When you’re met with a pile of watery chicken poop, it’s enough to send you back to bed but finding out the cause is important for the wellbeing of your chickens. Now you may not even think about a closer examination of your chickens’ droppings but they really can tell you how they’re doing and be the first sign of other problems. Black, green, and brown poop can all tell you exactly what’s going in with the health of your flock.
That means that every chicken keeper needs to know the difference between normal chicken poop and tell-tale signs of something else going on. Even if you just have a few backyard chickens, knowing when they’re well and when they’re not, is an important part of keeping your flock healthy.
Now whether you’re in the US, UK, or somewhere else entirely though loose droppings are spelled slightly differently. So we’re going to use a mix of both spellings, so that’s diarrhoea and diarrhea!
Your Chicken's Digestive System
When you know how a chicken digests its food then it can help to understand what to expect from the poop coming out from the other end!
- First your chickens take in food and water through their beaks
- Then as saliva and digestive enzymes are combined with the food it moves from the mouth down the esophagus and into the crop
- It can then stay in the crop for up to twelve hours where it then trickles slowly towards the stomach.
- Then as it moves into the gizzard, more digestive enzymes are added and this is where the stomach uses grit or small stones to grind the food up into particles that are more digestible by the gut.
- Now the food moves towards the small intestine and this is where the absorption of the nutrients takes place.
- Whatever is left then passes to the ceca where the bacteria break down any food which is still undigested and which is emptied several times a day.
- The waste and undigested food which comes from the intestines are then mixed with urates and pass from the body as poop through the vent.
Types of Droppings
Normal Chicken Poop
Normal everyday droppings are a mixture of both fecal matter and urates. You’ve probably seen the white cap on the top of the droppings? Well, that’s the urate as chickens don’t have a urinary system in the way that we do. The digestive waste is the brown or greyish part of the chicken poop. Did you know that normal chicken will pass poop over 12 times in a 24 hour period?
Now greenish droppings can be completely normal if your hens are free-range and eat a lot of green matter such as grass and weeds. This might also happen if you’ve given them so tasty leafy green treats. Our chickens seem to love to feast on a range of garden plants with the forsythia blossoms often being a prized nibble!
It’s totally normal for your chickens to pass more watery poop when the weather turns warmer. That’s because they’ll drink more on hot days to help them to cool down. If your flock has had watery treats such as cucumber or watermelon then they can also choose the same type of watery droppings.
The most common reason for black chicken poop is because of the color of the food that your chickens have been eating. So that could be from munching on blueberries blackcurrants or blackberries. The other time we’ve seen black droppings is when we’ve added the wood ash into where the chickens like to have their dust bath. Not only do they love to bathe in it but it seems that they also like to eat it too!
Chickens also produce droppings that are known as cecal poop. This is produced from the caecum of the chicken and tends to be produced every 8-10 droppings. It’s much thicker and stickier than normal and can range from yellow to black in color. But the most obvious difference is that these waste products absolutely stinks!
But, as unpleasant as it might be, cecal poop is normal chicken waste and it’s a good indication that the digestive tract is working properly. Cecal poo can be anything from mustard to dark brown in color and it does seem that the darker the poop the more awful it smells!
Large Green or Brown Poop
A broody hen will sit tight on her nest in the hope of hatching eggs. Not wishing to foul her nest, she retains her poop throughout the day instead of the usual frequent deposits. When she does leave the nest to eat, drink and relieve herself, she’ll leave behind some very large green or brown droppings which are usually unpleasant looking and vile-smelling poo. This is again is perfectly normal.
Chicken Diarrhoea and Its Causes
Diarrhoea generally has a runny and greasy consistency and is often yellow or mustard in color. There are a number of causes for this happening in your backyard chickens, including:
Eating Too Much
Pretty much like us, if your chickens eat too much then their digestive system is going to be unimpressed. So if your chicken coop is covered in watery chicken poop then do think back to yesterday.
Did your flock get into an orchard, were you a little heavy-handed with the chicken feed scoop? They might all be causes for why the diarrhoea has appeared.
Eating Too Much Protein
Did you know that more chickens are now getting kidney damage? So that means that’s important to know what the signs are so that you can get veterinary advice. As well as being caused by a diet high in protein, kidney damage can also be caused by your chicken getting too much calcium, not enough phosphorous, and too little water.
Chicken feeds generally provide all the nutrition needed along with some fresh greens, so if you’ve been adding a lot of extras then diet might be the cause of the problem. Signs to look out for include, loss of weight and muscle mass, diarrhoea, and depression.
When the weather conditions are getting hotter then you’ll find that your birds will drink much more than normal and when that’s combined with eating less due to the heat, then that’s going to cause watery chicken droppings. When the temperature goes up there is also the risk of a bird getting heatstroke if they’re not able to cool off in the coop or find some shade.
Never a pleasant subject but worms can cause chaos for your chickens and so regular treatment is always recommended to help maintain your flock’s health. To provide all the information you need on worms and worming your flock we’re written an article just on this topic which you can find here.
How do you know if chickens have worms?
Well, you might actually see the worms in the chicken poop but they’re not always that easy to spot. So a better approach is to take a sample of the poop from one of your adult chickens to the vet and they’ll do a worm count for you.
Many medications such as antibiotics can cause a hen to get diarrhoea. This is because as well as killing off the bad bacteria, they can also kill off the good which should live within the gut.
Coccidiosis is a disease that is contracted when your chickens come into contact with or eat something that has already been infected with the organism called coccidian protozoa. These organisms attack the digestive system of your chickens causing gut damage and then steal all the nutrition from feeding.
What could be a sign or symptom of coccidiosis in chickens?
