It’s not the most glamorous topic to think about, but at one point or another, every chicken keeper will undoubtedly ask themselves….“What’s up with my chicken’s poop?” or “What is chicken poop actually supposed to look like?”.
To be fair, it’s a good idea to monitor your chickens’ poop.
Not only will it give you early insight into potential health and wellness problems among your flock, but it will also help acquaint you with what normal looks like so you don’t overreact to small changes.
What’s considered “normal” chicken poop can vary by the hen, by the time of year, by diet…there are so many variables that go into healthy chicken poop.
It can be brown, black, yellow, or green – or it can be somewhere in between.
So how do you know what is healthy – and what’s not?
Don’t worry. We will give you the low-down on everything you need to understand your chickens’ poop.
How is Chicken Poop Produced?
For the most part, chickens aren’t that different from humans – or other animals – when it comes to how they produce poop. But there are some differences to be aware of.
When a chicken eats and drinks, the water and food travel down the beak into the esophagus and then into the crop. There, it is stored for a short time before it moves to the stomach. The digestive enzymes are added to the food before it travels to the gizzard, also known as the ventriculus, where it grinds up the food.
In order for your chicken’s body to be able to grind up the food, it needs to have grit. Grit usually takes the form of small stones that your chickens eat during their daily foraging, but if you keep your birds in confinement you will need to add commercial grit to their diets to serve this purpose.
The grit helps break the food down before it moves to the intestines. Once there, the ceca branch of the small intestine absorbs water in the fecal matter. They also help to ferment matter that wasn’t broken down before. Ceca empty their contents several times a day.
After that, the poop moves on to the cloaca. There, the contents from the intestines combined with urates, which appear as white caps on the top of the feces. Then it’s onward and outwards as the poop passes through the bird’s vent – yes, the same place where the eggs come out!
What Does Healthy Chicken Poop Look Like?
In most cases, chicken poop will be some shade of brown. These can vary in consistency but often have a fluffy white cap. This white part is uric acid – what would be urine in a human. The solid is fecal matter, or the digested food.
Now, there’s plenty of reasons why your chickens’ poop might be another color, and it doesn’t have to be cause for panic. Although chicken poop is normally soft, mushy, and brown, there are perfectly good reasons why it might look different every now and then.
Don’t panic immediately when you see odd-colored poop in your coop. After all, there’s probably not a human out there that hasn’t had a moment of pause after seeing purple poop in the toilet following the consumption of beets! As you know, this isn’t an indicator of a major health problem – it’s just that certain foods cause discoloration of the stool. The same is true of chickens.
Here are some of the most common alternative chicken poop shades and textures.
Green Chicken Poop
Green chicken poop is pretty common, especially in pasture-raised chickens. Caused by a diet that’s heavy in greens, grasses, weeds, and vegetables, it’s usually nothing to worry about. Rarely, it can also be an indicator of internal parasites, the avian flu, or Marek’s disease, but if there are no other symptoms accompanying the green droppings, don’t panic.
Teal droppings are also odd to see, but there’s nothing worrisome here. They are usually caused by eating too many purple foods like beets and red cabbage.
Yellow Chicken Poop
As with green chicken poop, there are plenty of not-so-benign conditions that can cause yellow poop, including coccidiosis, internal parasites, kidney problems, or typhoid. However, if there are no other symptoms that are concerning you, the yellow chicken poop is probably caused by your flock eating lots of the following foods:
- Forsythia blossoms
Black Chicken Poop
Black chicken poop can be caused by internal bleeding, but if your chickens haven’t experienced any trauma lately, it’s more likely that they ate charcoal, blackberries, or other dark-colored foods.
Runny Brown Chicken Poop
Runny brown poop can be a sign of infectious bronchitis or E.coli. However, it’s more likely that the chickens ate foods that had a lot of water, like cucumbers or zucchini.
It’s important not to confuse runny poop with cecal poop, too. Cecal poop looks more like pudding and usually comes out of a chicken once every eight or so times a hen poops. This is perfectly normal – here’s what you need to know.
