Good poo guide

Chicken poo can tell you a great deal about the birds’ health

Your Chickens - - Feature | 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.

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