A lot of animals eat their own poop, and this includes chickens. But why do chickens eat their own poop when they have plenty of tasty feed available?
Obviously, it’s pretty disguising to us. But the practice of eating poop – which is known as coprophagia – proves beneficial to animals.
Chickens, and this applies to most animals that eat their own poop; rabbits, dogs, rodents, etc. are aware that there are some partially digested nutrients left in their poop.
It also helps them develop flock immunities and share probiotics. Plus, there may be some other protein-rich insects and bugs in there.
When you lay it all out like that, it doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Actually, it’s still obviously disguising to us. But, hopefully, you now understand why chickens eat their own poop and that it’s (potentially) good for them.
Can Chickens Get Sick From Eating Their Own Poop?
Yes, it’s possible for chickens to get sick from eating poop.
While eating poop actually has some upsides as I explained above, it can also transfer harmful bacteria within your flock.
According to the Illinois fact sheet regarding potential dangers of poultry poop, chicken poop can contain a number of bacteria that could be harmful to other chickens, and us.
Salmonella, Campylobacter, and avian influenza viruses are the main culprits. All of which can cause some serious health issues to your flock.
There isn’t much you can do to stop your chooks pecking at their feces though. All you can do is take all the right measures to ensure your flock is as healthy as possible.
But, What About the Taste!?
This is another area where we differ from chickens. We have around 10,000 taste buds and are incredibly motivated by the different tastes of foods.
Chickens on the other hand have just 240-360 taste buds. Hence why they can eat just about anything – including poop – and are never put off by the taste.
A lot of owners think their chickens are pretty picky about certain foods due to taste as they will ignore some perfectly good foods.
This isn’t to do with the taste or smell. Chickens resist a lot of foods, plants, and other things that are potentially toxic or harmful to them. It’s just their natural survival instinct.
They aren’t always right of course. You can’t let your flock free-range near toxic plants, and likewise, they’ll sometimes turn their beaks up at some perfectly good food.
Related – How many taste buds do chickens have?
Is It OK for Baby Chicks to Eat Their Poop?
The topic of baby chicks and poop is an interesting one. I’ve read some accounts from people raising chicks saying they gave some dirt from their coop to their chicks.
They add some of the dirt with poop into their brooder to expose chickens to any of the disease organisms and probiotics their adult chickens have.
This helps build their own immunity. There is a risk to doing this if there are any harmful bacteria in the poop, so I would only do this after consulting a poultry expert.
It’s commonly seen in the animal kingdom and even on farms where several different animals graze.
Things to Be Aware Of
While you’re around your chickens and cleaning out their coop, it’s always good practice to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.
“Normal” chicken poop can range from yellowish to black and most shades in between. You will also see white “crystal-like” things in their poop. These are urates, which is basically their urine.
This comes as a surprise to most, but chickens pee and poop from the same hole, their vent. Which is also where eggs come out. Crazy, right?!
They don’t pee as we do. Instead, their urine comes out in hard white crystal form along with their poop. This all sounds a little strange at first, but it makes perfect sense if you think about it.
Anyway, if you spot any poop that doesn’t look “normal”. Meaning it’s runny, a bright color, has signs of worms, etc, then it’s vital you remove the responsible chicken and don’t let the others eat that poop.
Only healthy poop should be eaten by chickens. Wow, that’s a sentence I never thought I’d say!
Generally speaking, I’m just saying that you should keep an eye on the general health of your flock. If any bacteria or illnesses are present, they can spread incredibly quickly.
Related – Do chickens pee?
You may still find it just as gross when you see your chickens pecking at poop, but you now know it’s perfectly normal and is doing them more good than harm.
There’s really nothing you can do to stop them, and you shouldn’t want to anyway. Let your chickens be chickens!
Image credits – Photos by Anton Malanin, Florian Weichelton, and Peter Barwa on Unsplash