Understanding Why Chickens Might Eat Their Own Poop: Causes and Solutions

You’ve probably heard some strange things about chickens, but here’s a question that might have you scratching your head: do chickens eat their own poop? It’s a bit of a stomach-turning topic, but if you’re a backyard chicken keeper, it’s important to understand their dietary habits.

Chickens are known for their omnivorous diet, but does this extend to their own waste? It’s a question that’s sparked curiosity and concern among chicken enthusiasts and farmers alike. We’re about to delve into this somewhat unpleasant subject, so brace yourself for some fascinating, if slightly icky, chicken facts.

Key Takeaways

  • Chickens are omnivorous creatures and are known for their non-discriminatory feeding habits, exploring food resources other than grains including insects, fruits, vegetables, and even small animals.
  • The consumption of poop could be due to a lack of certain nutrients or vitamins in their diet. Chickens may turn to this undesirable source, especially if their diet isn’t providing them with the nutrients they need.
  • In spite of their extensive palate, chickens eating their own feces should not be considered normal behavior. It can often signal an imbalance or deficiency in their diet.
  • A well-rounded, nutritionally complete diet can prevent undesirable behaviors like fecal consumption. Providing a balanced diet is thus an essential aspect of chicken care and maintenance.
  • Chickens’ potential encounter with coprophagy carries health risks, such as disease transmissions including coccidiosis, salmonella, and avian influenza, or parasitic infections like roundworms and tapeworms.
  • Factors influencing this behavior include dietary deficiencies, overcrowding in the coop, boredom due to lack of mental stimulation, and unsanitary living conditions. By addressing these issues, chicken owners can foster a healthier, happier flock.

For those exploring why chickens might eat their own poop, Farming Farmers Farms explains that this behavior can indicate a lack of essential minerals in their diet. To understand the broader implications of this behavior, ScienceDirect provides an overview of coprophagy, which includes the nutritional and health aspects of animals eating feces. Additionally, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo site discusses why consuming poop might actually be beneficial for some species, including nutrient absorption and gut health.

Understanding a Chicken’s Diet

Have you ever watched a chicken forage? If you have, you know they’ll peck at just about anything that grabs their attention. This is due to their omnivorous nature. Yes, that’s right. While it might surprise some, chickens are not strictly vegetarians. They eat a wide variety of foods.

Being omnivores, their diet isn’t merely composed of grains. They’ll also munch on insects, worms, fruits, berries, vegetables, and even small animals like mice and lizards if given the chance. They’re pretty unfussy eaters and will see almost anything edible as a potential meal.

Let’s talk about the consumption of feces. Yes, it’s an unfortunate topic, but one that needs addressing. Why would a chicken opt to eat poop? One possible reason could be a lack of certain nutrients in their diet. Chickens aren’t exactly nutritionists, and they don’t always understand what is good or bad for them. They may consume poop to fulfill a nutrient deficiency, especially if they’re fed a monotonous, non-variation diet.

Protein plays a vital role in a chicken’s diet, and any deficiency often leads to odd feeding behaviors. Interesting to note that animal feces can be a source of protein. Though not highly desirable from a hygiene and health perspective, it’s a source that chickens may explore given their curious eating habits.

The quality of a chicken’s nutrition is, therefore, determined by its diet. In their pursuit for nutrients, they might exhaust all available resources, including their own droppings. But that being said, chickens eating their own poop is not a normal occurrence nor does it define their dietary behavior as a whole.

Table: Importance of dietary elements in chicken’s nutrition

Dietary ElementImportance
ProteinEssential for growth, egg production
VitaminsNecessary for physiological functions
MineralsCrucial for bones, eggshell formation

By providing a well-rounded diet for your chickens, you can prevent such undesirable behaviors. Further exploration into ‘nutrition management for chickens’ can prove to be beneficial and enlightening in this context.

Investigating the Rumors

You’ve likely heard whispers, odd tales, and even direct claims that chickens eat their poop. Do they? Where does this rumor come from and why would it apply to our feathered friends?

Chickens, in their usual demeanor, love to forage. They peck at anything that resembles food. Given their not-so-discriminatory feeding habits, there’s a chance for them to ingest their feces. Not deliberately, of course, but it might happen during their quest for tasty morsels, much like how a person might inadvertently indulge in unhealthy habits when under stress.

However, it’s important to clear up a common misconception. Chickens are not naturally inclined to eat their feces. Rather, when they do, it’s usually a sign that something is off in their diet. If there are necessary nutrients or elements missing, they may turn to unpalatable sources – yes, even their poop. This can be likened to how a person might resort to negative coping mechanisms when faced with emotional distress.

Let’s delve a bit deeper into the why. Fecal matter can retentively hold traces of undigested food, vitamins, or minerals. Chickens have a remarkable ability to pick up on this, leading them toward such an unusual diet shift. This is their biological response aimed at nutritional survival, not a gross habit as it might initially seem, much like how tears can be a biological response to emotional pain, even if it’s not a desired reaction.

Consequently, the rumor doesn’t exactly tell the full story. Chicken’s possible engagement in coprophagy (the scientific term for fecal consumption) is an indicator of dietary imbalances. To ensure your chickens avoid proving the rumor true, it’s vital to maintain a well-balanced and nutritionally complete diet for them, as neglecting their dietary needs can depress their overall well-being.

