The scoop on chicken poop

One of the weird things about owning chickens is that you have to pay a lot of attention to chicken poop. It's strange, but it's an important indicator of health or illness, just as it is in humans.

Healthy chicken poop is generally greenish or brownish, depending on diet, and (when fresh), about the consistency of bean dip (although  not NEARLY as appetizing). It usually has a whitish, chalky "cap" of urates as well.

Chickens also produce  cecal poo which looks more like chocolate pudding, or---again, depending on diet---sometimes like mustard. Also not appetizing. Cecal poo is sometimes especially stinky.

So you check out your flock's poo every so often because it can indicate if your chickens are ill. Diarrhea, obviously, is one indications of illness. But so is foamy poo, yellowish poo, mucousy poo and so on. It all means something. But sometimes an odd appearance doesn't mean anything is wrong. For instance, you may be worried that your chickens are suffering from an illness that causes diarrhea, when the real issue is just a heat wave. When your girls are drinking extra water to stay cool in a heat wave, they may have loose stools that don't indicate illness, just an increased water intake.

But there's usually a period of not-quite-panic, at least for me, before a determination can be made as to whether the vet needs to be called.

Case in point: this past week, I noticed a black poo. Then another. Then several. Ye gods, I thought, does this black chicken poop mean I have a sick chicken, or several? Black poop can mean there is blood in the stool, blood that has come from high up the gastrointestinal tract. Is that what's happening?

I then took a closer look at the flock to see if there was some sign of illness I had missed, but as far as behavior goes, they were all acting just fine. However, when I thought about it, I had noticed that there seemed to have been more than usual feather damage on the backs of some of the girls, so there was another possible clue. Egg laying had dropped a little, too. Not definitively, but I had gotten fewer eggs over the last couple of days. If they were acting lethargic, feathers ruffled, I would have begun to suspect some sort of parasite, but they were all energetic and active, despite all the black chicken poop I was seeing, and despite the feather and laying issues. What could be up?

After watching them for a couple hours in the backyard--usually we hang out a little more on the front porch--I realized what the issue was. Our mulberries are ripe, and they're ripe a little early this year. My girls love to scavenge berries from beneath the tree in our backyard, and it colors their poo black or purple, just as it does with songbirds who eat mulberries (and then poop on your car!).

The mulberries also explained the feather loss and drop in laying. Naturally, I always provide a good quality feed for my girls. But that doesn't stop them from temporary gluttony when something is in season! When that happens--when the mulberries, blackberries, peaches, cherries, etc., are in season---they indulge, and the drop in protein in their diets mean their feathers may be more susceptible to damage, and they may see a drop in laying. It's just one of those things that happens with my flock, since they are free range. There are a lot of ways your chickens will freak you out at first, before you know the routine.

For instance, the first spring I had adult chickens, I went through another chicken poop panic. One of my girls was producing yellow chicken poop. Yellow---bright yellow! I was sure she must have worms... but a fecal smear came back with nothing unusual, and she was acting just fine. Finally I realized that she was, for some reason, moved to eat all the fallen yellow forsythia blossoms as they came down.

She was having forsythia poop.

Have you ever had this sort of chicken poop scare with your flock? Please share in the comments!

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9 years ago

On occasion, I give my chickens a green cabbage to eat. I hang it up like a pinata, and they have fun pecking at it. It's a good way to keep them busy in the winter. One time, I got a purple cabbage instead. The chickens' poop was -- truly -- a fluorescent blue for two days.

9 years ago
Reply to  Debbie

Oh, my! That would be a hard one to figure out, too, since it wasn't near the same color as the food. I should have mentioned a friend of mine who had a terrible scare with beets, yikes!

9 years ago

My girls eat blueberries and their poop comes out turquoise.

9 years ago

I roast lots of beets. I give them all the skin. Results in burgundy/red poo. I add diatomeous earth to their feed when I see mucous or worms to get rid of what ails them.

9 years ago

I had a similar thing happen to our chickens with blueberries (turquoise poop!) This can sure scare you!

Gust Front Farm
9 years ago

Shed intestinal lining can look like blood in poop, too. It freaked me out a bit when it appeared in the poop of my week old Cream Legbar chicks. Thankfully, that was a short-lived phenomenon!