One of the key signs for cases of the coccidiosis disease comes from when a hen starts to pass loose and bloody poop. As the infection develops, you may also see a bird become lethargic, be uninterested in eating, and a reduction in the eggs produced. For more information, have a look at our articles on everything you need to know about coccidiosis in chickens.
Infectious Coryza Your Heading Text Here
Although coryza is the medical term for the common cold in humans, for chickens it can be a much more serious disease. That’s because it affects a chicken’s sinuses resulting in inflammation and swelling of their airway meaning that they then have difficulty in breathing.
What are the signs and symptoms of infectious coryza in chickens?
There are several signs and symptoms to look out for including:
- Swelling of the face – under the eyes, cheeks even the wattles can become swollen.
- A swollen and pale comb.
- A thick and smelly discharge from both the nares and the eyes.
- Conjunctivitis of the eyes
- Difficulty breathing
- Uninterested in eating or drinking
- Difficulty walking
- Liquid droppings
Egg Yolk Peritonitis
When a hen lays an egg, the left ovary will deliver the ‘ova’ or yolks into the infundibulum. The yolk is then caught and as it continues its route through the reproductive tracts it develops into an egg which is then laid. Egg yolk peritonitis takes place when a yolk misses the oviduct and moves towards your chicken’s internal organs.
Although this is a condition that is seen in backyard hens, it’s most common in production hybrid flocks.
Signs of egg yolk peritonitis include yellow-colored chicken poop, deformed or soft shell eggs, and being reluctant to egg or drink. Many birds also become very lethargic and so may not want to leave the chicken coop
While having dropping boards can seem like creating extra work, it does mean that you’ll be able to do a quick check of your flock’s poop each morning when you clean out the chicken coop. It only takes a few minutes to scrape the droppings boards clean each day but it’s a quick way to see what’s happening and also the results of any changes you make. Many chickens like to perch in the same place each night so this also lets you check the board to see which hen might have problems.
When abnormal chicken droppings are found, it’s important to note whether it is an isolated incident or one that is recurring. You should take into account things like changes in weather temperature, change of diet etc. as well as monitoring the hen for other symptoms that may signify illness such as weight loss, loss of appetite, lethargy, increased thirst, drop in egg production or sullen appearance. If additional symptoms are established, the cause needs to be determined and treated appropriately.
By monitoring your hens’ outputs, you’ll often get an early sign that something is wrong. Be sure that you know the large variations of ‘normal chicken droppings for your flock so that you can recognize the differences and what may have caused them before you start to overreact. Wondering how you’ll compare the difference day by day? Take a quick photo with your phone and then you can compare chicken poop day by day.
One other advantage to using a droppings board is how easy it is to keep the coop nice and clean. When the coop isn’t cleaned for several days without a board in place, it soon becomes less than ideal conditions for your birds and that’s when it can start to affect the health of your flock.
How Do You Stop Diarrhea in Chickens?
Some of the causes of the diarrhea we’ve already mentioned are going to need the help of your veterinarian to get the situation back under control. However, for some issues, you’ll be able to try out some home remedies and management of your chickens’ living space to get your flocks poop back to normal.
If Your Chickens Have Eaten Too Much
This can be a simple one to resolve, Make sure your chickens have access to plenty of clean water with some added vitamins and electrolytes and everything should be back to normal after 24-36 hours. If you’re still not seeing normal chicken droppings after this point, then you’re likely to need the help of your local vet.
To prevent further cases of overfeeding, do then start to measure how much feed each chicken needs taking into account any extra type of nutrition they receive in their daily diet.
If You Suspect Heat Stroke
Again there’s a straightforward treatment for this one. One of the first things to do is to get your chicken somewhere cool to reduce her body temperature. Make sure she has access to cool, clean fresh water, and again add in a vitamin and electrolyte solution to speed recovery.
Standing a bird in cold water or in front of a fan blowing cold air can be helpful as can making a feed mash by mixing her regular feed with cold water. This then ensures that she gets nutrition and water all in one go.
When Your Chickens Have Worms
If you know that one of your chickens has worms then the chances are that the others are also infected. Now, there are lots of different worming products available but the treatment does often need to be dispensed in different ways so do read the instructions first. You may also find that you cannot eat or sell the eggs from treated hens for a certain period of time.
If Your Chicken is On Other Medication
First off check with the vet if a known side effect of the medication is watery chicken poop. If that’s the case then make sure that she is getting a good quality feed along with a supply of water. You could also consider giving probiotics that will restore the balance of good bacteria within the gut. Look for health supplements or a diet designed for birds that contain lactobacillus acidophilus for gut health.
Natural Remedies for Watery Chicken Poop
If you’re reluctant to go down the antibiotic route there are some natural remedies that can help. Do though keep a close eye on the situation and if you don’t see the chicken poop start to firm up then you will need to seek veterinary help.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
ACV is an acidic supplement that just needs a very small amount added to the water to boost digestive tract wellbeing. Do take into account that you shouldn’t add ACV to a metal water container as it can cause corrosion which is then harmful to your bird’s health.
ACV can also be diluted with water and used as a cleaning product for the chicken coop!
Cinnamon has been used for centuries to treat gastrointestinal issues so it should be no surprise that it’s often recommended for loose chicken poop. Now, do be aware that too much cinnamon can have the opposite effect and actually cause diarrhea.
So, we recommend letting a cinnamon stick sit in warm water for ten minutes and then scoop it out before letting it cool down. Then you can let your birds have a drink.
Please don’t forget that watery chicken poop can be a sign of conditions such as avian flu and fowl typhoid. That means that if there are other symptoms then it’s important to get professional treatment for your flock. Time can really matter when there’s a risk of a serious disease.