What Causes Chickens To Have Diarrhea

What Causes Chickens To Have Diarrhea


Diarrhoea is a prevalent health issue in chickens that can be indicative of various underlying problems. While occasional irregular droppings are normal, consistent and persistent diarrhoea in backyard chickens requires attention and appropriate treatment. In this comprehensive post, we will explore the causes of chicken diarrhoea, how to differentiate it from normal droppings, common symptoms, and essential prevention and treatment methods. Understanding these aspects will help chicken keepers maintain the health and well-being of their flock.

Diarrhoea in Backyard Chickens

Diarrhoea is a common indicator of health issues in chickens. While the odd “strange poo” is normal, consistent diarrhoea needs investigation and treatment. Diarrhoea in chickens is characterized by constantly liquid poos, very watery or runny poos, poo containing blood, pus, worms, etc., and a constantly dirty butt with feathers caked in droppings.

Differentiating Normal Poo from Diarrhoea

Many new chicken keepers mistake completely normal chicken poo for diarrhoea. Caecal poos are not diarrhoea and are completely normal. They are pasty droppings, usually black or brown in colour, sticky, smelly, and more homogenous than “normal” chicken poo. Caecal poos should make up about 1/3 of droppings.

Symptoms of Illness Alongside Diarrhoea

Other symptoms may accompany diarrhoea in chickens, such as lethargy, poor appetite, weight loss, and ruffled or puffed up feathers.

Causes of Chicken Diarrhea

Chickens can develop diarrhoea due to various factors, including:

  • Worms
  • Viruses (such as rotavirus and adenovirus)
  • Bacterial infections
  • Kidney damage
  • A feed too high in protein
  • Poor feeding

Other illnesses that have diarrhoea as a symptom include:

  • Coccidiosis – a protozoan disease caused by poor hygiene and sanitation.
  • Fowl cholera (Pasteurellosis) – a bacterial infection causing severe diarrhea, breathing problems, loss of appetite, blue combs, and wattles.
  • Marek’s disease – a viral disease leading to paralysis of wings or legs.
  • Coryza – a disease with symptoms like swollen watery eyes, closed eyes, nasal discharge, labored breathing, and decreased egg production.
  • Newcastle disease – a highly contagious viral disease causing respiratory stress, lack of appetite, green diarrhea, nervous symptoms, and high mortality.
  • Gumboro disease – a viral disease affecting young chickens, causing diarrhea, sleepiness, depression, ruffled feathers, and trembling of the head.
  • Salmonella – affecting chicks and adults, spread through contaminated feed, water, and feces.

Preventing and Treating Diarrhoea in Chickens

The best way to prevent diarrhoea is to address the underlying problem causing it. Maintain a clean coop and practice good biosecurity to prevent issues. Using probiotics and ACV (apple cider vinegar) in drinking water may improve the immune response to common diarrhoea-causing parasites and diseases. Avian electrolytes can help prevent diarrhoea caused by heat stress during hot weather. Treatment depends on identifying the cause, and birds should be dosed with probiotics and ACV to potentially help fight off the illness and prevent its spread. It is not recommended to use antibiotics or medications without a conclusive diagnosis and veterinary advice to avoid contributing to antibiotic resistance.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Chicken Diarrhea

Q1: What is the difference between normal chicken poo and diarrhoea?

A1: Normal chicken droppings may vary in consistency and color, but they are generally well-formed and relatively dry. On the other hand, diarrhoea in chickens is characterized by constantly liquid or very watery droppings, sometimes containing blood, pus, or worms, and a consistently dirty butt with feathers caked in droppings.

Q2: What are some common symptoms of illness that may accompany chicken diarrhoea?

A2: Chickens experiencing diarrhoea may exhibit other symptoms, such as lethargy, poor appetite, weight loss, and ruffled or puffed up feathers. These signs often indicate an underlying health issue that requires attention.

Q3: What are the possible causes of chicken diarrhoea?

A3: Chicken diarrhoea can be caused by various factors, including heat stress, coccidiosis, worm infestations, excess salt intake, Marek’s disease, E. coli infection, avian leukosis, avian intestinal spirochetosis, avian tuberculosis, fowl cholera, and infectious coryza. Identifying the specific cause is crucial for appropriate treatment.

Q4: How can chicken keepers prevent and treat diarrhoea in their flock?

A4: Preventing diarrhoea involves maintaining a clean coop, practicing good biosecurity, and using probiotics and apple cider vinegar (ACV) in drinking water to boost immune response. Treating diarrhoea depends on identifying the underlying cause. Probiotics and ACV can be given to birds to aid in fighting off the illness, but using antibiotics or medications without a conclusive diagnosis and veterinary advice is discouraged to avoid contributing to antibiotic resistance.


Diarrhoea in backyard chickens is not to be ignored, as it can be an indication of various health issues affecting the flock. By understanding the different causes, recognizing the symptoms, and implementing preventive measures, chicken keepers can maintain the well-being of their feathered friends. If diarrhoea persists or becomes severe, it is crucial to seek veterinary advice for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. By providing proper care and attention, chicken owners can ensure their flock remains healthy and thriving.

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