If you own backyard chickens, you have probably learned all kinds of interesting things about them including what they like to eat and how to keep them healthy. You may even consider yourself an expert on all things chicken, but do you know if chickens pee?
Do chickens pee? Chickens, along with birds in general, do not ‘pee’ in the sense that they do not release a liquid urine. Instead of peeing out urine, chickens excrete a urine product in the form of white paste that they pass with their stool!
The one frustrating thing you may discover when raising your own flock of chickens is that they poop everywhere! Have you noticed the white part of their poo? Well, that is essentially their urine, or what is left of it!
I know, you may not care to learn too much about the inner workings of a chicken’s urinary system and that is understandable! The truth is, however, to give your chickens that absolute best care, it is important to know how their bodies work, even the not-so-fun parts.
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What makes up a chicken’s excretory system?
A chicken’s excretory system is the system that removes metabolic waste from their bodies. Chickens have 2 kidneys which serve as the base of their entire excretory system.
Just like it is with humans, if the kidneys become too damaged, the rest of the chicken’s body will not function properly and it can even be deadly.
The kidneys perform 3 essential duties including managing the balance of electrolytes, sustaining water levels, and removing metabolic wastes from the body.
From each kidney, a ureter exits the organ and enters the cloaca, a cavity that serves a number of functions including releasing excrement from the chicken. Unlike most mammals, chickens do not have a bladder to store urine or a urethra to release liquid urine from the body.
How does the chicken’s excretory system work?
The kidneys filter and collect the chicken’s urine and then send it through the ureters to the cloaca. This is where things start to get interesting. Instead of the urine going to a nonexistent bladder, a unique process called reverse peristalsis occurs, essentially rerouting and forcing the urine into the chicken’s large intestine.
While the urine is in the large intestine, the chicken’s body re-absorbs any excess water that it can from the urine, leaving it mainly a white pasty glob of uric acid.
It exits the large intestine mainly on fecal matter, hence the white stuff you see with their poop! Good to know but still kind of gross to think about!
How to prevent urinary problems in chickens
1. Avoid feeding high protein diets to chickens.
A high protein diet can cause a chicken to produce too much uric acid and their bodies will be unable to handle it if it gets out of control. Basically, it can lead to gout in chickens, a disease that can be fatal if not treated quickly.
2. Prevent dehydration
Make sure that your chickens have plenty of water available at all times. While chickens do not pee, they still require plenty of water daily to survive. The water helps the chicken’s kidneys to clean out the toxins and excess uric acid in its system.
3. Feed products designed specifically for chickens
Avoid feeding grains and processed foods designed for other livestock or humans. The occasional treat will probably not do any harm, but if fed daily and in excess, certain foods can be deadly for some chickens. Feed made especially for chickens will contain the proper balance of vitamins and minerals to keep their bodies and kidney’s functioning at the highest level.
4. Do not feed laying pellets to young chickens
Laying pellets are designed only for hens that have started laying eggs. It has higher levels of protein and calcium, both of which can overwhelm a young chicken’s body and severely hinder their kidney function.
Do chicken eggs come out at the same place as their poop?
Yes, chicken eggs do come out of the same place that their poop comes out of, but it is not that simple. Fecal excrement and eggs both exit from the cloaca, however, the cloaca cavity itself has 3 different chambers within it.
One chamber connects to the colon, one connects to the ureter, and one connects to the opening of the vent. The vent is where a formed egg enters the cloaca on its way out of the chicken.
When the chicken starts to lay an egg, the opening to the colon is essentially closed off from the pressure of the egg, preventing it from being covered in poo. Chicken eggs do not pass through the colon, where the fecal matter is formed, but it is true that both the egg and poop do exit from the same opening.
How Can You Keep Eggs Clean?
You may find that when you go to collect eggs, they are covered in poo. That is not necessarily because they come out of the same opening as poop nor does it mean that they were ‘pooped out’.
The truth is, most eggs come out of the chicken clean, or at least not covered in poo, as long as the chicken is healthy. There are a few things that you can do to make sure you are collecting relatively clean eggs from your coup.
Collect eggs each day
If you collect the eggs each day, or even twice a day, you will collect cleaner eggs. The fresher the egg, usually the cleaner it is. The longer it sits in the nesting box or wherever your chicken decides to lay the egg that day, the more likely it will come in contact with poop or dirt.
Keep their nesting boxes clean
You should also make sure that your flock’s nesting area is clean. Change out the bedding regularly to avoid getting dirty eggs. Some people prefer hay over shavings because it is less likely to stick to the eggs. Either way, a clean nesting area usually means cleaner eggs.
What is vent gleet or pasty vent?
Occasionally, a chicken of any age can experience vent gleet, also known as pasty vent, pasting, cloacitis, or pasty butt.
Cloacitis, its medical name, is an infection of the cloaca and often causes the external opening of the cloaca to become pasted with feathers, dirt and fecal matter. It can even cause a blockage that prevents egg release and fecal excretion.
The main signs of vent gleet include a swollen abdomen and a collection of fecal matter on the chicken’s bottom. You may also notice a lack of egg production, bloody feces, a horrid smell, or loose stool.
This is very common on pullets, baby chickens, but harder to notice because of their small size. A quick bottom check each day can help keep the area clean and allow you to identify issues as soon as they arise.
How to treat vent gleet (cloacitis)
If you notice your chicken showing any signs of vent gleet, there are a few things that you can do to try to resolve the issue.
Quarantine the chicken
Immediately separate the chicken from the rest of the flock. This will give them a chance to heal, reduce any stress they are experiencing and prevent the spread of any infection.
Clean their coop
If you haven’t cleaned out the coop lately, now is the time. Change out the bedding any dirty nesting boxes, remove as much chicken poop as you can, and make sure their coops are not muddy or damp. Resolve any leaks to prevent excess moisture and mud in the coop.
Remove debris from rear
If your chicken has a pasty butt, the opening to the cloaca may be blocked completely. You may be able to clear the outside pasty and dried matter, but do not simply pull it off! Instead, use a warm wet cloth to SLOWLY and gently dampen the area and wipe away the dried pasty material.
Add small amount of vinegar to their water
You can add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to each gallon of water you give your chickens. The vinegar helps chickens keep a healthy gut and helps prevent pasty vent by keeping things moving smoothly.
Consult a vet
If your chicken is not improving or you are unable to clear the cloaca blockage, consult a veterinarian if you have not already.
Chickens are fun little critters to raise and take care of, but is it important to know the less than thrilling aspects of how their bodies work so that you can spot any changes quickly. Chickens may not pee like our other farm animals do, but now you know, if you see the white paste in their poop or by itself, things are working the way they should!
- Poultry DMV