Good poo guide
Chicken poo can tell you a great deal about the birds’ health
Do you give chicken poo a second thought as you scrape it into your bucket each morning? Did you know that a chicken’s poo is an important indicator of their health and can be one of the first signs of illness?
‘Normal’ chicken poo can range from brown to green to yellow or even black and all shades in between. A good henkeeper has to develop a good sense of poo identification to know the ‘normal’ from the ‘abnormal’ in their flock. You’ll find that the range of ‘normal’ varies between hens, their diet, the time of year, climate and their overall health.
Understanding how a chicken’s digestive system works can help you appreciate the end result! Here’s how it works:
Food and water is taken in with beak. Saliva and digestive enzymes are added as the food and water moves from the mouth down the oesophagus and into the crop, an expandable temporary storage compartment where it can remain for up to 12 hours. The food then trickles into the stomach (proventriculus). More digestive enzymes are added as the food moves into the gizzard (ventriculus), the muscular part of the stomach that uses grit or small stones eaten by the chicken to grind the food into smaller, more digestible particles.
From the gizzard, food passes into the small intestine where nutrients are absorbed. Any residues then passes through the ceca where bacteria help break down undigested food. The ceca empty out their foul smelling contents several times a day.
Waste and undigested food from the intestines are mixed with urates in the cloaca and eliminated from the body as
poo through the hen’s vent. Chickens do not pass urine in the same way as humans and other mammals; instead they eliminate waste products from the urinary system in the form of urate, the white ‘cap’ on the faeces.
TYPES OF DROPPINGS
‘Normal’ droppings consist of faeces and urates. Digestive waste is the solid brown or greyish portion of the poop that’s usually firm enough to hold its shape. The faeces are capped with white urate. A healthy chicken passes this ‘normal’ poo around 12 to 15 times a day, including at night.
If your hens free-range and have a diet high in grass, weeds and leafy green treats, you may find that green poop is ‘normal’ for your flock.
In hot weather, don’t be surprised to find your chickens passing watery poo as they increase their water intake to help them cool down. Eating lots of water-based foods, such as watermelon or cucumbers, will produce watery droppings too.
Chickens that are under stress produce more liquid than usual as stress increases blood pressure. So, if you chase a hen or pick her up without warning, she may release a runny poo!
Black droppings could be the result of eating dark purple foods such as blackberries or elderberries.
Cecal poo can be anything from mustard to dark brown in colour and are expelled every eight to 10 droppings. Cecal poo are generally thicker and stickier than ‘normal’ poo and often lack the white cap. They have a particularly foul smell — from personal observation, the darker the poo the more obscene the smell! As unpleasant as it may be, cecal poo is a good indication that the digestive tract is working properly.
You may find a dropping with small amounts of red tissue. It looks alarming but is perfectly normal and is just your hen shedding intestinal
Chickens can be trained to do lots of things, but we are still working on this one! Julie Moore’s chief rooster takes advantage of camera attention whilst a toilet is temporarily displaced during renovations.
Diagram of a chicken’s digestive system.
A good henkeeper has to develop a good sense of poo identification
Chickens eliminate waste products from the urinary system in the form of urate, the white ‘cap’ on the faeces.
Digestive waste is the solid brown or greyish portion of the poop that’s usually firm enough to hold its shape. The faeces are capped with white urate.
Normal poop with grit in the form of small stones from a free-ranging hen.
Green poop from free-ranging hens is ‘normal.
Normal green poop from a free-ranging hen.