Red Junglefowl Hens’ Plumage

posted in: Morphology-Develop. | 3

“The Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) is widely believed to be the wild ancestor of all domestic chicken. Red Junglefowl roosters are quite an eyeful with its brilliantly coloured plumage and showy arching tail feathers. Red Junglefowl hens are less eye catching. Their plumage are duller and less fanciful (left).

“An adult pair with two immature were encountered recently. The hen had an interesting plumage of dark chocolate-brown with contrasting scale patterns seen on its front and sides. Except for the front of its neck, the feathers from crown to mantle seemed black. Compared to some of the other Red Junglefowl hens in my collection of photos, this plumage seemed a little odd. The colour of the feathers from crown to mantle will usually appear as golden-brown to yellowish-brown; never black.

“Various articles in the web stated that a pure breed Red Junglefowl hen can be determined by its lack of comb and wattles. The comb is the freshy red-colored crest on the head and wattles are the red-coloured fresh hanging down from the head. From my collection of photos, only one female showed the lack of comb and wattles while the rest have different degrees of comb and wattles. One of the hens even exhibited a comb and wattles that seemed a little large for hens. [Images above show three females while those below show, respectively, close-ups of the head and neck areas of the same females.]

“There is much speculation about hybridisation between the Red Junglefowl and domestic chicken. The difference in features shown in the hens could be due to hybidisation. The male Red Junglefowl has an eclipse plumage after breeding. Is there different plumage for breeding and non-breeding females?”

Kwong Wai Chong
16th December 2011

3 Responses

  1. Sun Chong Hong

    For the hen with larger than usual comb and wattles, can it be a case of hermaphrodites, used loosely here to meant one with traits of male and female?

  2. jytou

    The one with blackish nape looked like a young bird, another possibilities is that they could had been very young males starting to develop adult plumage as well

    • Kwong

      The individual with the largest comb and wattles was unlikely to be a male. It was foraging with a small chick, which was seen occasionally seeking its protection by hiding underneath it.

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