Diarrhea can be life-threatening for chickens. It can steal the life and health of your chicken in only a few days.
For that very reason, it’s very important to keep track of your chickens’ droppings. And address the problem immediately if you notice any watery poop.
On that note, this post is dedicated to exploring chicken diarrhea in complete detail. We’ll learn how to identify diarrhea in chickens, the causes of diarrhea, and how to effectively treat each type.
Let’s get started!
Normal Chicken Poop VS Diarrhea Poop
A healthy chicken’s droppings are brown or greenish brown with a fluffy white cap. The whitish part of the poop is basically the uric acid, while the brown part is the undigested matter (i.e., feces).
The texture of normal poop is soft, mushy, and slightly stinky (cecal poop is mushier and stinkier!).
So, as long as your chicken’s droppings are relatively solid, soft, moist, and supported with a little bit of white or clear semi-liquid substance — you need not worry.
Observe the poop and see if:
- It’s watery: Lacks usual firmness and is more liquid than normal.
- It has a foul odor: Smells sharply pungent, sour, or sweet instead of the usual earthy and musky.
- It’s discolored: Appears very green, yellow, or black.
- It doesn’t have urine portion: Absence of white/clear liquid with the droppings or unusually hard droppings.
Here’s a visual demonstration of the contrast between some other chicken poop and diarrhea poop:
If any of these are true, your chicken may be experiencing diarrhea. Browse the next section of this post to learn how you can help your chicken relieve the pain and get back to being healthy.
How to identify diarrhea in chicks?
Chicks exhibit the same symptoms of diarrhea as fully-grown chickens. But along with those, you might also notice a pasty butt and change in behavior. The chick may appear dull and lethargic. It may even lose its appetite.
Note that chicks are more susceptible to diarrhea as compared to chickens. It also escalates much more quickly in baby chicks and can cause death in 1-2 days. And hence, it’s highly advisable to consistently monitor your chick’s droppings.
Chicken Diarrhea Causes & Treatment
The following are the most common causes of diarrhea in chickens:
1. Heat Stress
When the temperature is higher than usual, your chicken might eat less and drink more water. It may drink up to four cups of water in a day, which is twice as much as its usual intake.
As a result, the chicken’s droppings will be more liquid. You might see your hen passing brown-colored water. If this is so, your chickens got diarrhea due to heat stress.
It’s mild and doesn’t necessarily require a visit to the vet (unless your chicken has a pasty butt and is alarmingly slow for hours despite your efforts).
To help your chicken, keep it in a cool and well-ventilated place with a decent shade. We also recommend letting your chicken stand in a tub of cool water for a while or placing a fan near its coop. If you have a large flock in a small space, consider building a separate hen house.
Forcing a big flock into a small space during high temperatures can increase heat stress levels.
As for ensuring healthy food intake during high temperatures, mix your chicken’s feed with water such that it achieves the consistency of a mashed potato. Then, offer it to your chicken.
If you’ve offered your chicken its favorite food in massive quantities, it will not stop when it’s done. It might take a few breaks, but it will do its best to devour all of it. This may lead to overeating, and consequently, diarrhea.
The diarrhea poop will be brown, watery, and stinky. Or if your chicken has devoured unreasonable bulks of greens (such as broccoli or beet greens), it might pass a bluish-green watery, and stinky poop.
In this case, chickens usually recover by themselves given that you block their access to bulk food and reduce the quantity of regular meals. Also, provide these chickens with ample clean and fresh water with added vitamins & electrolytes. Overall, the recovery process will take 24 – 36 hours.
3. Intestinal Worms
Chickens get intestinal worms by consuming feed, water, or insects (such as earthworms or snails) that already contain parasite eggs. Once these eggs make it into the digestive system of a chicken, they multiply rapidly – especially if the chicken has low immunity. And this can lead to diarrhea.
In this case, the color of your chicken’s poop will be normal. But again, it will be relatively more watery and stinky. It may even have worms in it!