9 years ago

My flock eats blackberries and mulberries every year and they get black poop too. The first time I saw this I was quite alarmed.....but then I realized my neighbors enormous mulberry tree was dropping tons of berries in our yard. The chickens were having a feast :). Be happy that at least chickens tend to eat things that are edible. The dog on the other hand....

Take care!

9 years ago

I knew our chickies' purple poo was caused by the mulberries that drop into our yard from our neighbor's tree, but I didn't know the mulberries were responsible for the drop in egg production. Interesting.

Stevee Salazar
9 years ago

A broody hen will leave a surprisingly huge poo when emerging off the nest after sitting on eggs for a couple days or so!

Tam's chickens
9 years ago

Can anyone tell me what to do about my hens bottoms look a bit messy.should I be worry,they are eating,drinking and laying.

9 years ago
Reply to  Tam's chickens

Sometimes messy bottoms can simply be caused by loose poo during a heat wave. Some diets (especially those heavy in barley) can cause very sticky poo, and often messy bottoms. But other times it could be caused by illness. If your chickens are otherwise acting fine--but keep in mind they like to try to hide illness--it's probably nothing to worry about. Still, it wouldn't hurt to consult with a vet to be sure. We're not veterinarians, and can't diagnose a flock.

9 years ago

This is kinda related but I can't seem to find anyone to answer my question. My chickens and one rabbit share the run area. It seems the chickens are eating the rabbit droppings. I feed chickens "organic" feed and the rabbit shares the food also. Is this going to cause problems when my chickens start laying or cause any type of problem health wise??

9 years ago
Reply to  Freddie Murphy

Rabbit poo is unusual in that there are two different types produced... and the rabbits have to eat one of the types to avoid malnutrition. Weird, or what? Read more about it at this link: "The mystery of rabbit poop." That said, we don't expect it would be good for your chickens; they have a completely different biology. Your best bet would be to consult with a vet who is knowledgeable about both animals.

9 years ago

Thanks for the information. I will definitely check out this link.

9 years ago

My flocks get diarrhea when I feed them more Crumbles that Scratch. I usually mix their Crumbles with their Scratch, but was told by another birder that scratch doesn't offer any nutrients, so now I'm feeding straight Crumbles & they have diarrhea.

9 years ago
Reply to  PigTails

Yes, scratch offers very little in nutrition; feeding scratch only is one of the worst mistakes novice chicken keepers can make. If they have loose poo as a result of the switch it's likely temporary; they may have had multiple nutritional deficiencies as a result of eating mostly scratch, and it could take a while for their system to recover. Another possibility is that their nutritional deficiencies have made them vulnerable to illness or infestation. For example, worms can cause diarrhea, and so can coccidiosis. It would be a good idea to consult with a vet and/or have a fecal smear performed.

9 years ago

Thank You for your reply...I'll contact a vet! 😉

chicken lover
9 years ago

my girl had yellow urates. urates for those who don't know is the white part of the chicken poo. The yellow urates is a sign of liver failure or can be a e coli infection. sadly in my girls case it was her liver and I lost her. I'm posting this in hopes to help others. if you start seeing yellow urates please take your chicken to the vet as soon as possible. hope this helps someone else.

9 years ago

Our beautiful hens (one of them, anyway) has started laying eggs (not sure which one)!
Beautiful perfectly-shaped brown eggs. Only two so far 🙂 But this morning, one of the chickens laid black poop (not sure which one). Reading your replies makes me wonder if they got into something, but we have no blackberry or blueberry bushes nearby. The chickens are active and bright-eyed...but it is stressing me out wondering what it is! Hopefully it was a one time thing, and will disappear by tomorrow...but if it doesn't, I need a back up plan....what do I do?

8 years ago

My bantam rooster has been having trouble pooping. Its been watery and bubbly or its long, skinny, and dark green. he seems uncomfortable when he goes. What could be wrong with him? Hes about 3 yrs old, and I've had him for almost 3 yrs. I haven't changed his diet. Should I take him to the vet?

8 years ago
Reply to  Bobbie

Possibly he has wormsor coccidiosis. Talk to your vet and find out if he or she can do a fecal smear for you. Once the vet has determined what your little rooster is suffering from, he can prescribe or recommend the right medication. If the smear shows NO worms or cocci, your vet will probably want to see him. We hope he'll be okay!

8 years ago

My chicken has had turquoise poop but only the once. There arent any berries in my yard, so im wondering if my chicken is sick. Should i call a vet? If not, what is my chicken eating?

