Chicken With Runny Poop


If you think this is just a blog post about Chicken With Runny Poop you’re in for a surprise. In this post I’m going to talk to you guys about a serious issue. It’s something that most chicken keepers don’t like to talk about too much, it’s just awkward, but I feel like it’s an important topic to broach because it can have a huge impact on your chickens well being.

Diarrhea in Backyard Chickens: Causes, Treatment and Care

Some are pretty normal and will resolve themselves independently, yet others can be problematic.

Seeing it for the first time can be quite alarming!

In this article, we will look at the causes of diarrhea and explain what you can do to help your birds.

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At this point, it would be helpful to have a visual aid of what is normal poop and what is not

Normal cecal droppings – a cecal dropping can cause great anxiety for a novice chicken keeper. After all, it looks nothing like a regular poop -it’s runny, foul-smelling, and a different color.

It is usual for a bird to have several of these cecal droppings daily. No treatment is required, except perhaps an air freshener!

However, if you have Diarrhea, then keep reading! Below we’ve listed the most common causes of diarrhea and how to treat each one.

Cause: Overindulgence (Excess Food)

Like humans who have overeaten, chickens can be guilty of devouring a good thing. They might find their way into your fresh salad bed and reduce the lettuce to stubs. The price of overindulgence? Diarrhea.

Simple, supportive treatment is required. Diarrhea should stop of its’ own accord after 24-36 hours. Ensure they have access to clean, fresh water with added vitamins and electrolytes.

Cause: Heat Stress

On hot days hens will drink much more water than usual; sometimes, up to 4 cups of water! That is a lot of fluid, and in conjunction with a decreased appetite because of the heat, your hen will likely develop diarrhea.

Treatment is relatively simple and easy. Ensure she has access to cool, clean fresh water with added vitamins and electrolytes. She also needs to be put somewhere cool.

Standing her in cold water will help to bring her temperature down. A fan blowing cool air and providing sufficient shade will help her tremendously.

You can encourage her to eat by making a feed mash (mix regular feed with water until you have a mashed potato consistency) with cool water. That way, she will eat and get water too.

Cause: Antibiotics

If your hen takes antibiotics for any infection, she will likely get diarrhea. Antibiotics kill off the good bacteria and the bad to deplete the gut of good bacteria.

Ensure she has enough water with vitamins and electrolytes and good quality feed.

You can give them probiotics to help restore the good bacteria in the gut. Although they cannot process dairy products well, a small amount of yogurt will allow, like Rooster Booster or a similar additive that contains vitamins, electrolytes, and lactobacillus acidophilus gut health.

Cause: Worms

A massive overload of intestinal worms can cause gut damage and diarrhea. A sure way to find out is to take a fecal sample to your veterinarian – they should be able to perform this simple test quickly without too much financial pain.

If they do have worms, you will need to treat them all. There are several different worming medications on the market; choose one and follow the instructions carefully.

There is usually an egg withdrawal period during which you cannot eat or sell eggs from the treated hens. Withdrawal time will vary with treatments.

Cause: Coccidiosis

This mainly affects chicks under 10 weeks, although in severe cases, it can affect adult chickens, especially ex-battery hens that have lived in wire cages.

Since they have had no exposure to poop, they have no resistance to the coccidia.

It is caused by a parasite that affects the intestinal lining and integrity of the gut. It impairs the ability to absorb nutrition, causing weight loss. Anemia can be severe from bloody diarrhea. Coccidiosis needs prompt treatment with a coccidiostat, or the affected chicks will likely die. You should consult a veterinarian if at all possible. You can buy chick feed with added coccidiostat at the feed store.

Treatment will also include clean food and water with added probiotics and electrolytes. The brooder area should be kept scrupulously clean to avoid re-infection of the chicks.

Cause: Infectious Coryza

This is caused by bacteria that infect the upper airways of the bird.

You can treat the disease with the appropriate antibiotics, so you need to consult with a veterinarian. It is spread from bird to bird. You should pay great attention to cleanliness in the coop and local environment.

You should isolate infected birds if at all possible. As above, antibiotics may cause diarrhea, so treat it accordingly.

Cause: Too Much Protein

Kidney failure in chickens is becoming more prevalent because they live longer these days.

It can be caused by a diet too high in calcium, low phosphorus, decreased water intake, or viral.

Signs are dehydration, pale combs, depression, and emaciation with loss of muscle mass, diarrhea. You should seek veterinary advice about restricting dietary intake for your hen.

Cause: Toxic Ingestion

Hens are curious about most things, which can get them into trouble. While poisoning is relatively rare, it does occur.

They are susceptible to mycotoxins produced by damp bedding or moldy feed. They can also be vulnerable to a wide range of plants and other toxins.

Another thing to note concerning poisons. If you use your compost heap as a ‘burial site’ for small creatures, make sure the carcass is buried deeply.

Botulism can be produced by rotting carcasses and deadly to your hens.

Since it is usually hard to know exactly what they have eaten, you can try monitoring them closely. If their condition worsens, seek veterinary help.

