Chicken With Diarrhea


Once upon a time there was chicken with diarrhea. There was a chicken and there was diarrhea. You know where I’m going with this right? If so great, if not read on.

Nasty isn’t it? Chicken with diarrhea. What does that have to do with website design? Nothing, but it’s a fun phrase for some reason ;). This time around I wanted to talk about an interesting usability concept called Fitts’ Law.


Diarrhoea is defined as the passage of three or more loose or liquid stools per day. There are many causes for diarrhoea such as infection, dietary imbalance or internal parasites: stress and environmental factors can also play a part.

Normal droppings and digestive process

The passage of food along the digestive tract is influenced by the age of the hen, environmental conditions such as temperature and the composition of the diet. A mash feed will typically pass from beak to hen house floor in around 8 hours for laying hens (12 hours if the hen is broody).

Normal droppings vary in colour and consistency, contain a mixture of faeces and urine and are generally a well-formed dark brown with a white urate cap (Figure 1).

A laying hen normally produces 100 – 150g of droppings, pooping 12 – 16 times over a 24 hour period.

hen dropping 1
Figure 1: A well formed hen dropping

Remember that a normal healthy hen will produce a cecal dropping once or twice daily, usually every 8 to 10 droppings. Cecal droppings look rather like chocolate, toffee or mustard sauce and tend to be sticky and smelly. They are completely normal and an indicator of a well-functioning gut.

Abnormal droppings

All chickens have a combination of good and bad bacteria in their intestines, if the balance is disturbed there can be an overgrowth of harmful bacteria.

All chickens have a combination of good and bad bacteria in their intestines, if the balance is disturbed there can be an overgrowth of harmful bacteria.

Diarrhoea in hot weather. Hens tend to drink a lot more in hot weather to help them cool down and as a result may develop diarrhoea. Feeding a diet high in water-based food can have a similar effect (cucumber, watermelon etc.).

Diarrhoea following antibiotics. Antibiotics kill off good bacteria as well as bad. Vets normally advise feeding a probiotic following antibiotic treatment to help to restore the good gut bacteria.

Diarrhoea caused by worms. Diarrhoea can be a sign of worms, and a routine flock care plan should always include regular worming. Consult your vet or Suitably Qualified Person (SQP) for advice.

White watery diarrhoea. This can indicate a problem with the kidneys (Figure 2).

Blood or mucous with diarrhoea. This can be a sign of coccidiosis if accompanied by severe diarrhoea. Consult your vet for further advice.

Blood or tissue with an otherwise firm dropping. Gut lining can sometimes be seen in droppings and is not a cause for concern (Figure 3).

Green diarrhoea. Chickens that eat large amounts of leafy greens and grass will tend to produce green droppings. A bright emerald green diarrhoea can be a sign of Marek’s disease, Avian influenza or Newcastle disease although this is less likely. You should consult your vet for further advice.

Chicken Diarrhea: 9+ Common Causes and How To Treat It

Chickens can get diarrhea on occasion.

Most of the time it can be explained away but sometimes there is something more serious going on.

It may sound vaguely disgusting to talk about poop, but knowing what is normal and what is not is very important. Because chickens are prey animals, they are experts at hiding illness. You do not know they are ill until they are knocking on deaths’ door.

So today we are going to take an up close look at chicken diarrhea.

How to identify it, what causes it, how to treat it and much more…

What Is Diarrhea In Chickens?

With humans diarrhea is loose and watery stool, it is very much the same with chickens.

A normal chicken dropping is brown and has a white cap to it. This white cap is a urate. Chickens do not urinate so the urates are expelled with the fecal matter – as seen in the picture below.

In addition to these normal droppings, chickens also have cecal dropping. A cecal dropping is loose and foul smelling and usually lacks a urate cap, but it is perfectly normal. Cecal droppings happen several times each day and are the contents of the small intestine being expelled.

Diarrhea in chickens will be very loose or not formed at all, it may look like colored water.

When the dropping has a loose consistency and becomes watery and/or foul smelling it is diarrhea.

In addition to this if your hen looks ragged and tatty and sits off by herself then the alarm bells should start ringing – this is a sick hen.

