Red Junglefowl Hens’ Plumage

on 21st December 2011

“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

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

3 Responses

  1. 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. 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

    1. 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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