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What Do Normal Chicken Droppings Look Like?

There's a wide range of normal when it comes to chicken droppings. From brown to green, white to black, and everything in between. So what's normal and what's not?

I know, I know... not the most  appealing of topics, but monitoring what's coming out of your chickens back end (in addition to eggs, of course) is really important as a way to make sure your chickens are healthy and to tip any possible problems early on before they become worse.  

By monitoring your chickens output, you can often get an early indication that something is wrong, but it's important to know what's normal and what's not so you don't overreact to sudden changes.

What Do Normal Chicken Droppings Look Like?

Normal chicken droppings can range in color pretty widely from all shades of brown and tan, 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".

Now, aren't you glad you asked? 

So what's normal? 

Chicken droppings are generally some shade of brown and fairly solid in consistency, with a sort of fluffy white cap on top.

The solid part 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).

Here's a story to illustrate what I mean about not over-reacting to droppings that at first glance might seem to indicate a real problem.

A few winters ago, all of a sudden I noticed black droppings in the run, so of course 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 - now that we had a wood stove since moving to Maine, I had been emptying our ash pail from the wood stove into the chickens' dust bath.

As they bathe, they had been eating the ashes. As a result, nearly all of them were now depositing solid black piles!

The above photo shows some perfectly normal 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 droppings 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.

Green, Brown, Black and Everything in Between

Here are some of the more common colors/causes of different types of chicken output.

Greenish Droppings

Could possibly be: Internal worms, Marek's disease, Avian flu.

More likely cause: Diet high in greens, weeds, grasses and vegetables

Verdict: Normal

The above photo shows some healthy green droppings due to frequent free ranging and leafy green treats from the garden.

Yellowish Droppings

Could possibly be: Coccidiosis, fowl typhoid, internal worms or kidney malfunction

More likely cause: Eating an abundance of certain foods, such as forsythia blossoms, strawberries or corn.

Verdict: Normal

Black Droppings

Could possibly be: Internal bleeding

More likely cause: Eating charcoal, blackberries or other dark purple or blue foods

Verdict: Normal

The above photo shows some perfectly normal blackish droppings from eating blackberries.

Runny Brown Droppings

Could possibly be: E.coli or infectious bronchitis

More likely cause: Eating foods high in liquid content, cecal fecal matter (usually stickier, more pudding-like consistency that occurs once out of every 7-8 times and is perfectly normal)

Verdict: Normal

The above photo shows an example of perfectly normal cecal fecal matter.

...and Everything In Between

Clear Watery 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, iceberg lettuce, celery or cucumbers

Verdict: Normal

Large Piles of Brown Droppings

When a hen is sitting on eggs, i.e. "broody", instead of getting up from the nest 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 droppings. This is completely normal for a broody hen.

What you can expect from a broody hen - a huge, smelly pile of droppings! Hopefully she waits until she's taking a break from sitting and doesn't make a mess in her nest.

The above photo is a pile of broody droppings.

Verdict: Normal

Teal Droppings

Could possibly be: ???

More likely cause: Diet heavy in purple cabbage, beets or beet tops

Verdict: Normal

The above photos are examples of duck droppings after the flock ate beet greens. And below, an example of what eating purple cabbage does to the droppings.

chicken poop

Orange or Red Droppings

Could possibly be: Coccidiosis or lead poisoning

More likely cause: Sloughing off of the intestinal lining. The orange stringy strands are often mistaken for blood. This is entirely normal to find in the droppings occasionally.

Verdict: Normal

The above photo is an example of normal intestinal lining shed in a chick's droppings, no cause for alarm.

The above photo is normal-looking droppings with sloughed off intestinal lining from a healthy adult hen.

And believe it or not, these colorful droppings below are also completely normal from a healthy chickens.

So as you can see, "normal" chicken droppings come in all colors, shapes and sizes. Generally it's nothing to worry about if they vary from time to time, especially if you can pinpoint the reason. 


However, there is ONE time when you should be alarmed. And that's if you definitely see blood in the droppings. 

Truly bloody droppings, especially if accompanied by a hunched over or fluffed up hen, could signal coccidiosis, a serious parasitic disease of the intestine.

The photo of the worrisome-looking droppings pictured below was emailed to me from a reader. They came from a chicken later confirmed to have a case of coccidiosis.

If you suspect coccidiosis, please bring a fecal sample to your vet ASAP to have it diagnosed and begin the suggested treatment.

Verdict: Not Normal

Now that you know what's normal when it comes to chicken droppings and what's not, hopefully you'll keep a close eye on what's coming out of your chickens - besides eggs that is - and be better prepared.

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