Chickens often exhibit some odd behaviors and eating their own poop is one of them. However, coprophagia does occur in chickens and as a chickenkeeper, you need to know the reasons behind it. By understanding the root cause, you can take the steps to curb the habit.
In this guide, we discuss why chickens eat their own poop and what to do about it.
Why Do Chickens Eat Their Own Poop? (The Quick Answer)
Chickens tend to eat their own feces due to nutritional deficiencies, to get undigested nutrients and protein-rich bugs, out of boredom or stress, or due to an unclean environment. Sometimes, chickens tend to peck at their own feces as an instinctual behavior. Coprophagia or poop-eating also helps chickens develop flock immunity and share probiotics with each other.
5 Reasons Why Chickens Eat Their Own Poop (The Detailed Answer)
Here are the main reasons why chickens indulge in poop-eating behavior or coprophagia:
Chickens have the instinct to forage and peck at everything. They may eat their own poop as an instinctual behavior (or as a part of their genetic makeup). Like many animal species, chickens indulge in coprophagia from time to time as they like the taste of their feces – particularly the undigested content in them.
To Overcome Nutritional Deficiencies
Chickens may eat their poop to compensate for nutritional deficiencies and recycle nutrients in their diet. The commercial feed may not satisfy chickens’ requirements sometimes. By eating poop, the birds acquire undigested nutrients and protein-rich bugs to satisfy some of those deficiencies.
Out of Boredom or Stress
In chickens, stress could occur due to the fear of predators or from brooding behavior in other birds. Stressed or anxious chickens often indulge in coprophagia since eating poop gives them an outlet for venting their emotions.
Similarly, chickens are intelligent birds that can get bored if they don’t receive adequate mental stimulation. Eating poop could help alleviate boredom to some extent.
Probiotic Sharing and Building Flock Immunity
Eating each other’s feces could help chickens share probiotics among themselves. This could contribute to the development of flock immunity, as it helps build a healthy gut microbiome.
Since chickens, especially the younger ones, peck at everything, they may inadvertently or unknowingly eat feces if their coop or run is unclean. Thus, sometimes, coprophagia could be unintentional. Some chickens even poop in their feed or water and end up eating it.
In some cases, chickens could eat their droppings to keep their coop clean and prevent harmful bacteria from spreading everywhere.
How To Prevent Poop Eating in Chickens
It is vital to prevent your birds from poop eating because it could lead to diseases and spread harmful bacteria around the coop.
Feed High-Quality Chicken Feed
Since nutritional deficiencies are the most common cause of coprophagia in chickens, feeding high-quality chicken feed could alleviate the behavior. Select species-appropriate commercial feed and, if needed, consult a vet specializing in chickens regarding the right nutrition for your pets.
Clean the Coop Regularly
Make sure to remove all bird droppings and keep the coop clean. Ensure that the birds do not poop in their waterer or feeders.
Provide Ample Space
Ensure that the coop is not overcrowded and that each bird gets ample space to move, perch, roost, and forage around.
Overcrowded coops can also stress the birds out and lead to behaviors and habits like coprophagia.
Use Natural Deterrents
You can sprinkle some Tabasco sauce or cayenne pepper, or spray some bitter apple spray on the bird droppings. This will deter your chickens from eating their poop.
Supervise and Distract
If possible, supervise your chickens all the time. If that is not possible, distract them from eating droppings by providing healthier alternatives like sunflower seeds, mealworms, etc.
Monitor Their Health
If the poop-eating gets out of hand, have your chicken checked by the vet. Sometimes, an underlying health issue or a nutritional deficiency could be the cause of coprophagia. Your vet might recommend supplements or dietary changes, which should resolve the problem.
Stimulate Your Birds Mentally
Provide auditory-visual entertainment to keep your chickens mentally stimulated. You can add hanging wind chimes or a toy xylophone, or play some classical music in their coop. Chickens also love shiny things like old CDs, mirrors, etc. in their coops. These toys can help keep boredom and stress at bay.
How do I Stop My Chickens from Pooping In The Food?
Here are some tips to help you prevent chicken poop in the birds’ feed:
- Use elevated feeders – elevated feeders deter chickens from perching on them.
- Use squirrel baffles or hooks – attach these hooks/baffles to waterers and feeders to prevent chickens from rooting/perching over them.
- Maintain the coop regularly– clean and remove droppings promptly from the feeder and waterer to deter birds from pooping in them.
- Ensure adequate space for each bird– there should be ample space around the feeders so that birds don’t crowd around them and soil accidentally.
- Use covered feeders – covering the feeders could also prevent your chickens from perching and pooping.
- Keep roosting area away from the feeding area – allow birds to roost where poop falling down won’t be an issue.
How to Get Poop Off Chickens?
Hens with fluffy butts tend to get chicken poop stuck to them. Here are some tips to help you remove them:
- Warm water and mild soap- Wipe your pet’s soiled bottom with a sponge or washcloth dipped in a warm soap solution. This will loosen the hardened feces so you can quickly remove them. For stubborn feces, soak the bird’s bottom area gently in warm water for a few minutes, then wipe it off.
- Trim the soiled feathers – if your bird allows it, use a pair of scissors to trim away the soiled and matted feathers.
- Be gentle – whichever method you use, be gentle. Do not traumatize your bird.
Key Takeaway – Why Do Chickens Eat Their Own Poop?
Chickens may indulge in coprophagia due to a nutritional deficiency, to circulate probiotics and improve flock immunity, or out of stress or boredom. Some young chickens often eat their poop, as it is a natural/instinctual behavior.
We hope this guide helps you put a stop to this habit.