Learning about chicken poop or droppings might not be an interesting topic to a lot of people. But if you’re into a poultry hobby or business, you should understand the digestive system of chickens and know how to analyze their poop. In this comprehensive guide, you will know which poop comes from a healthy chicken, what should be the color of a normal poop, and what to do to improve their health. So, if their stomach is ready and you’re not overly sensitive, read from start to finish.
Quick Tour of a Chicken’s Digestive System
To understand how chicken produces their poop, you should first have a basic knowledge how chickens eat and digest their food.
After they pick up food using their beaks, it will pass through their esophagus and will be stored in their crop. This is located at the base of their neck and can expand reasonably. The food usually stays there for up to 12 hours before going down to their gizzard (stomach) where some digestive enzymes are added to mix and grind the food.
Chickens have no teeth and they don’t need them. This gizzard (scientific name: ventriculus) is a muscular part that acts like a grinder that has grit (or small, hard sand particles) to grind the food into smaller, fiber-like particles. No wonder, chickens can eat meat, insects, and small grains.
Afterward, the food will go to the small intestines and the nutrients will be absorbed. The residue will go to the ceca, where the undigested food will be broken down by bacteria. The ceca empty their contents multiple times a day. Then, the food will go to the large intestine, where the food that was not digested will be dried out.
The remaining residue will then pass through a flexible cavity called the cloaca, where the urine and waste shall meet. Both of them will be released at the vent, the cloaca’s external opening. Interestingly, this is also where eggs and sperm pass through. And this is how chicken poop is being produced.
How to Identify a Healthy Chicken Poop
A healthy chicken poop or feces usually has some shade of brown or green, which is the digested food. It also has a whitish chalky cap of uric acid (urine). A ‘normal’ chicken poops usually between 12 and 15 times a day, including at night.
But generally speaking, the color of chicken poop may vary on what the chicken ate. If your chicken has just eaten blackberries, its poop will likely be black. However, the color also depends on their health status. If the texture or color of the chicken coop suddenly changes, it may also be due to the dosage change of their vitamins.
During the hotter month, chickens drink a lot of water more than usual. So don’t worry if their poop may somehow be watery. The same thing will happen if your chicken is under stress. Try chasing your hen without a warning and you will notice that she may also release a runny poo.
On the other hand, a cecal poop (droppings from ceca) is different from a ‘normal’ poop. It is thicker, stickier, and usually has a particularly foul smell. More often than not, it also lacks the white cap. The darker they are, the smellier they are! You might also think that it is a sign of diarrhea. But actually, it means that the digestive system is working well.
Sometimes, you will also notice that poop has small amounts of red tissues on it and you might think that it is blood. But no, your chicken is completely and it is just a sign that the intestine is constantly regenerating its lining. However, if the red part is huge and appears to blood, you should immediately conduct further investigation.
Now, here are the other colors of chicken poop and their explanation.
Green Chicken Poop
Don’t overreact if your chicken has a green poop. If you fed them with lots of vegetables, weeds, and leafy treats, the color is just fine. This is also possible if your free-range chicken is surrounded by grass. Otherwise, your chicken may be showing symptoms of Avian flu, Marek’s disease, Newcastle disease, or internal worms. If you notice that the poop is somehow blue-green, don’t panic. Teal droppings are most likely due to lots of purple food intake. This includes purple cabbage, red cabbage, and beets.
Black Chicken Poop
As mention earlier, black chicken poop may come from the blackberries you fed to them. It may also come from other black foods such as raisins and strawberries, or even wood ash. But if your chicken is experiencing trauma and you have not given them such foods, it’s very likely caused by internal bleeding.
Yellow Chicken Poop
If the chicken poop is yellow, they might have eaten a lot of corn, squash, or strawberry. Otherwise, your chickens may have internal or external parasites, typhoid fever, or kidney problems. They may also have an imbalance in their digestive system. An obvious sign that your chicken is sick is when it stays away from other chickens and does not move too much.
