Normal chicken poop can range from all shades of brown, to green, yellow or even black. The range of "normal" varies by hen, diet, time of year and overall health - as well as what type of feces it is; broody, cecal or "everyday". By monitoring your chickens' output, you can often get an early indication that something is wrong, but be sure to know the range of normal so you don't overreact to sudden changes.
Case in point: Chicken droppings are generally some shade of brown and fairly solid in consistency, with a sort of fluffy white cap on top. The solid is fecal matter - the digested and partially digested food - while the white part is the urates/uric acid, or what would otherwise be urine in another animal (or human).
So when I noticed black droppings in the run awhile back, my first instinct was to panic. Normally black droppings indicate blood in the stool, which is indicative of internal bleeding - not a good thing. Then it dawned on me that I have been emptying our ash pail from the wood stove into the chickens' dust bath. As they bathe, they've been eating the ashes. As a result, nearly all of them are now pooping solid black poop!
|-droppings from a chicken that has been eating a diet high in wood ash-|
Wood ash is actually beneficial for the chickens. It contains Vitamin K which is a blood clotting agent; it also works as a detoxifier, flushing toxins from the body, similar to how charcoal pills work in cases of human poisoning. Wild animals have been observed eating charred wood after a forest fire for the same reasons. So I figure a bit of charcoal in their diet is a very good thing, ridding their bodies of any built up toxins. Nothing to worry about at all.
This was a prime example of why you can't immediately panic - or over react. While "normal" chicken droppings are usually brown and a soft, mushy consistency, there are perfectly benign reasons why your chicken poop might look different from time to time. It's good to be able to recognize the differences and what might cause them, so you can do a bit of detective work before you automatically reach for your vet's phone number. Here are some of the more common colors/causes of chicken poop:
Could possibly be: Internal worms, Marek's disease, Avian flu
More likely cause: Diet high in greens, weeds, grasses and vegetables
Could possibly be: Coccidiosis, fowl typhoid, internal worms or kidney malfunction
More likely cause: Eating certain foods, such as forsythia blossoms, as Lissa from My Pet Chicken found out, strawberries or corn
Could possibly be: Internal bleeding
More likely cause: Eating charcoal, blackberries or other dark purple or blue foods
Runny Brown Droppings
Could possibly be: E.coli or infectious bronchitis
More likely cause: Eating foods high in liquid content, cecal poop (usually stickier, more pudding-like consistency that occurs once out of every 7-8 times a hen poops - perfectly normal)
|-perfectly normal cecal poop-|
White or Clear Runny Droppings
Could possibly be: Vent gleet, kidney damage from high protein diet, stress or internal disease
More likely cause: Greater than normal water intake (such as in the summer) or eating lots of water-laden treats such as watermelon, celery or cucumbers
Large Piles of Brown Droppings
When a hen is sitting on eggs, i.e. "broody", instead of pooping the dozen or so times she normally would each day, she holds it and waits, only leaving her nest several times a day. As a result, she will leave a huge pile of (generally) smelly poop. This broody poop is completely normal.
|-huge pile of broody poop-|
Could possibly be:???
More likely cause: Diet heavy in red cabbage, beets and beet topsOrange or Red Droppings
|-perfectly normal greenish-teal duck droppings-|
Could possibly be: Coccidiosis or lead poisoning
More likely cause: Sloughing off of the intestinal lining. The orange strands or particles are often mistaken for blood. This is entirely normal to find in the droppings occasionally.
|-intestinal lining shed in a chick's droppings, no cause for alarm-|
|-droppings with sloughed off intestinal lining in an adult hen-|
Note: True bloody droppings, especially if accompanied by a hunched over or fluffed up hen, could signal coccidiosis, a serious parasitic disease of the intestine. If you suspect coccidiosis, please bring a fecal sample to your vet ASAP to have it diagnosed and begin the suggested treatment.
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