Chickens eliminate their waste, urine, and feces in excreta.
This excreta exits the body via the cloaca.
So do chickens pee?
But how does this work?
And why do chickens excrete this excreta (usually called poop) so often?
Let’s talk about it.
How Does the Chicken Digestive System Work?
When you give your chickens food, how do they digest it?
Here is exactly how each part of the chicken works to digest food and create that high-value chicken manure we all love for our gardens and compost piles.
A chicken picks up food (grains, grasshoppers, grubs, worms, insects, and even pieces of meat and blades of grass) with its beak and swallows it whole.
Larger pieces of food are ripped up first using the beak and feet or by shaking the food in the beak until it tears into smaller pieces.
The Esophagus (Gullet)
The food then falls into the esophagus, the gullet, where it mixes with saliva containing digestive enzymes.
The gullet is in the neck of the chicken.
It’s just above the breasts and behind and below the beak and head.
Food moves through the esophagus almost instantly.
The crop is at the very base of the chicken’s neck, just behind the breasts but still forward to the legs and feet of the chicken.
Food stays in this section for ten to twelve hours.
This is where the saliva and digestive juices break down the food and pre-soften it for better digestion.
The crop can expand and contract in size as needed.
The Proventriculus (Gizzard)
Food slowly drops and trickles into the gizzard over several hours.
The gizzard is in the bird’s center, right above the legs, and over the top of the liver.
Once in the gizzard, a very muscular organ, more digestive enzymes are added to the mix, allowing the further breakdown of the food.
Grit is small pieces of gravel, rock, concrete, and sand that the chicken has intentionally swallowed to break up their food.
This grit can incredibly grind up even tough corn kernels, grains, fibers, and grasses to be better digested.
The Small Intestine
Food particles are swept away into the small intestine once they are an appropriate size. The small intestine is like a pinch point that connects the gizzard and the large intestine.
This small intestine absorbs the nutrients with remarkable efficiency.
Then, the remaining food passes through the bacteria-filled ceca.
This sophisticated bacteria breaks down more of the undigested food.
The ceca acts as a curtain or veil that leads into the large intestine.
The Large Intestine
The large intestine is next, and it takes up most of the back half of the bird behind the legs.
It removes most of the liquid from the food particles.
The liquids filter to the liver, where carbohydrates, proteins, and fats metabolize, and water is purified and sent into the bloodstream.
The solids in the large intestine are then pushed into the cloaca.
The urine (urea) is the white part of the manure and mixes with the solid feces in the cloaca.
Interestingly, the cloaca acts as a gastrointestinal, urinary, and reproductive system.
The cloaca consists of three major parts, the cranial coprodeum, the middle urodeum, and the caudal proctodeum.
- The coprodeum takes in the feces from the end of the large intestine.
- The urodeum has two ureters that pass the waste liquids (urine) into the cloaca. Roosters have ductus deferens that enter near here, while hens have an oviduct in the region.
- The caudal proctodeum is on the floor of the cloaca; this is where the top of the rooster’s phallus sits.
The cloaca ends where the vent begins. This opening is where the excreta and eggs exit the chicken.
How Often Should Chickens Poop a Day?
Most adult chickens poop once every thirty to ninety minutes every day.
With that said, most chickens will poop anywhere from fifteen to forty-eight times a day.
A small flock of ten chickens will produce approximately 150 to 480 droppings a day, so backyard hobbyists are encouraged to find a solution for manure management as soon as possible.
One laying hen will create two cubic feet (so fifteen gallons) of manure a year.
Ten hens will make ¾ of a cubic yard annually, making a pile of 3 feet wide, 3 feet long, and 2 feet tall. Composting will knock it down to about a foot tall after some decomposing.
What To Do With Chicken Manure?
The best solution for chicken manure is to utilize it as a soil amendment or fertilizer.
Chicken waste is full of incredibly diverse microbes, plus high levels of potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, and other organic compounds.
This is excellent for fueling soil microbes and helps the soil absorb and retain more water, improving soil aeration, reducing fertilizer leaching, and reducing soil erosion.
Place manure in a location where children, pets, and livestock can’t access it due to the sometimes harmful pathogens (like e. Coli and salmonella) present within it.
Compost or age the manure in this separate space until it becomes soil.
During the composting process, temperatures inside the pile will reach 140 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, killing off harmful pathogens.
The nitrogen and ammonia levels should take five or six weeks to drop to safe levels for plants.
Do not apply it to no-ground-contact plants less than three months before harvest.
For plants that are on the ground and may come in contact, do not apply it less than four months before harvest.
Wanna Learn More About Chicken Poop?
If you want to learn about variations in manure, what’s expected, what’s not, and what you can do to correct digestive health issues in your flock, read Understanding Your Chickens’ Poop here.
Do Chickens Pee? Final Thoughts
Even though chickens do not excrete liquid urine, urea exits their body as excreta.
This excreta waste occurs around the clock, all day, every day, and it’s like gold for yards, fields, landscapes, and gardens.
This land, in turn, can create a bountiful harvest of greens and grains to feed the chickens, which improves the land, and provides food for families and a healthy lifestyle for the flock.