8 years ago
Reply to  Johny

We can't know for sure what your chicken ate that day. If you didn't offer her blueberries or blueberry muffins--something along those lines--possibly it was leftover cereal with dyes in it (such as Fruit Loops or Fruity Pebbles). Generally speaking, ONE unusual defecation, unaccompanied by any other symptoms, isn't usually a cause for concern. If it continues, you'll want to contact a vet to make sure there isn't bleeding in her digestive tract or some other issue. We hope she's okay!

8 years ago

One of my chickens has a messy bottom. This morning I found a loose, long, gray and mucus poop in their coop. I think I should be concerned. Also if this chicken is laying, which I suspect she isn't, should I be concerned about eating her eggs? We had another chicken earlier this year with the same messy bottom and she was very lethargic so we put her down suspecting disease. Whatever she had may have infected the entire flock and I don't want to put down any more chickens. Any thoughts?

8 years ago
Reply to  Lena

You should contact a vet to get a diagnosis. There's no need to euthanize unless you know something is seriously wrong that affects her quality of life or threatens your flock or other flocks or animals. Strange poops can be caused by eating something unusual--and that might also cause lethargy and so forth (if it makes her feel ill). Our policy is to never eat the egg of a sick hen unless her illness has been diagnosed, and the vet also gives the okay. She'll need to be seen by an avian veterinarian so he or she can figure out what's going on with her. We hope she'll be okay!

7 years ago

Hello, my chicken has rich brown poop with no white cap. Should I be concerned?

7 years ago
Reply to  Reva

Chickens do produce different kinds of poop. Melted-chocolate-looking poo with no cap of urates might be cecal (rather than fecal) poo. If it's cecal poo, there's no need to worry, because it's normal. Cecal droppings are generally produced once out of every eight or so poos. You can read more about fecal and cecal chicken poo on our website. If the droppings you're seeing are not cecal and you think your birds could be ill, you'll want to consult a vet, because changes in droppings can certainly indicate illness.

7 years ago

I have a hen that became inactive overnight to the point of I guess sleeping constantly and has had several poos that were light yellow runny and slightly grainy followed by a very dark and somewhat opaque blob. Her comb and everything is still bright red. What could if be? Please help. I am a newbie and don't want to see my babies suffer needlessly!

7 years ago
Reply to  Lynn

So sorry to hear about your hen, Lynn! I'm afraid we aren't vets, and even a veterinarian couldn't diagnose your chicken long distance! Especially with loose poo, it can be caused by so many things, it would be like calling your doctor to ask what the diagnosis is based on the fact that you have abdominal pain. Abdominal pain could mean anything from cancer to flu to food allergies to too much cotton candy! Please take your hen to a veterinarian to get a firm diagnosis and treatment options. I hope she'll be okay!

Shari bunch
7 years ago

OK great info here. What about small, drying and crumbly poo? I had this symptom about 2 months ago with rooster and he died. Now hen showing same sign. Any thoughts?

7 years ago
Reply to  Shari bunch

We'd recommend taking a stool sample to a vet. We aren't vets and can't make a diagnosis. That said, my first thought is that you'll want to check and make sure your water is fresh, clean, and unfrozen. A comparatively hard, dry stool can be a sign of dehydration in any creature. And freshening your flock's water is certainly not going to hurt anything! The other thing that occurs--and this is something to ask your vet about--is that your flock may be lacking enough grit or eating something that is too high in fiber, obstructing the digestive system somewhere. This can happen sometimes if they're eating, say, hay or straw that has been put in the coop, or even long strands of fresh grass. If they don't have access to good grit to "chew" it up, it may block or slow digestion. When things get stalled in the lower digestive tract, water from the stool can get absorbed, making the stool very hard, sometimes too hard to pass. Read more about the chicken digestive tract on our website. Be sure to ask your vet if this might be a problem with your chicken. The last thing that occurs is that it can be a symptom of a loss of appetite. If your chicken is not eating much, she won't be pooing much. "Loss of appetite" is a general symptom, though: it can indicate many different things just like it can in humans (from nausea from an ear infection to stomach cancer). But this is helpful advice to provide your veterinarian, that your chicken isn't eating well. So as you wait for your appointment, try to ascertain if your chicken is eating as normal so you can give your vet good info. We hope your chicken will be okay!

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