Chicken of the Woods Identification and Common Look-Alikes

Hunting chicken of the woods is an absolute thrill. These mouth-watering mushrooms make a wonderful addition to any supper, boasting a variety of vital nutrients and just a hint of lemony sweetness.

Read on for a comprehensive guide to chicken of the woods identification, including various species you may encounter and look-alikes to avoid in the field.

How to Identify Chicken of the Woods

These large, flamboyant fungi are characterized by bright orange and yellow hues that contrast sharply with the usual muted browns and greens of a forest.

Chicken of the woods stands out in size as well as color. Some specimens might grow six or seven inches across, but many reach several feet. This is no small fry fungi — the largest recorded specimen weighed 100 pounds.

Texture, Taste, and Smell

Touching your chicken is the best way to get familiar with it. When young, fresh, and ready to be picked, these mushrooms have a spongy texture. They should feel soft and may have a velvety sheen on the caps.

When you pick a prime specimen, it exudes a sappy white or yellow substance. I like to call this “mushroom milk,” and it’s a sign of youth and vitality.

Chicken of the woods was named for its flavor profile. It has a mellow taste that soaks up the flavor of whatever dish you cook and a light, fibrous consistency like chicken.


Like reishi mushrooms, Laetiporus species can be a decomposing saprobe or a parasitic fungus that feeds off living trees. This cool but confusing feature enables the fungus to occupy a wide range of habitats.

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