Different Colors Of Poop Explained

Chicken Diarrhea

Normal chicken droppings can be multi-colored at times depending on what they have been eating so do not be concerned unless there are other things going on too. Below we have listed dropping colors and possible causes for the color:

  • Brown: This is the normal color of chicken dropping. If you find a huge pile of brown droppings that smell to high heaven you probably have a broody hen. Loose brown droppings can be cecal droppings and these smell really bad.
  • Brown Colored Water: Normally a sign of diarrhea. It is usually caused by a higher water intake, but can be caused by bacterial infections.
  • Black: This can be caused by eating wood ash, blackberries or blueberries. With a sick chicken this can mean there is blood in the droppings.
  • Red and orange: This is usually caused by intestinal lining which has been shed – this is normal. It can also indicate fresh blood as in coccidiosis and (rarely) lead poisoning.
  • Green: The most common cause of green poop is their diet. Things such as beet greens and broccoli will cause bluish green colored poop.
  • Yellow: Can be caused by strawberries or corn. It can also be a sign egg yolk peritonitis – this is a common egg laying problem.
  • White or creamy: This is normally a sign of vent gleet. Vent gleet is a discharge from the cloaca vent, but it is not diarrhea.

Chicks With Diarrhea

Green Chicken Poop

Diarrhea in chicks can be extremely serious.

Coccidiosis is the number one killer of brooder chicks and will cause diarrhea.

This can be severe and lead to dehydration and death very quickly.

If you buy chicks from a hatchery you can get them vaccinated or you can feed medicated chick feed which provides some protection from coccidiosis.

Coccidiosis is caused by a protozoan that attacks the lining of the intestine. It kills these cells in the intestine which produces a diarrhea that can be either mucus-like or bloody. The diarrhea of the infected bird is infectious and can cause illness in other chickens.

If you notice diarrhea like this with your chicks you should isolate them immediately. If your chicks are already on medicated feed you will need to contact your veterinarian for further treatment. They will prescribe the appropriate antibiotic for the chicks.

They should have clean drinking water, clean food and you should remove any droppings from the brooder several times a day.

Just remember that chicks can also get diarrhea for other reasons too.

Chicks can also get watery poop from treats like watermelon because it contains a lot of water. Stop giving them these treats for a while and see what happens. After a day the diarrhea should have stopped.

Common Causes Of Diarrhea In Chickens

There are lots of causes of diarrhea with chickens.

Some are treatable and some are not.

We will start with the simplest and easiest to treat and then and work our way up to the more problematic causes.

One of the most common causes of diarrhea is overeating certain foods – blackberries for instance.

The first time this happened to my flock I was in full panic mode as most of my chickens had watery black and red diarrhea. I was convinced they were all dying until I found them feasting on the berries. This type of diarrhea will take care of itself providing you remove the source – in this case the blackberries were fenced in.

Heat stress can also cause diarrhea. During hot weather your chickens will drink more and eat less which causes a watery, clear whitish splat.

Antibiotics can also cause diarrhea when given over a long period of time. Naturally this will only affect those being treated. You might consider adding vitamin/electrolyte powder to the flocks’ water if the diarrhea is moderate to severe in nature. Be sure to let your veterinarian know as they might discontinue the medicine. You should not eat the eggs from any chicken having antibiotic treatment.

General stress can also cause diarrhea. Chickens are easily stressed by a change or new events happening around them. For example adding new chickens to the flock, or changing their feed. Once they have settled down everything should return to normal, if it does not you will need to investigate further (more on this later).

An overload of worms can cause bloody diarrhea. You may even be able to see the worms in their droppings. Now is the time to worm the whole flock and remove all droppings from the area. Make sure to follow the directions of the wormer you use.

Moldy feed can cause severe diarrhea. Always check that your feed is fresh and do not store it for longer than a month or so.

Any dead bodies such as mice and rats can be picked up and eaten by your chickens. If the body is contaminated with poison it can kill your birds quickly – never bury any bodies where your livestock can get to them.

There are several other possible causes of diarrhea. We are going to list them below but keep in mind that they are extremely uncommon and you are unlikely to see them in your lifetime.

  • Fowl cholera
  • Kidney problems
  • Marek’s
  • Coryza
  • Necrotic enteritis
  • Newcastle disease
  • Gumboro disease
  • Salmonella
  • Avian influenza

Remember to ask yourself when inspecting your chickens, “What do the droppings look like?”

You should compare it against our color chart above.

If you cannot find anything else wrong then observation is the best course of action. Keep a close eye on them to make sure they are not becoming weak or dehydrated.

Most viral illnesses pass within a couple of days so be patient. Do not start antibiotics just in case. If things do not improve by the third day then you should call your veterinarian for advice.