Remember the ceca of the small intestine that we mentioned earlier? They need to eliminate their stinky contents several times a day. Cecal poop is a good sign that the digestive tract of your chickens is working properly, and it can be any color from yellow to even black. It will have a different texture and color than the rest of the droppings, but the best indication that it is cecal poop and not any other kind of poop will be the unmistakable (and highly unpleasant) smell.
Red or Orange Chicken Poop
Red or orange chicken poop is one of the scariest types of chicken poop to see in your coop. It could be lead poisoning or coccidiosis, but usually, it’s harmless. It’s caused by the sloughing off of the intestinal lining, which sounds scary but is totally benign. It happens from time to time.
Make sure there’s no blood, though. Bloody stool is another category altogether, and it can be tough to differentiate orange or red poop from bloody poop. In fact, orange strands are often easily confused for blood – so look closely.
White Chicken Poop
White chicken poop has a ton of potential causes. It’s Important that you look closely at the droppings before trying to overanalyze them – remember, all chicken poop will have white caps at the ends.
However, fully white poop can be caused by a variety of things. It’s common when your chickens have been drinking more water than normal or have been eating waterlogged foods like celery, watermelon, cucumbers, or zucchini.
That being said, keep an eye out for any other changes, because white poop can also be caused by kidney damage, stress, internal diseases, or vent gleet.
Unusually Large Piles of Brown Poop
You probably already know that broody hens don’t act quite like normal – but they also don’t produce normal poop, either. Large piles of brown poop are super common in broody hens. Because she is only leaving her nest a couple of times a day, she only has the opportunity to poop a few times. Therefore, she will deposit a large amount of poop when she does hop off the eggs – and the poop is going to be stinkier than normal, too.
Now that you know the normal kinds of chicken poop, here are some abnormal types to watch out for. If you see any of these – particularly if they are accompanied by other symptoms – it might be time to contact your local veterinarian.
We mentioned earlier that red or orange poop is nothing to worry about – but the exception to that is if you see blood. Bloody droppings can indicate coccidiosis, a highly contagious parasitic disease of the intestines. If your hen is experiencing other health problems and is hunched over or fluffed up, she could very well have this disease. Take a fecal sample to your vet as soon as possible so that you can begin treatment and prevent its spread to the rest of your flock.
Worms in Poop
If you see worms in your chickens’ poop, this means they probably have an active infestation of parasites. You need to medicate them appropriately. Don’t just medicate the affected chicken, either – make sure you address the entire flock, as worms spread easily and you might not notice symptoms right away.
Worms can be prevented by ensuring your chickens have access to fresh pasture and a healthy diet. You can also use natural treatments like garlic and apple cider vinegar to keep parasites at bay. Chemical dewormers are available, too, but these should be used in moderation.
As mentioned earlier, white poop is nothing to worry about. However, poop that is consistently white and milky-looking could be a sign of internal parasites. It can also be the result of gumboro disease, also referred to as infectious bursal disease. While parasites can be treated with a dewormer, it is difficult to treat and to recover from infectious bursal disease.
While loose stool every now and then is nothing to be worried about, consistent bouts of diarrhea should be addressed. It will be runny, greasy, and yellow in color. Often, this is caused by a slight hiccup in the diet where a chicken has eaten something that doesn’t totally agree with it – again, just like what might happen with humans.
Here are some foods that have a tendency to cause diarrhea in chickens:
However, if diarrhea is a regular occurrence, you need to start doing some investigating. It can be a sign of worms as well as other dangerous diseases like Coccidiosis. Coccidiosis should be treated with a drug like Amprolium or Toltrazuril, which you will need to get from a vet.
Poop that is clear and very watery can be indicative of several conditions that you need to treat. Clear poop can be a symptom of infectious bronchitis, which requires strong antibiotics, but it can also be a sign of stress. More often than not, watery poop is a sign that your chickens have recently been moved or that they have been out of food for a while.
Droppings that are consistently white and wet should be addressed, too. Urates are naturally runny, but if you see watery poop every single day, take action. It is often a sign of kidney failure, a disease much more common in older chickens as well as those who have been consuming a high-protein diet.
What to Do When Droppings Look Odd
If you find abnormal chicken poop that can’t be attributed to any of the conditions above, here are some tips on what you should do.