Cause: Egg Yolk Peritonitis and Prolapsed Vents

Egg yolk peritonitis – sadly, this is commonly fatal.

It is caused by a malfunction in transferring an egg from the ovary to the infundibulum. The yolk becomes internalized and can quickly become infected; any diarrhea produced will look like egg yolk.

This usually leads to peritonitis and septicemia, so veterinary intervention is vital to give your hen a chance.

Prolapsed vent – this can be pretty noticeable.

The vent can be pushed out of the body and become a prolapse. It can be caused by an overly large egg, among other things. This is an emergency and needs to be dealt with promptly.

The hen will need to be separated from the flock since they will likely cannibalize her.

Cause: Viruses

Numerous viruses affect chickens. They range from simple sniffles and diarrhea, which can last a few days, or range up to Marek’s disease and fowl cholera.

A list of known viruses with diarrhea symptoms is:

  • Infectious bronchitis
  • Marek’s disease
  • Lymphoid leukosis
  • Fowl cholera
  • Avian tuberculosis
  • Exotic Newcastle disease

We will be covering each of these viruses in-depth in future articles.

Chicken Diarrhea Treatment Checklist

As you can see, there are many causes of diarrhea, some short-lived and easily rectified, others more prolonged in treatment and some deadly.

When you notice your hen has diarrhea, the first question is: how does she look? If she seems well and is eating and drinking usually, you can monitor her from a distance.

Take a look at what is going on environmentally – is it hot and humid out? Has your spinach bed been eaten?  These types of things give you clues as to possible causes.

If she looks poorly, isolate her in a chicken hospital and figures out what it could be. Go down through the list of causes and see if you can pinpoint something. Oversee her. If there is no improvement within a day or so, the veterinarian is the next stop.

If you’re uncertain, read our how-to-do chicken health check guide.

Diarrhea depletes the body of water and much-needed electrolytes – all of which are needed for a healthy bird.

Be sure to replace both of these by using a vitamin/electrolyte supplement in the water. If antibiotics cause diarrhea, try adding a probiotic supplement to help the gut recover its’ normal good bacteria.

You can also try making a mash from the regular feed, mixed with enhanced water and perhaps a teaspoon of natural yogurt.

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Diarrhea in Chickens: Closing Points

I don’t know about you, but I found all that very interesting!

A word of restraint here, though, if your hen develops diarrhea, she is not likely to have something nasty like the Newcastle Disease or Tuberculosis!

Go through our checklist and see if you can fit signs and symptoms with what’s happening to your hens.

Even if you can’t figure it out, all the information you can gather may help your veterinarian put the pieces together.

Diarrhea in hens is something we all will deal with eventually. Hopefully, it will be a brief episode caused by a passing virus, but if not, you will be able to use this article to guide you through the event.

Diarrhoea in Backyard Chickens

As backyard chicken keepers, you probably get absolutely giddy at the thought of waking each morning and visiting your chatty flock as they welcome you into their feathery world. Nothing beats that very first visit of the day! Once you’ve completed all of your chicken tending chores and your fine feathered friends are happily foraging and egg-sploring, this is a great time to take stock of your flock. Spending time with your flock each morning when they are bright eyed and bushy tailed from a good night’s rest should give you a pretty good picture of their overall health and well-being. And, one of the most important signs of healthy happy chickens is in their droppings. Yes, you read that correctly- droppings.

The Scoop is in the Poop

Healthy happy chickens have healthy droppings. It’s always helpful for backyard chicken keepers to know what healthy droppings look like in order for you to recognize abnormal droppings, which has lead me to my little saying that “the scoop is in the poop”. Normal chicken droppings appear in two different forms. Typical droppings are generally firm and brownish in colour with a small white cap on top. That’s simple enough to recognize, right?  However, chickens also have a second type of normal droppings that come from a part of their digestive system known as the ceca. The ceca is located in between a chicken’s small intestine and large intestine. Bacteria in the ceca help to break down undigested food passing through the intestines. And, several times each day, a chicken will “drop” cecal droppings. Due to their consistency and unpleasant smell, these droppings can appear abnormal, but I reassure you, they are completely normal. Cecal droppings are reddish brown in colour and have a sticky consistency. Any droppings other than these are considered abnormal and warrant a closer examination of your flock.

Diarrhoea is always abnormal. Fortunately though, diarrhoea can be just a simple side effect of your chooks drinking an overabundance of water in extreme heat or the result of overindulgence- too many worms. Or, it can be a signal to you that something is very wrong! You just have to be able to account for what is causing this abnormality in your precious poultry’s poop.

What Causes Diarrhoea in Backyard Chicken Flocks?

As mentioned previously, diarrhoea can be an annoying side effect from a chicken’s everyday routine. Besides drinking egg-cess water in hot weather and devouring too many worms, diarrhoea can also be a result of stress within the flock: the addition of new feathery siblings, a change in the pecking order , moving into a new coop, egg-cessive treats, or drinking stale or dirty water.  If there’s something that we backyard chicken keepers know well, it’s that our chooks are perky peckin’ prodigies and those little beaks often get into all sorts of things that can really pollute their water. Also, if one or more chickens have been on antibiotics, this too can cause droppings to appear looser than normal.