How To Treat Chicken Diarrhea

The short periods of diarrhea that are caused by overindulgences do not require any treatment except removing the food.

In weather related circumstances you can help your chickens by providing them with clean, fresh water enhanced with vitamins and electrolytes. Another little trick to encourage them to eat is to make a wet mash (in addition to their regular feed) for them with your enhanced water.

Just remember not to give them electrolytes on a continual daily basis as it can cause diarrhea!

During hot weather give them enough shade and provide shallow pans of water for them to stand in so they can cool down.

What I try to do in prolonged periods of heat and humidity is to provide one waterer with electrolytes and one without.

If you want to make your own solution here is the recipe:

  • 8 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 gallon of water

How To Prevent Chicken Diarrhea

A few of the causes of diarrhea can be avoided by having good biosecurity.

This means you should not visit other flocks, and you should not have people come over to see your chickens.

If people do visit your flock you need to prevent the transmission of possible bugs. So foot coverings, disinfectant foot baths, hand washing and changing your clothing between visits are all needed.

You should also keep wild birds away from your chickens. Wild birds are capable of transmitting disease from one place to another.

Try to keep flies and mosquitoes to a minimum as they too are a source of possible infection.

You should keep their coop as clean as you can. Chickens can be messy but keeping down the amount of droppings, replacing bedding frequently and checking for mites, lice and other creepy crawlies will all help to keep your chickens in the best condition possible.

Another good biosecurity rule is: if you bring in new chickens to your flock they need quarantining first.

Chicken Diarrhea: Causes, Treatment and Care

Chicken Diarrhea

Got chickens? When you have any type of livestock, you are responsible for their health. This includes the quality of their nutrition and the frequency of their exercise, the safety of their surroundings. It also includes the medical care that they receive. Chicken diarrhea is something that requires your intervention.

Many backyard chicken owners are new to farming in general. Often, novice hen enthusiasts go to great lengths to ensure the health and happiness of their birds. They name each member of their flock and spend time holding and petting them.

They also build creative, beautiful and Instagram-worthy sheds and runs for their comfort and enjoyment. Finally, they provide high-quality feed and snacks for their feathered friends.

These highly-prepared individuals are often ready for anything the bird-life can throw at them. But what about illness? When your hen shows the first signs of sickness, what do you do then?

Although many backyard chicken owners panic when their beloved birds seem unwell, this is not helpful. Calling a vet that specializes in livestock might be in order, but you may be able to provide your hen with the care it needs at home.

The Scoop on Chicken Poop

One common sign of sickness in chickens is diarrhea. If you are new to chicken-raising, you might not yet feel confident in identifying ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ droppings. Normal, healthy chicken poop is usually firm and brown with a white cap.

In addition to this type of healthy droppings, chickens also produce several cecal droppings per day. Cecal droppings are reddish-brown and sticky but are also signs that your hen is healthy and normal. Although cecal droppings resemble diarrhea, it is just a different type of chicken poop.

If a hen has diarrhea, she will have only, or mostly, droppings that look like cecal droppings. If you see that more than a third of the poops are sticky and reddish-brown, then you will know that your hen has chicken diarrhea.

You should check the feathers and vent areas of your flock if you have multiple birds, to identify which bird is ill. A hen that has diarrhea will likely have a vent area that is red and sore, and the feathers around the vent will be pasted with dry, yellow droppings.

What Causes Chicken Diarrhea?

Just like in people, chickens can experience diarrhea for a host of reasons. Sometimes, the chicken diarrhea will pass before you are able to identify why they had it in the first place. If your hen has persistent diarrhea, however, you should ascertain the root cause of it in order to treat it properly. Some common reasons for chicken diarrhea are:

  • Poor flock management
  • Bacteria/viruses
  • Parasites

Poor Flock Management

Commonly, chicken diarrhea can result from mistakes or neglect regarding how the flock is being managed. If birds are kept too closely together, or without adequate ventilation, floor space, and access to the outdoors, they can suffer the effects of heat stress.

A symptom of heat stress is chicken diarrhea. Another cause of chicken diarrhea is vent prolapse, which can occur because of a calcium deficiency or because the bird is over- or underweight.

In many cases, vent prolapse can be prevented by providing the flock with access to proper nutrition and exercise. Other symptoms of poor flock management that can result in chicken diarrhea include excess salt intake, Hardware disease, moldy food, raw soybean meal, and toxic plants.

Hardware disease results from chickens eating sharp or toxic metal items they find in their environment.