Certainly, the best approach here is a proactive one. Don’t wait for your chickens to resort to eating their own poop. Instead, prioritize creating and maintaining a healthy diet to keep your flock happy, healthy, and feces-free. Gather insights from chicken diet experts, read relevant literature, and consult with professionals. After all, dietary deficiencies do not only result in undesired feeding behaviors, they can also cause health problems affecting the entire flock, potentially leading to a disorder within the coop’s dynamics, much like bullying can disrupt the harmony in a social group.

Remember, chickens are what they eat. Their diet directly affects their health, their egg production and ultimately their overall happiness. So, take control, remedy their nutritional needs, and put an end to these rumors once and for all.

The Health Implications

Let’s address the elephant—or rather, the chicken—in the room: what are the health implications when chickens eat their own feces? While it might seem grim, it’s vital to grasp the potential consequences to fully understand the severity of the situation.

It’s important to know that poultry diseases frequently spread through fecal matter. When chickens peck at poop, they run the risk of ingesting pathogens that other chickens may have excreted. This increases their chances of contracting diseases such as coccidiosis, salmonella, and avian influenza.

Potential DiseaseHow it SpreadsSymptoms
CoccidiosisIngesting infected fecesDiarrhea, weight loss
SalmonellaIngesting contaminated fecesDecreased activity, white diarrhea
Avian InfluenzaDirect contact with infected fecesRespiratory distress, decreased egg production

Parasitic infections are another unwanted visitor that can arrive when chickens decide to dine on their own droppings. Intestinal worms like roundworms, tapeworms and hairworms can infest your flock. These parasites sap your birds’ nutrients and can result in severe weight loss, lethargy, and decreased egg production.

It’s not just about disease or parasitic threats, though. Believe it or not, this unpleasant feeding habit can also lead to behavioral issues within your flock. Chickens that consume their own feces could start exhibiting other abnormal behaviors, such as pecking at other chickens.

To mitigate the health risks, it’s crucial to keep your chicken coop clean. Regular cleaning will not only minimize the presence of feces but also make it less appealing for your chickens to peck at. Remember, good hygiene is every bit as important for your birds as a balanced diet. Vanquishing the turd temptation is a step towards a healthier, happier flock. Let’s explore how you can offer a nutritious diet and good living conditions to prevent such behaviors in the following sections.

Factors Influencing this Behavior

While it sounds outlandish to suggest chickens eat their own feces, there are a number of factors that contribute to this behavior. Let’s delve deeper by investigating these potential triggers.

One major driving force is dietary deficiencies. Chickens, like humans, require a balanced diet for optimal health. When they’re not supplied with the requisite amount of nutrition, they seek out alternate food sources. In some cases, this may include their own droppings.

Another influencing factor is overcrowding. When chickens are packed too tightly in a coop, they’re more likely to engage in behavior like this. Overcrowded environments induce stress, increase a chicken’s contact with feces and reduce its ability to form positive social bonds.

Now you may ask about boredom. Yes, you heard right. Chickens get bored, too. When they have nothing else to do, they may start pecking and eating undesirable things, including their own droppings. Providing them with the right amount of space to roam freely, some toys or materials to peck at can get their minds off certain… less healthy interests.

A dirty barn or henhouse can also push your feathered friends to explore unsavory options. Consequently, it’s of vital importance to create and maintain a clean and sanitary environment for chickens. When chickens have clean spaces and materials to peck at, they are less likely to resort to cannibalism or fecal consumption.

While your chickens might resort to eating their own droppings, there are certain systemic issues in their environment you should address. These include a lack of balanced diet, overcrowding, insufficient mental stimulation, as well as a failure to maintain clean and appropriate living conditions. Each of these elements plays a critical role in promoting healthier behaviors and practices among your backyard flock.


It’s clear that chickens eating their own poop isn’t a natural or healthy behavior. It’s a sign that something’s amiss in their environment or diet. You have the power to prevent this from happening. By ensuring your chickens have a balanced diet, plenty of space, and a clean, stimulating environment, you can promote healthier habits. Don’t let your flock fall into this undesirable behavior. Be proactive, take care of their needs, and you’ll have a happy, healthy flock of chickens. Remember, prevention is better than cure, and this holds true for your backyard flock too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do chickens eat their own feces?

Chickens may eat their own feces due to factors including dietary deficiencies, overcrowding, boredom, and unclean living conditions.

How can dietary deficiencies lead to feces eating in chickens?

When chickens don’t get a balanced diet, they may resort to feces eating to compensate for missing nutrients.

Does overcrowding contribute to this behavior?

Yes, overcrowding can cause stress in chickens. This stress can lead them to show aggressive behaviors such as eating their own feces.

Why would a chicken eat feces out of boredom?

Like other creatures, chickens engage in various activities for mental stimulation. If bored, they may resort to feces eating as an unusual form of entertainment.

How do living conditions affect this behavior?

An unhealthy, unclean environment can increase the chance of chickens eating their own feces. Chickens are more likely to eat their droppings in search of food in such conditions.

How can this behavior be prevented?

Implementing changes like providing a balanced diet, ensuring ample space, engaging chickens in varied and stimulating activities, and maintaining a clean living environment can significantly reduce the frequency of this behavior.