When you suspect your chicken is having diarrhea due to intestinal worms, it’s best to take a sample of feces for veterinarian inspection. They will suggest some deworming medications to treat it effectively. Note that the eggs of hens infected by worms are not consumable.
4. Consumption of Antibiotics
If you’re giving antibiotics to your chicken, it is highly likely it may develop diarrhea as a side effect. It’s just that your bird’s gut has some extra load on it, so there’s nothing much to worry about.
Help your chicken tackle it effectively with probiotics, small amounts of yogurt, or additives rich in vitamins and electrolytes. It will help balance the internal disturbances caused by antibiotics.
5. Toxic Ingestion
The following is a list of toxic things that your chickens might peck or consume in bulks when they’re out in the open:
- Moldy feed
- Spoiled/discarded food
- Plants covered in insecticides and herbicides
- Wild mushrooms
- Cleaning products and chemicals
If a healthy chicken consumes even a small quantity of these things, it may develop life-threatening diarrhea. And thus, such chickens urgently require professional care. Take them to the vet!
Another thing that you need to eliminate from your flock’s whereabouts is a rotting carcass. Often small creatures die in the wild and are covered with a thin layer of sand or soil (thanks to the winds!).
If your chickens peck on something lying on the ground near the rotting carcass, they may ingest toxic chemicals released from that carcass.
Also, if you have any source of lead in your environment, we highly recommend keeping a keen eye on your chickens’ poop. If they consume even a few particles of lead, it can cause lead poisoning, which can be fatal. The earliest sign of lead poisoning is red or orange poop.
6. Excessive Protein
Some chicken breeds like broiler chickens and leghorn chickens genetically possess higher levels of protein in their body. Hence, you need to pay attention to their diet and provide appropriate amounts of protein.
In case a chicken consumes excessive protein, it is highly likely to develop kidney problems. Its kidneys need to work harder to eliminate the excess. And this, in turn, causes kidney damage.
We recommend changing the diet of your chicken immediately. Consult a professional poultry nutritionist. Also, provide electrolytes to keep your chicken from dehydrating.
In the poultry world, coccidiosis is the diarrhea nightmare. It usually affects chicks under 10 weeks, escalates quickly, leads to bloody diarrhea, and causes death.
It’s caused by a parasite called coccidia, which usually comes from bird poop. So, it’s best to keep your coop clean and keep a keen eye on your flock if they’re often out in the open and exposed to wild bird poop. The parasite enters the digestive system, infests the intestinal lining, and impairs the digestive system.
Apart from bloody diarrhea, the following are some symptoms of coccidiosis:
- Pale combs and wattles
- Droopy posture and wings
- Droopy eyes
- Fluffed up feathers
If you notice any of these in your chickens, take them to a vet or add a coccidiostat to their feed. It’s a medicine that inhibits the growth of the parasite inside your chicken’s small intestine.
Also, it’s best to isolate the affected chicks or hens as soon as you notice these signs. Coccidiosis spreads very rapidly.
8. Infectious Coryza
This is a respiratory disease in chickens caused by harmful bacteria and it mainly affects the upper airways. Some of its most common symptoms include eye discharge, coughing, and swollen wattles.
To treat this infection, you’ll need to give your chickens a few antibiotics. And the consumed antibiotics can cause diarrhea. So, be sure to consult the vet if diarrhea occurs as a side effect. Alternatively, it’s best to get your flock vaccinated for infectious coryza.
9. Egg Yolk Peritonitis
Basically, the egg is unable to pass through the oviduct properly due to some fault in the reproductive system. And the released egg yolk causes infections, scarring, and inflammation.
It can be life-threatening for the chicken and hence, must be addressed immediately. We recommend taking the chicken to the vet in this case.
Summing up, chicken diarrhea is a common problem and a variety of health or environmental conditions can trigger it. To prevent chicken diarrhea, it’s essential to provide them with a balanced diet, access to fresh water, and clean & dry living space. Also, strive to minimize stress factors and conduct regular health checkups.