There are a handful of bacteria and viruses that can cause chicken diarrhea. More common causes are Colibacillosis, Lymphoid, leukosis, and Marek’s disease. Avian intestinal spirochetosis, avian tuberculosis, infectious coryza, and fowl cholera are additional, though less common, possibilities.


Parasites such as Coccidiosis, threadworms, and (less commonly) Blackhead disease are often to blame for chicken diarrhea.

Treatments for Chicken Diarrhea

Important! If you suspect a hen of having a contagious disease, isolate it from the flock immediately to reduce the chance of transmission to other birds.

In order to successfully treat chicken diarrhea, it is helpful to first identify the cause. Now you better understand the potential causes of chicken diarrhea: poor flock management, viruses or bacteria, and parasites. Are you able to make a diagnosis, or at least make an educated guess, about the cause of your chicken’s diarrhea?

Poor Flock Management

Chicken diarrhea caused by poor flock management will require changes to how you are managing your flock. Simple fixes to your flock’s diet, such as reducing sodium content, increasing phosphorus, decreasing protein, increasing (or decreasing) calcium supplementation, might be all that is needed to fix the problem.

If your hens are eating too much, reduce or eliminate ‘treats’ like salad greens until diarrhea has subsided (usually in 24-36 hours).

Similarly, providing more space, shade, or access to the outdoors for your hens might resolve the issue relatively quickly, if the diarrhea was caused by heat stress. Or, you can stand her in cold water, aim a fan at her, and mix her food with cold water to help her cool down faster.

Check your feed and replace all of it if there are any signs of mold or contamination. Replace damp bedding with a fresh and dry substrate to remove concerns of mycotoxins. Also check your hens’ surroundings for any potentially toxic plants, decomposing animals, or sharp metal objects that might be ingested by curious hens.

Reminder: Always ensure your flock has ample access to fresh, clean water, especially on warm or hot days. Birds are especially susceptible to the effects of heat and require you to provide them with the proper environment to remain cool.


If you suspect or know that your chicken’s diarrhea is due to bacteria, viruses, or parasites, the above treatments will not hurt. However, more might be needed to help your hen’s digestive system get back on track. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if it is a bacterial or viral infection.

Bacterial infections can be treated with the appropriate antibiotics; antibiotics may also cause diarrhea, so give your bird probiotics as well.

Antibiotics do not treat viral infections; if your hen is suspected of having a virus, provide palliative care. In cases of bacterial or viral infections, isolate your infected chicken(s) from the rest of the flock to minimize the likelihood of transmission.


If your hen is experiencing gut damage and diarrhea due to intestinal parasites, or worms, you will need to treat your entire flock for worms. You can procure the appropriate deworming medication from your local vet or agricultural supply store.

Follow the instructions exactly and make sure not to eat or sell eggs from the treated hens for the specified length of time. Parasites like Coccidiosis usually only affect young chicks under 10 weeks of age. Chicks with Coccidiosis need to be treated promptly with a coccidiostat, probiotics, and electrolytes or they may die.

Caring for Chickens with Diarrhea

Ensure all hens with diarrhea have plentiful access to proper food, clean water, shade, and fresh bedding. Until or unless you have been able to determine the cause of the chicken diarrhea, isolate your infected bird(s) from the remainder of your flock.

Because some chicken illnesses can be transmitted to humans, it is important to take extra precautions when handling sick chickens. It is safest to keep your hens contained outside and to not cuddle or kiss your feathered friends.

Wash your hands immediately after touching your hens, their enclosure or coop, or their eggs. Make sure to change your clothes after spending time in your chicken’s run, and do not wear your soiled shoes indoors.

As stated earlier, if a hen is being treated for a parasitic infection, refrain from eating her eggs until the indicated amount of days has passed. Many of these precautions should be taken whether or not your hen has diarrhea, as even healthy chickens can make people sick. These measures will help protect you and your family from becoming ill from your hens.

Prevention is Key: Once your feathered friends are feeling fine, consider implementing additional measures to prevent future cases of chicken diarrhea. Well-managed flocks should have ample space to roam, roost, and nest indoors and outdoors.

They have constant access to clean water and high-quality, nutritious feed. Their coops and runs are regularly disinfected and clean, fresh bedding and substrate are routinely added.


If your hens have chicken diarrhea, determine the likely culprit and take action quickly. Monitor your flock daily to identify any signs of infection early on. By removing ill, or potentially ill, birds from the flock early, you will be more likely to contain the spread of any contagious infections.

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