Diarrhoea can also be caused by illness or other unhealthy conditions:

Inappropriate Feed:  Chicken feed that contains too much protein can cause watery droppings. The excess protein changes into urates, thus causing diarrhoea-like droppings.

Worms: if large numbers of worms are present, a chicken’s digestive system can become irritated, resulting in diarrhoea.

Coccidiosis: this is a serious disease which typically results in bloody diarrhoea or greenish loose droppings in younger poultry. Very severe cases can cause death, so if you suspect your chooks may have developed Coccidiosis, please seek veterinary care immediately.

Viruses and Bacteria: Viruses can wreak havoc in a chicken’s digestive system. They damage the intestinal tract causing an increase in bad bacteria. Consequently, a secondary bacterial infection is likely to occur bringing with it a bout of diarrhoea.  Diarrhoea caused by bacteria can be a result of an abrupt change in diet, polluted drinking water or mouldy feed.

Kidney Damage:  Chickens with some type of kidney damage may appear as if they have diarrhoea, when in fact, it’s a result of increased urates (the term for a bird’s urine) mixing in with the normal waste matter causing looser droppings.

Help! One of My Chooks Has Diarrhoea!

Chickens are active social creatures and therefore, you may spot a diarrhoea-like splat on the floor of the chicken coop, run, or on the grass near the coop. The only problem is… which chook did it come from? Tell-tale signs are usually easy to spot. The likely victim probably has a messy vent area. Look for sticky poop covered feathers around the vent area. Also, the vent may appear red and sore.


Alongside respiratory disease – diarrhoea is one of the most common conditions to affect your chickens. Normal chicken droppings should be firm and brown with a white part on the top which is made from urates (the chicken’s urine) as chickens urinate and defecate in one motion. Any yellow foamy droppings or bloody droppings are abnormal.

There are a number of possible causes for diarrhoea in poultry:

  • Coccidiosis
  • Worms
  • Viruses (such as rotavirus and adenovirus)
  • Bacterial diarrhoea, caused by an infection
  • Kidney damage
  • A feed too high in protein
  • The chicken is not eating properly

Coccidiosis tends to cause depression and bloody diarrhoea in poultry between 4 and 10 weeks of age, severe cases can lead to death. If you suspect your birds have coccidiosis seek veterinary help immediately.

Worms rarely actually cause diarrhoea in chickens but if present in large numbers they irritate the gut which causes a secondary bacterial diarrhoea. Worm your chickens as a guide twice a year to prevent high levels of worms developing or use one of the Chicken Vet Faeces Sampling Kit.

Viruses can damage the gut causing diarrhoea such as rotavirus and adenovirus (in turkeys). Medications will not treat a virus but there are products that will help to support the bird whilst it fights the virus. However, when a virus damages a chicken’s intestine it allows harmful bacteria to grow out of control in the intestine leading to a secondary bacterial diarrhoea.

Bacterial diarrhoea is simply a disruption in the normal balance of good and bad bacteria in the intestine. Commonly this results in an overgrowth of harmful Clostridia bacteria. It is thought that there is usually an underlying reason for this disruption such as:

  • Gut damage caused by worms, coccidiosis or viruses
  • A sudden change in diet (different foods encourage different bacterial species to grow in the gut and a sudden change in feed can cause an overwhelming change in gut bacteria species)
  • Dirty water (this will mean your chicken will be drinking lots of harmful bacteria)
  • Mouldy feed (mouldy feed contains fungal toxins which can cause gut damage)

Once the harmful bacteria take hold it can damage the wall of the gut leading to further diarrhoea. In severe cases, the wall of the gut can become badly damaged enabling infective bacteria to pass from the gut into the blood stream resulting in blood poisoning which can be fatal.

Kidney damage. If a bird is suffering from kidney damage many owners will report diarrhoea. Often this is confused with the fact that the kidney damage causes the kidneys to produce excessive quantities of urine, this mixes with the droppings before defecation, causing them to be more watery than normal. So you are actually seeing more urine.

Incorrect diets for species or which contain excessive levels of protein causes wetter droppings as the extra protein is converted into urates. This causes your chicken to drink more water therefore you will see an increase in urine leading to wet, damp bedding.

Irrespective of the cause of diarrhoea it has a number of harmful effects:

  • Less absorption of nutrients therefore causing your chicken to become lethargic and lose weight
  • Gut cannot absorb as much water as normal causing your chicken to become dehydrated which can lead to death
  • In severe cases the damaged gut wall will allow bacteria to leave the gut and enter the blood stream causing blood poisoning and death
  • Diarrhoea leads to the feathers around the rear end to become dirty and matted plus the bedding can become both wet and contaminated. The contaminated bedding can become a source of infection for the rest of the flock. Use Chicken Vet Dri Bed in this situation.

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