Understanding Your Chickens’ Poop

Understanding Your Chickens’ Poop

It can be alarming if your chickens poop out a blob that looks a tad bit unfamiliar, or different than what you are used to seeing. But, the truth is, chicken’s poop will differ depending on what they eat, where the feces is coming from, and yes often it depends on their health. 

Let’s break down the ins and outs (yes, that out) of a chicken’s feces by starting with the digestive system of your chickens. 

Understanding Your Chicken’s Digestive System

Chickens have an interesting, and somewhat confusing, digestive system. First off, they don’t have teeth, so in order to “chew” their food, they have to eat stones. If that’s not strange enough, poo, pee, and eggs all exit through the same single “hole.”

But before we get too carried away with the anomaly that is the chicken’s digestive system, let’s back up and follow the path of a food item from beginning to, ahem, end. 

  1. Your chooks peck at their food and it travels to the crop, a storage-like stop on the digestive tract, where enzymes help begin the digestive process by breaking down the food. 
  2. The food then moves to the gizzard, and this is where that grit comes in handy. This organ grinds up the food along with the stones the chickens have eaten. 
  3. Once the gizzard has done its job, the food moves through the small intestines where nutrition is absorbed.
  4. Unlike humans, and many other critters, chickens have an extra organ that branches off the small intestines, and this is called the ceca. The purpose of the ceca is to catch additional nutrition by fermenting the food further. Food hangs out in the ceca for a while and is expelled a few times a day (which is why your chicken’s poo look different throughout the day.) More on that soon. 
  5. Lastly, the cloaca takes the “leftovers” and combines them with urates producing the white part of the droppings. From there, the poop leaves the chicken through the vent.

So, now that we understand how the chicken’s digestive system operates, let’s take a closer look at the actual poo, and what variations of it might mean for the health of your chicken.

The following variations are the most common dollops of poo you will see around the yard, some normal, some possibly indicating health concerns:

Normal Chicken Poop Variations

These three types of chicken poop usually indicate that your chicken’s digestive tract is healthy and firing on all cylinders:

  1. Regular Chicken Poop

Regular chicken poop has many different faces and depending on the temperature outdoors, and what this chicken has eaten, feces appearance can vary greatly.

With that being said, most healthy chicken poop is brownish, greenish, and has the cap of urates we mentioned earlier. 

Runny chicken poop is not always a reason to be concerned. If the temperature outside is hot, chicken poo will be much runnier than usual.

Understanding Your Chickens’ Poop

  1. Cecal Poop

Remember how I mentioned that the ceca expel its contents a few times a day? Well, if you notice “pudding-like” poo without the white urate cap, you are most likely looking at cecal poop. 

Don’t worry if this type of dropping is super-duper smelly—it’s entirely normal for it to have an extra punch of stank. 

  1. Broody Hen Poop

Once you identify your first bit of broody poop, you will always be able to tell if your hen is broody

Despite what we see outwardly, hens don’t want to soil their nest when they are laying on eggs. To prevent a mess, your hen will hold it in for much longer than she would if she were bombing around the coop. 

In fact, your broody hen only leaves her nest a few times a day to poo, eat, and drink. So, imagine what holding in all that feces does…yeah, it creates quite a build-up.

And when your hen finally does relieve herself, she unloads a lot of droppings at once, and usually, it smells pretty horrible.

Understanding Your Chickens’ Poop

Abnormal Chicken Poop Variations

Keep in mind that healthy poop can be runny, and have different colorations depending on your chicken’s diet, but the following probably indicate an underlying problem:

  1. Wormy Chicken Poop

If you see worms in your chickens’ dropping, or even in their eggs or shells, it’s pretty clear that you have a parasitic infection. If you suspect that your chicken has worms, you can try deworming them with a variety of different methods, but to successfully remove all worms from your chicken’s digestive system, you should try your best to identify the type of worm. 

If you aren’t sure what kind of worms your chickens have, take the droppings to your vet, and they should be able to quickly identify which brand of parasite you are dealing with and how to treat it. 

Remember, if one chicken has worms, they probably all have them and should be treated accordingly. 

  1. Foamy Chicken Poop

Another indication of a problem with your chicken’s digestive system might be foamy stool. Now, every once in awhile, we all have some digestive upset. So, if you see frothy poo from your favorite hen, don’t panic; she may have eaten a lot of protein that day, and her body is processing the extra intake differently. 

If, however, she continues to have foamy, yellow, poop, she could have worms or a bacterial infection in her digestive tract. Keep a close eye on her to make sure this passes and isn’t more than just a protein-rich meal.

  1. Blood in Your Chicken’s Poop

Chicken droppings with blood in them may indicate that your hen has coccidiosis, which is an inflammation of the intestinal lining due to a bacterial infection. Coccidiosis can be treated if caught early. 

Bloody chicken poop can also indicate the presence of worms within the digestive system. So, even f you cannot see the worms, they may be hanging out inside of your hen. 

  1. Watery Chicken Droppings

Runny chicken poop can occur in scorching temperatures. It can appear thin and watery. However, if your chicken is explosively defecating, and it isn’t that hot out, she may have eaten something she shouldn’t have, or she could have worms or an infection. 

In any of these situations, you should separate your hen from the rest of the flock to prevent the spread of infections she might be carrying and to keep an eye on her health. 

Consult a vet if you are unsure of what has caused the issue, and treat your entire flock as instructed. 

Now that we all know each other a bit more than we may have wanted to, we can assess the health of our chickens by observing their feces. And, we know that a little variation in our chicken’s poop isn’t always a cause for concern.

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Comments

  1. Barbara Maddaford says

    I gather eggs every day, usually twice. Today I cracked an egg into my cake & it was rotten! Can they lay a rotten egg? I never seen this in all my years. Ok only 15 yrs. Raising chickens. I use my weird or cracked eggs but they are this week’s eggs, refrigerated.

    • HappyChicken says

      This could mean an infection in the oviduct. I would talk to a professional or vet about this. And stay away from eating them for now until there’s a solution. When you say rotten are you meaning the smell or look? Send a picture to us and we will review.
      There is such a thing as lash eggs.

      Claire

  2. Deborah Parnham says

    Great article. we are new for raising chickens. You mentioned eating stones. What kind of stones are you referring to? We have rock and grass. Should I put down some sand for them.
    Thanks

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