If you have a chicken or several, you have probably learned more about the species by observing than from any other form of research. That said, there are some things that you may not have an answer to yet. Many new chicken keepers often end up scratching their heads and asking, “Do chickens pee? How?” While chickens do release urine, they do not do it the same way as your dog or cat might.
Do Chickens Pee?
Birds, in general, do not pee in the same sense that they are releasing some liquid from the body. Instead of the actual act of peeing, chickens will excrete urine byproducts while passing excrement. The white paste that you see alongside their poo is what remains of their urine. When you spot that white stuff for the first time, you might be confused and wonder what it means for your chickens.
Don’t worry. It is perfectly normal.
What is a Chicken’s Excretory System?
Like people, chickens build up metabolic waste that needs to be removed. However, that is where most of the similarities end. Chickens have a pair of kidneys that function at the center of their excretory system. Sometimes, those kidneys can get damaged, be it by a poor diet or disease, and the chicken’s entire body will suffer. Chickens may also die from kidney damage.
But that aside, chicken kidneys serve three purposes:
- balance electrolytes
- remove metabolic waste
- sustain the body’s water level
The kidneys are connected to ureters that feed into the cloaca. Chickens do not have a bladder or a urethra to store urine. Instead, the urine that is created in the kidneys is redirected into the large intestine.
How Does a Chicken’s Excretory System Work?
As mentioned above, the kidneys inside a chicken work to filter impurities from urine before sending it off to the cloaca. Interestingly, the urine takes a pit stop. Since chickens lack a holding chamber for their urine — also known as the bladder — the fluid is returned to the large intestine through a process called “reverse peristalsis.”
Once the urine is in the large intestine, the body begins to reabsorb any remaining water. Chickens need a lot of water, and this is one way they can maintain hydration throughout the day. Anything that remains of the urine is generally uric acid, which looks like white glue or paste. From there, the uric acid mixes with fecal matter in the large intestine and is pushed into the cloaca, where it will later exit via the vent.
So, no, chickens do not pee the same way you do. The process of excreting uric acid is a bit more gross — but also kind of fascinating.
How Often Do Chickens Pee and Poo?
Owning chickens means coming to terms with the fact that their excrement is going to be everywhere. Chickens make a mess. That said, if you can estimate how often and how much your chickens are going to expel waste, you may be able to better manage it. For example, if you like petting your chickens and having them sit on your lap, you probably want to know how long you have before they poo on you.
And no, birds do not have much control over this process. It just sort of happens.
For starters, consider the breed of your chicken. The larger the chicken, the longer it can go without needing to expel waste. Small chickens will release waste about every 10 minutes. Average-sized chicken breeds can go around 20-25 minutes before pooing. So long as they are routinely releasing, the amounts should be relatively small.
How to Prevent Urinary Issues in Chickens
Understanding how chickens pee and poop is important but so is understanding how to prevent urinary issues from occurring. Chickens need to be able to excrete waste. Otherwise, they may become ill from all the toxins accumulating inside their body.
Here are some methods for preventing urinary issues in chickens:
- Do not feed high protein food to your flock. Too high a protein intake means excessive uric acid. Your chickens cannot tolerate this and it will lead to gout. In chickens, gout needs to be treated immediately. It could be fatal.
- Only give your chickens feed designed for them. Your chickens should only eat occasional treats and a high quality chicken feed. Any other food designed for livestock will not have the correct balance of vitamins and minerals.
- Do not let your chicks get dehydrated. Make sure water is available around the clock. Your chickens need water for their kidneys to function properly.
- No laying pellets for baby chicks. Laying pellets are only for hens who have just started laying eggs. Chicks cannot handle the high amount of calcium and protein in laying pellets, and their kidneys will suffer.
What is Vent Gleet?
When speaking about urinary issues, one of the worst ones is called pasty butt, or more correctly, vent gleet. The condition is problematic, because it means that cloaca cannot function properly, because it is pasted over with dirt, feces, and feathers.
Vent gleet needs to be treated right away. If you notice a chicken struggling with this, you should separate them from the others. Vent gleet can be caused by bacteria and could be catching. Also be sure to clean out the coop and sweep up any mud.
Take care of vent gleet by wiping your chicken’s back end with a damp cloth. Be gentle. Do not get impatient and start rubbing more roughly, as you could hurt your chicken. The dampness will start to remove some of the caked on mess. However, this process could take several hours. If the pasty butt refuses to budge, you may need a veterinarian to assist.
Another recommended action requires vinegar. Put about 1 tablespoon of vinegar in the water you plan on giving to the chickens. Vinegar helps keep their gut healthy.
Do Eggs Come From The Same Place as Excrement?
Another question that many people tend to ask after finding out that chickens do not urinate like mammals is about where the eggs come from. Is it the same place their waste comes out? It is true that eggs emerge from the same place chicken poop comes from, but that does not mean the eggs are getting coated in a mess. The cloaca has three unique chambers. One of those is for waste. Another is for laying eggs.
As hens lay an egg, the vent widens, essentially pushing against the colon and closing off that one section of the cloaca. Furthermore, chicken eggs do not pass through or near the colon, which is where feces forms. So while the eggs and fecal matter come from the cloaca, they are formed and expelled through two different chambers.
If you do find that the eggs are covered in poo, it is not because they were “pooped out” or pooped on. It means that the hen may have released some waste while sitting on her eggs. Additionally, unclean nesting boxes could result in eggs being freshly laid in poo.
Make sure you are keeping the coop as clean as possible, and pick up the eggs as soon as they have been laid. The quicker you are at getting to the eggs, the better the chance of them remaining clean.
Chickens are fun to raise, but they can be confusing if you never had birds before. That often leads people to ask if chickens pee and how. Chickens, like all birds, do not pee like mammals do. Instead, their bodies reroute the urine from the kidneys into the intestine. The white stuff you see mixed into a chicken’s poo is what remains of their urine. Now you know!
Valerie has been content writing since 2016 for websites and companies all around the world. A traveler, dancer, martial artist, Valerie loves gathering experiences and wisdom. Her travels have taken her to over 20 countries, and she hopes to see more of the world soon.