Got chickens? When you have any type of livestock, you are responsible for their health. However, even though you do everything by the book, diseases still happen; such as diarrhea. Although many backyard chicken owners panic when their dear birds seem unwell, this is not helpful. Well, let’s probe how to solve this runny problem!
Signs of Chicken Diarrhea
Symptoms of chicken diarrhea can be categorized into physical signs and behavioral signs. Here are some common symptoms:
Physical Signs of Chicken Diarrhea
- Loose, watery, or mucus-like feces
- Foul-smelling feces
- Stains on the feathers around the vent
- Wet and dirty vent feathers
- Red and swollen vent
- Weight loss
Behavioral Signs of Chicken Diarrhea
- Decreased activity and appetite
- Inability to stand
- Drooping wings and tail
- Huddling or puffing up
- Decreased egg production
One typical sign of ailment 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.
Increase of Cecal-like Droppings
In addition to this type of healthy feces, chickens produce several cecal droppings daily. Cecal droppings are reddish-brown and sticky but are signs that your chicken is healthy and normal. Even though cecal droppings look like diarrhea, it’s a distinct type of chicken poop.
If a chicken has diarrhea, it will have only, or primarily, droppings that look like cecal droppings. If you see that more than a third of the poops are sticky and reddish-brown, you will know it’s chicken diarrhea.
Stained Hind Feathers
You should check your flock’s feathers and hind areas to specify which bird is ill if you have multiple birds. A chicken that has diarrhea will likely have a vent area that is red and sore. The feathers will also be pasted with dry, yellow stains.
What Causes Chicken Diarrhea?
Like people, chickens can have diarrhea for many reasons. Sometimes, the chicken diarrhea will pass before you can specify why they had it in the first place. Yet, if your flock has constant diarrhea, you should verify its root cause to treat it properly. Some typical reasons for chicken diarrhea are:
- Poor flock management
- Bacteria and Viruses
Poor Flock Management
Chicken diarrhea can typically result from errors or neglect regarding how the flock is managed. If birds are kept too closely together or without adequate ventilation, space, and access to the outdoors, they can suffer the effects of heat stress. A sign of heat stress is chicken diarrhea.
Another cause is vent prolapse, which can occur due to a calcium deficit or the bird being over or underweight.
In many cases, vent prolapse can be prevented by feeding the flock with proper nutrition.
Other signs of poor flock control resulting in chicken diarrhea are surplus salt intake, moldy food, and toxic plants.
Along with that is the risk of injury or internal damage which can result from chickens eating sharp objects.
There are a handful of bacteria and viruses that can cause chicken diarrhea. More typical causes are Colibacillosis, Lymphoid, leukosis, and Marek’s disease. Avian intestinal spirochetosis, tuberculosis, infectious coryza, and fowl cholera are other, though less typical, possibilities.
Parasites such as Coccidiosis, threadworms, and blackhead disease are often to blame for chicken diarrhea. It is mostly from other animals on the site. So, it can cause an outbreak if not treated properly.
Treatments for Chicken Diarrhea
Important! If you suspect a hen of having a contagious disease, instantly isolate it from the flock to reduce the chance of affecting other birds.
To successfully treat chicken diarrhea, it’s helpful first to identify the cause. Now you better understand the potential causes of chicken diarrhea: poor flock management, viruses or bacteria, and parasites.
Watch Over the Chicken’s Diet
Chicken diarrhea caused by poor flock control will require changing how you manage your flock. Simple fixes to your flock’s diet, such as:
Reducing sodium content
Increasing (or decreasing) calcium supplement
If your hens are overeating, reduce or eliminate ‘treats’ like salad greens until diarrhea has subsided (usually in 24-36 hours).
Also, 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 one to remove concerns about mycotoxins. Also, check your flock’s area for potentially toxic plants, rotting animals, or sharp metal objects that curious hens might ingest.