Red or Orange Chicken Poop
As mentioned above, if only a small part of the poop is red (or orange), it may be a sign that the intestine lining regenerating constantly, and there’s no problem whatsoever. But if you’re sure that it is blood, it is very likely that your chicken has Coccidiosis or lead poisoning. Symptoms include anemia, fever, weight loss, diarrhea, appetite loss, and dehydration. For mild cases, it can be treated with oral medicine. On the other hand, natural treatments include garlic, cinnamon, at apple cider vinegar. But for severe cases, you should immediately bring your chicken to a vet.
Runny Brown Chicken Poop
As mentioned above, the color of cecal poop is brown. It is a sign that your chicken’s digestive system is working as it should be. In fact, you might notice it every day because chickens release them 8 times a day or even more. If the brown poop is runny or watery during summer, it is also likely to be normal because chickens drink more during hotter months. They may also have eaten watermelons or cucumber. But if this occurs during winter, your chicken is likely to have E.coli, a common infection among birds. Aside from having a poor immune system, it can also spread through contaminated eggs and fecal contamination. Your chicken might also have infectious bronchitis, a deadly virus that targets both the respiratory tract and the urogenital tract. If not treated immediately, it may lead to a loss in egg production or kidney failure.
White Chicken Poop
White chicken poop is due to a lot of factors. If your chicken has been drinking lots of liquid, the white part of the poop is probably the white cap of uric acid (urine). In that case, it is healthy chicken poop. However, white poop may also be a sign that your chicken has CRD (chronic respiratory disease). Symptoms of this illness include being weak and loss of appetite. This disease is highly contagious and can be deadly. Other possible diseases brought about by white poop include vent gleet (cloacitis) and kidney damage.
Large Piles of Brown Chicken Poop
In case you’re not aware, some hens love to just sit on eggs all day but not to hatch them. They are called broody hens. These broody hens don’t want to leave the eggs, thus sacrificing their time to relieve themselves. Therefore, it is very likely for them to release large piles of brown poop. And because the poop has been kept for a long, you can expect that they are very stinky!
Once you have noticed some abnormal droppings in your coop, conduct an immediate and thorough investigation. To help you decide whether chicken poop is normal or not, here are some tips.
As mentioned earlier, red poop is normal if the reddish part is pretty small. But if it is plenty, it may be blood.
If you have confirmed that it is blood, you should observe your chicken very closely. Aside from the loss of appetite, diarrhea, and dehydration, here are the other symptoms that your chicken may have coccidiosis.
- Pale comb or skin
- Bloody vent
- Ruffled feathers
- Weight loss (especially in older chickens)
- Reduced growth rate (especially in young chickens)
- Inconsistent laying of eggs (or not being able to lay eggs at all)
Note, however, that some of the infected chickens may only show some of the above symptoms.
Milky, White Poop
Once again, white poop is fine if the white part is uric acid which means it is healthy chicken poop. But if the poop is slimy and consistently milky white, your chicken might be suffering from internal parasites which can be treated using a dewormer. On the other hand, if your chicken has CRD (chronic respiratory disease), which can be very dangerous. This highly contagious disease is often complicated by other diseases such as infectious bursal disease (IBD). This is why vaccination has not been proven as a successful preventive measure.
Also known as gumboro disease, IBD can cause sneezing, coughing, and sometimes, kidney problems. Unfortunately, treatment can be difficult and infected chickens can hardly recover.
And because CRD can be transmitted by eggs, this disease can also result in a loss in egg production. Nonetheless, the mortality rate among adult chickens is very low.
Worms in Poop
The presence of worms in chicken poop is most likely due to nasty parasites infecting their digestive system. These parasites will live inside your chicken and eventually lay eggs. They also suck your chicken’s nutrients and can cause severe discomfort.
Worm eggs can enter your chicken’s body in two ways – directly and indirectly. Directly mean the chicken will eat them, while indirectly means they will eat earthworms that have worm eggs. These worms can be gizzard worms, roundworms, hairworms, or tapeworms.
To help prevent worm infestation, you should avoid having wet and muddy conditions in the coop and replace the bedding regularly. During hotter months, cut the grass short and let the heat of the sun kill these worms. Deworming your chickens is a great help.
Clear, Watery Poop
Chickens with watery poop have many contributors, depending on the color. But if your chicken has clear and watery poop, this may be the result of damage in the kidney, vent gleet, and infectious bronchitis.
