Chickens are pretty adventurous eaters. You might even say they are a little indiscriminate. Chickens eat all kinds of things, from bugs and grass to small mammals and even dirt.
So it’s not surprising that some people assert that chickens will also eat their own poop. Yikes, that seems like a bit much, and it is hard to think of something more disgusting than that.
But could it be true? Do chickens really eat their own poop?
Yes, chickens regularly eat their poop. They do this for a variety of reasons, including getting nutrients that they may have missed the first time, and improving flock immunity.
While it may seem gross to us, eating poop is perfectly natural for chickens and is nothing to worry about 9 times out of 10.
It is hardly an appealing subject, but there is a lot more that chicken keepers should know about this habitual behavior. Keep reading to learn more, if you can stomach it.
Do Chickens Seriously Eat Their Own Poop?
Yes. And they do it on purpose, habitually. Chickens do eat their own poop. Fact.
Yes, for real.
This practice is known as coprophagy, and it is perfectly natural for chickens. They are not the only animals that do this either. Other common examples include: rabbits, guinea pigs, lemurs, chimpanzees, and of course our furry friends- dogs and cats.
Will They Eat Another Chicken’s Poop?
They sure will. If it came out of a chicken they will eat it.
Why Do Chickens Eat Their Poop?
Chickens eat their poop for several reasons. The most common reason is that they are trying to get more nutrients.
Chickens digest food relatively quickly, and they sometimes miss key nutrients the first time around, nutrients that persist in their poop.
So they will eat their poop in order to get a second “pass” at those nutrients. Talk about recycling!
Another reason chickens eat their poop is to boost their immunity. When chickens eat their poop of other chickens, they are essentially getting a dose of probiotics, which helps them develop immunity to the same diseases and parasites that afflict their fellow flock-mates.
A third reason chickens eat their poop is because it might simply taste good to them. Chickens have a strong sense of smell but a weak sense of taste (at least compared to people), and their poop likely smells like the food they just ate.
If a chicken is “triggered” by food, they go for it pretty much every time. This means that poop is on the menu a lot of the time!
Are There Risks Associated with Chickens Eating Poop?
Absolutely, and some of them are serious. Despite chickens eating poop instinctively and for good reasons they are not immune from the consequences of doing so.
Chicken poop is absolutely infested with bacteria, as you’d imagine, and can also transmit parasites.
So when a chicken eats its own or another chicken’s poop, it is risking infection with any number of diseases. Some of the most common are:
- Avian influenza
- Fowl cholera
The most common disease transmitted this way is coccidiosis, which can be fatal in young chicks. Coccidiosis is caused by a protozoan parasite that is found in chicken feces, and it can cause dehydration, weight loss, and bloody diarrhea.
Another disease that can be transmitted via chicken poop is Salmonella, which as you probably know can also infect people.
In fact, the CDC estimates that Salmonella causes nearly 1.2 million illnesses in the US each year.
Yet another nasty germ is avian influenza, a strain of which has been responsible for the deaths of millions upon millions of chickens in recent years.
This virus can be transmitted via chicken feces easily, and it can also infect people, though this is relatively rare.
Campylobacter is another bacterium that can cause diarrhea, dehydration and egg failure or stillbirths in chickens. It is also transmissible to humans where it can wreak havoc on the intestines and colon.
And, last and worst of them all, poop can transmit fowl cholera, a lethal contagion that can kill chickens in as little as a few hours and is responsible for wiping out many flocks.
Fowl cholera is caused by a bacterium called Pasteurella multocida, which can be transmitted in chicken feces and further spread by contact, not just ingestion. It can also infect humans, though it is usually not fatal.
These are just some of the risks chickens face when eating poop. So while it may be natural for them to do so, it’s not exactly safe.
Do Chicks Eat Poop, Too?
Yes, chicks will eat poop, but keepers are divided on whether or not they should be allowed to until they mature into adolescent chickens.
Chicks are more likely to contract diseases from eating poop, so some people choose to discourage it by keeping the brooder where the chicks live clean and not letting them out into areas where there might be chicken feces.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.