First, look for any other symptoms that might indicate illness or parasitic infestation. Here are some to be mindful of:
- Lack of energy
- Weight loss
- Increased or decreased thirst
- Drop or halt in egg production
- Loss of appetite
Regardless of whether there are other symptoms present or not, you will also want to conduct a thorough assessment of your flock’s diet. Have your birds been eating anything oddly colored lately? Drinking lots of water? If not, make sure the diet is balanced. Too few or too many vitamins and minerals can cause discoloration or change the texture of your chickens’ poop.
If there are other symptoms present and the diet seems to be in check, it’s time to get in touch with a vet. Don’t worry, you don’t need to load up your flock to do this – you just need to bring the droppings to the vet for a fecal float test.
Vets often perform fecal float tests for a variety of species – not just chickens. Therefore, even if your vet doesn’t usually treat chickens, they may be willing to perform a fecal float test or to send the sample out to another lab for testing for you.
How to Improve the Digestive Health of Your Chicken
As with humans, it’s easy for the digestive health of your chickens to get out of whack.
You can add probiotics to your chickens’ diet. Most commercial, nutritionally-complete chicken feeds contain both prebiotics and probiotics to support a bird’s health. There won’t be anything else you need to do.
However, if you make your own chicken feed, it might be worth adding a probiotic supplement like Rooster Booster to your flock’s diet. Probiotics are natural bacteria that are needed to keep the intestinal tract healthy. They keep bad bacteria in check by reducing pH and acidifying the gut.
You can also feed your chickens foods that are natural sources of probiotics. Plenty of fruits and vegetables will give your chickens the vitamins and minerals they need, but fermented and cultured foods like yogurt can provide an extra boost of probiotics, too.
Monitor Water Intake
Your chickens need plenty of water in order to keep their digestive tracts running in tip-top shape. This is especially true in the summertime. Eating lots of watery foods or drinking lots of water can cause watery poop, but it’s important to add plenty of moisture to help keep things sliding through smoothly.
A stressed chicken may show digestive upset for quite some time. If it’s particularly hot or particularly cold – or if there is any fighting or other changes to your flock – you might notice a change in the color, texture, or frequency of the poop. Chickens that are stressed have a tendency to produce more liquid than normal – stress increases blood pressure.
You might see this immediately in your flock – have you ever picked up a hen and she immediately relieves runny poop directly on your hands? That’s stress.
Do your best to reduce stress in your flock whenever and wherever possible. Make sure you have plenty of space for all of your chickens in the run and in the coop and provide consistent and ample amounts of food and water for all your birds.
Keep the Coop Clean
We’re guessing that if you are vigilant about your chicken’s poop, you’re probably already doing a bang-up job at keeping the coop clean and hygienic. However, it’s vital that you do so to maintain and improve the digestive health of your chickens.
Not only does a dirty coop increase the likelihood that your chickens will become stressed, but it also makes it easier for diseases to strike. Not only do certain parasites, like worms, thrive in unclean settings, but so do transmittable diseases.
An infestation of internal parasites can wipe out a flock quickly – and parasites are definitely easier to prevent than they are to treat. Here are some quick tips:
- Change the bedding or litter in the coop on a regular basis.
- Avoid wet and muddy conditions, as worms thrive in damp environments.
- Keep the grass that your chickens use mowed down and short – mowed grass exposes worms to UV rays, which will kill them.
- Initiate a natural deworming procedure on a regular basis.
Monitoring Your Chicken’s Poop
We get it – not everybody is in the habit of monitoring their chickens’ poop for abnormalities. It’s a good habit to get into, though, especially if you want to start being proactive instead of reactive when it comes to dealing with health issues in your flock.
If you don’t use them already, consider installing droppings boards in your coop. There are a lot of benefits to doing this. Not only will these boards collect nightly deposits and keep your bedding cleaner for longer, but they should also be scraped down once a day or at the very least, once a week.
Scraping the boards down will give you the opportunity to detect anything strange. While small amounts of red or discolored tissue aren’t abnormal, large amounts of blood or consistently off-colored poop (especially combined with other symptoms) should be addressed.
Now you know everything there is to know about chicken poop. Although it’s probably not going to be great fodder for dinner party conversation, it should help you get started as you make your way to a healthier, happier flock of backyard chickens.