Avoid Heat Stress
Similarly, equipping more space, shade, or outdoor access for your hens might resolve the issue relatively quickly if the diarrhea was caused by heat stress. Or, you can stand it in cold water, aim a fan, and mix their food with cold water to help her cool down faster.
Reminder: Always ensure your flock has ample access to fresh, clean water, especially on warm or hot days. Birds are quite sensitive to the effects of heat. So, you must provide them with the proper environment to remain cold.
There’s a big chance that your chicken is experiencing diarrhea due to intestinal parasites or worms. It would help if you treated your entire flock by deworming. You can give them the proper deworming medicine from your local vet or farming supply store.
Follow the instructions and ensure not to eat or sell eggs from the treated hens for the specified time. Parasites like Coccidiosis usually only affect young chicks under ten weeks of age. Chicks with Coccidiosis must be treated promptly. It can be done with a coccidiostat, probiotics, and electrolytes, or it might be lethal.
Try Antibiotic Treatment
If you suspect that your chicken’s diarrhea is due to viruses or parasites, the above remedies will not hurt. However, more might be needed to help your chicken’s digestive system get back on track. Consult your vet to nail if it’s a bacterial or viral infection.
Bacterial infections can be treated with the right antibiotics; a surplus of antibiotics may also cause diarrhea, so give your bird probiotics.
Antibiotics do not treat viral infections; if your hen is suspected of having a virus, provide palliative care. In bacterial or viral infections, isolate your infected chicken(s) from the rest of the flock to minimize the likelihood of transmission.
Caring for Chickens with Diarrhea
Ensure all hens with diarrhea have access to proper food, clean water, shade, and fresh bedding. Until or unless you have determined the cause of the chicken diarrhea. Yet, once you know it’s viral, isolate your infected bird(s) from the rest of your flock.
Because some chicken diseases can affect humans, it’s vital to take extra protection when handling sick chickens. It’s safest to keep your hens inside and not cuddle or kiss your feathered friends.
Wash your hands instantly after handling your hens, their enclosure or coop, or their eggs. Make sure to change your clothes after spending time on 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 days have passed. Whether or not your hen has diarrhea, many of these safeguards should be taken. This is because even healthy chickens can make people sick. These measures will help protect you and your family from being ill from your hens.
3 Ways to Prevent Diarrhea in Chickens
Prevention is Key: Once your chickens are feeling fine, consider executing further actions to prevent future cases of chicken diarrhea, such as:
Quarantine New Chickens
Diarrhea is typically caused mainly due to bacterial or viral infections and other digestive issues. Such as worms and parasites that may not become evident in their appearance initially. So, practicing quarantine on new chickens can limit the risk of diarrhea by keeping them isolated from your current flock for some time.
When you bring home new birds, there are always some inherent biosecurity risks since different conditions with other livestock operations do not guarantee a healthy chicken.
So, the quarantine generally lasts anywhere between 14 days and up to one month, depending on cases. It’s aimed at allowing newly acquired flocks to acquaint themselves with unique traits and water rationing schedules while protecting against contagions until checked status and treated accordingly.
Maintain Cleanliness in the Coop
Practicing cleanliness in the coop can limit the risk of diarrhea because chickens are prone to bacterial infections that could be avoided through good sanitation.
Proper hygiene ensures waterers and feeders do not get contaminated with droppings or other debris which cause abdominal illnesses like Enteritis, Salmonellosis, and Coccidiosis, amongst others whose common symptom is often diarrhea.
Keeping clean bedding material frequently changed and avoiding overcrowding will significantly reduce the risk of many diseases.
Monitor their Diet
Although chickens can eat many food (including the meat of their own kind), it’s still best to keep their diet in check. Do you have plants from the nightshade family, which might trigger stomach aches and diarrhea?
Or it can be more than the advised serving amount of food. To avoid stomach problems, try striking from the source: food!
If your hens have chicken diarrhea, specify 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 diseases.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch The Foundry.