Here is a great article that I just came across that I thought would be interesting to share.
A chicken’s spurs, toenails, and beak are made of keratin, the same substance as your fingernails and toenails. And like your nails, they continually grow. Chickens evolved in an environment in which their claws and beaks naturally wear down as they grow. But in backyard confinement, sometimes chicken beaks and claws grow too long and need to be trimmed. A rooster’s spurs, too, can grow too long for the bird’s comfort or safety.
A chicken uses its claws to scratch the ground for food and also to scratch an itch. When a chicken doesn’t have hard surfaces to scratch against, the nails continue to grow until they curl, and then the chicken can’t walk properly.
Dorkings, Faverolles, Houdans, Sultans, and Silkie chickens all have five toes, with the extra toe growing above the hind toe and curving upward. In most cases this fifth toe never touches the ground, therefore has no opportunity to wear down. Nails that don’t naturally wear down need to be periodically trimmed. Cocks may need to have their claws trimmed to prevent injury to hens during breeding, and chickens groomed for showing must have their nails neatly trimmed to successfully compete.
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