Remnants of the Cord?

Generally speaking, no. The cord will eventually fall off on its own and there is no need to do anything about it.

In fact, you must never, ever attempt to pull, tear or cut the remains of the cord off as this can fatally injure a chick.

As long as the cord is not still attached and the chick seems to be doing fine, there is no cause for alarm. Just keep an eye on them, and make sure that everything looks normal…

Considering that you should be checking your chicks regularly for pasty butt and other issues, you can also make it a point to check the cord.

If you do notice any irregularities, you might need to take action.

Injuries or Bleeding Around the Cord Might Mean Trouble

If you notice any injuries or bleeding around the area where the cord was attached, this could be a sign of infection.

It is important to take action if you see any:

  • bleeding
  • persistent redness
  • swelling
  • or discharge

The best thing to do in this case is to take your chick to the vet for a check-up immediately if you want to save them.

They will be able to give you the all-clear or provide you with medication to treat any infection, if possible.

Sadly, chicks that are so afflicted at this early stage of life often don’t make it. You might need to make the call if you want to try and save a chick that could mature into a “special needs” adult chicken, or let nature take its course.

This is a highly personal decision, for obvious reasons, and one that you will need to make based on your own values.

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