### Warning ###
(The following article deals with a lot of toilet content. Some images may disgust you.)
Have you ever potty trained a toddler?
For us mammals, understanding comes at an early age. Pee comes out one spot, poo out of another. But for chickens, things are a little different as they don’t have the same plumbing that we do. Consequently, they don’t operate the same way that we, as mammals, are accustomed to.
As a member of the fowl species, chickens do not produce the liquid urine we call pee, but rather uric acid ‘crystals’ to dispose of waste.
So if your question is, can boy chickens write their name in the snow, the answer is no, they can not (even if they could spell). Birds simply do not share the same process of waste removal that mammals do.
But if your question is more literal, then yes, chickens do pee, it’s just not the liquid urine that we are familiar with.
What Does Chicken Pee Look Like?
Anyone who has spent time cleaning out the chicken coop will know that the smelly stuff looks a bit different than what you would find in your cats’ litter box. The brown stuff, or sometimes the brownish green stuff (depending on how much grass the chickens have eaten), is pretty much the same poo you will clean up after your dog. Pee, however is different.
Chicken scat will sometimes have gobs of white material attached. It is my understanding that this white material is the bird equivalent to what we refer to as pee.
### Important Note ###
When chicken scat drys, this white gobby material can turn powdery. Be very careful when cleaning out the coop. Wind will pick up this dust very easily and I do not think it would be good for you to inhale it.
Always make sure to wash yourself thoroughly when cleaning up after chickens as you may be covered in this fine dust and not realize it.
Do Chickens Pee and Poo Out Of The Same Hole?
While even the smallest toddler can point to the ‘business’ that is in need of attending, birds are not like this. I do think that chickens are aware of the need to defecate, however, I’ve yet to see one prancing around, anxious to relieve themselves.
As a chicken’s ‘pee’ is more solid than fluid, there is no need for extra plumbing. Consequently, a chicken will pee and poo out of the same place; quite often at the same time.
This might seem a bit odd to us mammals and would probably be very difficult to explain to your child, but incredibly the chicken isn’t finished shocking you with its anatomy.
Do Chickens Lay Eggs Out Of Their Anus?
Chickens are not just different on the outside, with their body covered in feathers instead of fur, but on the inside as well. While many of us are familiar with the number 1 or the number 2 process of a soiled diaper, chickens are not built the same way.
A birds anatomy includes a thing called the cloaca. This is a remarkable multipurpose thing that serves as a pathway not only for pee and poo, but for eggs – as in the case of hens.
### Important Note ###
Seeing that the same pathway is shared by both poo and by eggs, there is a very real possibility of ‘skid marks’ on your eggs. I have not found it to be as common as one would assume, but it does happen from time to time.
In commercial settings, eggs are washed to remove this unpleasant blemish. For backyard flock owners, eggs are generally not washed as washing them would shorten their shelf life.
In the case of your backyard flock, it is always a good idea to wash your hands after handling the eggs. Chicken feces can carry Salmonella. And whether it’s visible or not, there will be residue on the shell of your unwashed egg.
Does Chicken Poo Smell?
Step in a pile of dog poo and you will regret it for days! And if you are particularly unlucky (as I have been), you will get some in the carpet of your car before you realize what has happened. YUCK!! It seems like no matter how much I dig at the impressions in the sole of my shoe, that smell just doesn’t want to come out.
Fortunately, chickens aren’t quite as bad as that.
While chicken poo does not smell like a bundle of flowers, it is not nearly as overpowering as waste from other animals.
Part of the reason for this is because, while chickens do go a lot, then tend to go in small doses. In other words, instead of one big pile, you’ll have marble sized droppings scattered all over the place. Consequently, you rarely see large collections of waste in one place.
The exception to this is their coop. Chickens tend to poo a lot during the night as they are roosting safely indoors. For larger flocks, this can lead to problems if the coop is not adequately ventilated. Chicken waste, specifically the uric acid (pee) produces ammonia. And too much of this gas in a small placed is clearly a bad thing.
How To Lessen The Smell Of Chicken Poo
Our current flock of 13 chickens have a pretty good area to move around in. During the day, they’ll be confined to a 100 by 100 foot run. After dinner, however, they are free to roam the property in a free-range fashion. With this routine, the only time we notice the smell of chicken poo is by the coop.
The right kind of bedding will lessen the odor of chicken waste to the point where a visitor won’t even notice it. However, the moment you ‘slack off’ on keeping the bedding fresh, the odor will become noticeable.
For our birds, we have hardware cloth for the floor of their coop – which sets about 2.5 feet high. This allows the waste from the sleeping birds to fall through the screen and collect on the ground. There we cover it with a thin layer of straw. As more poo collects, we add more straw until there is about 10 inches of material underneath the coop. At this point, we pull it all out with a rake and compost it.
### Important Note ###
Heat and humidity play a big role when noticing the smell of chicken poo. If it’s muggy in the morning, then you can be sure to smell it, even if we just changed the bedding. Likewise, we will rarely smell anything in the winter as the freezing dry air seems to eliminate the odor completely.
Does Chicken Poo Make Good Fertilizer?
Chicken poo is high in nitrogen, which is a good thing for plants. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
If not properly composted, chicken poo can burn your plants as the nitrogen content is higher than the plants can handle.
I have found that it generally takes at least 6 to 7 months for the poo left by the birds in my chicken tractor to be usable for gardening purposes. To clarify, this is waste that is left out in the open for the sun, wind and rain to work on – not composting in a pile somewhere.
For composting piles, it seems like I need at least a year (and sometimes more) before I can use it as fertilizer. However, once it is thoroughly broken down, it makes a very beneficial addition to your garden.