Clear, watery poop is also due to intake of a lot of water or watery foods such as watermelon and cucumber, especially during summer. A quick remedy is to add garlic to their food. But if the watery poop is very seldom, you don’t have to worry because it could be urates.
Just like humans, chickens may also experience diarrhea sometimes. This is common if the chicken ate something that will cause stomach upset. Among the foods that can cause diarrhea to chickens are apples, cheese, oranges, squash, and tomatoes.
On the other hand, if the diarrhea is persistent, it can be due to an infestation of worms inside your chicken’s stomach. Again, it can also be due to other diseases such as Coccidiosis. Young chickens are also likely to be ones to be infected with this disease.
What to Check If Your Chicken Has Abnormal Droppings
Now that you already know how to identify abnormal droppings, you should check your chickens to know if they have underlying health conditions. Here are some of the changes you may notice:
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy or lack of energy
- Weight loss
- Obvious panting movements
- Drinks excessively (unless during extremely hot weather)
- Feather loss (unless they are in the molting process)
- Ruffled feathers
- Drooped wings or tail
- Halt or significant drop in egg production
If any or all symptoms are showing, bring the droppings to the vet for further evaluation.
How to Keep Your Chicken’s Digestive System Healthy
We, humans, should keep our digestive system healthy. Once we eat the wrong food that our stomach cannot tolerate, we may experience digestive upset. The same impact also happens to chickens. Therefore, here are some useful tips on how you can maintain their digestive health.
Add Probiotics to their Food
Just like humans, there are two kinds of bacteria inside the chicken’s digestive system – the good bacteria and the bad ones. The good bacteria must outnumber the bad bacteria, and one effective method is to add probiotics to their diet.
Probiotics are dietary supplements with beneficial bacteria and are very helpful in adding or replacing the bacteria inside the bird’s gastrointestinal tract. However, it does not necessarily mean that it will improve the health of your chicken and is not a form of treatment.
You should understand that a healthy, adult chicken already has a lot of good bacteria. This means that they no longer need probiotics. Nonetheless, newborn chicks are prone to bad bacteria, which mean they are the ones that need probiotics.
On the other hand, if your chickens have a particular bacterial disease, they should be treated with antibiotics that kill even the good bacteria. Therefore, probiotics can help replace the good bacteria that were lost.
But while there are a lot of commercial probiotics, you can also give your chickens some foods with natural probiotics. This includes yogurt, apple cider vinegar, whey, kefir, kombucha tea, as well as fermented grains and vegetables.
Add Prebiotics to Their Food
Just like probiotics, prebiotics also helps support digestive health. However, they work differently. Instead of having live bacteria, they provide the right amount of nutrition to the healthy bacteria to help them grow. They also increase the body’s ability to resist pathogens. Among the foods that contain prebiotics are garlic, honey, yams, bananas, whole grains, lentils, dandelion greens, and wheat bran.
Provide Sufficient Amount of Clean Water
Like other animals, chickens need a sufficient amount of clean, drinking water, especially during summer. Ideally, an adult chicken drinks a pint of water every day. They can also reach up to a quarter during hotter months. And because eggs are 85 percent water, it also helps hens to lay more eggs.
Note also that producing a single chicken egg requires 53 gallons of water. Nonetheless, drinking lots of water or eating watermelons can cause watery poop. Therefore, it’s your responsibility to check if the liquid in their poop is urates or a sign of illness.
Avoid Your Chickens From Stress
Yes, stress can also cause poop problems in chickens. Stress may be due to many different factors. This includes weather conditions, fighting, predator issues, wrong feeds, brooding, insufficient space, a dirty environment, and even laying eggs.
Stress also increases their blood pressure. Therefore, you should do everything to eliminate or reduce the source of their stress. Always make sure their coop is safe and clean and is big enough for them. You should also ensure they receive enough amount of light.
Chicken poop may be nasty to look at and smell. But as a responsible poultry owner, part of your responsibility is to monitor them. And come to think of it, composted chicken manure also has benefits to the soil. They have huge amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that make them ideal fertilizers.