Chickens are some of the easiest animals to keep. They mature quickly, have few diseases, and in the case of free-range chickens, you don’t need to feed them all the time. However, chickens can’t communicate verbally when sick. It’s, therefore, essential to know the signs to look out for.
Normal chicken poo has a cloud of white dust on top. However, watery white chicken poop (diarrhea) often indicates worms or diseases like Gumboro Disease.
This article focuses on the causes of white chicken poop, how to diagnose them, and possible treatments. Read on to know when to worry about white chicken poo.
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Common Causes of White Chicken Poop
White chicken poo is one of the most noticed chicken diseases. Fortunately, the problem is very common and often poses little risk to the chicken. If it happens once, it’s probably a result of the chicken drinking too much water. However, if it happens repeatedly, it might cause concern. It can often mean the chicken has:
- Gumboro disease.
- Pullorum disease (bacillary white diarrhea).
Both of these diseases are infectious and can be fatal to your chickens if left untreated. So let’s dive straight into their signs and symptoms.
The historical name for this poultry disease is bacillary white diarrhea. It is caused by Salmonella Enterica Pullorum bacteria and is characterized by high mortality in turkeys and young chickens.
Pullorum disease rarely occurs in commercial chickens nowadays but is still prevalent in backyard chickens. It is common in chickens under 4 weeks of age but can affect all age groups.
Morbidity is 10 to 80 percent, and mortality is higher for stressed in immunocompromised or stressed flocks and can be up to 100 percent. The route of infection is primarily oral or through the navel/yolk. Transmission can be transovarial or horizontal, especially in younger birds, and is sometimes associated with cannibalism.
The bacterium is resistant to a normal climate and can survive for months. However, it is susceptible to disinfectants.
Affected chickens often:
- Have whitish fecal pasting around the vent.
- Appear weak.
- Are anorectic.
- Huddle near a fire or heat source.
- Have ruffled feathers.
- Chirp loudly.
- Have low appetite.
Survivors are often small and asymptomatic carriers with localized ovary infection. Eggs laid by such chickens go on to hatch infected progeny.
There may be no lesion because of septicemia and death. However, lesions in young chickens include classic gray nodules in the lungs, spleen, liver, heart, intestine, and gizzard. Sometimes there can be firm, cheesy material in the ceca (cecal cores). Raised plagues can also be seen in the mucosa of the lower intestine.
Adult carriers rarely have gross lesions but could have fibrinous peritonitis, nodular pericarditis, and hemorrhagic, atrophic regressing ovarian follicles with caseous contents. Also, in mature chickens, pullorum disease produces lesions similar to those of chicken typhoid.
Diagnosis is mainly made through isolating suspected victims and identifying the sick ones. Direct plating on McConkey, Brilliant Green, and non-selective agar is advised in clinical cases.
Freedom from infection and eliminating infected chickens and flocks is the best solution. Treatment does not eliminate the carrier state and is not recommended.
All infected chickens, including survivors, should be eliminated. As with other salmonellae, chickens can be resistant but still be asymptomatic carriers.
Some countries also vaccinate using modified live vaccines. Others control rodents and reduce poultry by-products in their feed.
White chicken poo can also indicate infectious Bursal Disease, also known as Gumboro disease. This highly infectious disease affects most domestic birds, especially young chickens. The name Gumboro comes from the area it was first recognized, Gumboro district, Delaware, USA.
Gumboro is caused by the infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV), a member of the Birnavirus genus. It destroys the lymph cells within the cloacal bursa, spleen, and tonsils.
The virus is very resistant and can survive for 50 days in contaminated manure, water, and insects. It can also survive for up to 4 months in the chicken coop after removing an infected bird. Transmission of the virus is exclusively horizontal.
The classical form of Gumboro disease affects young chickens aged between 3 and 6 weeks old. They appear listless, with ruffled feathers and excrete watery white poo. Mortality varies and can peak at around 60% in acute forms affecting layer pullets.
Typical macroscopic lesions include breast and leg muscle hemorrhage, swollen bursa, dehydration, and pale kidneys.
The subclinical form of Gumboro affects infected chickens before they are 3 weeks old. Clinical signs are not present, and the only lesion is atrophy of the bursa.
Diagnosis of Gumboro disease is first based on clinical signs and gross lesions in the bursa. This can be confirmed by histologic examination and RT-PCR.
Treatment and Vaccination
There’s no effective treatment for Gumboro disease. Since the virus is stable in the environment, the easiest way to prevent it is strict cleaning, pest control, disinfection, and enough downtime after depopulating a contaminated farm.
There are also several vaccines whose use depends on the chickens’ age. It’s essential to follow vaccination instructions as too early vaccination will not be effective, while too late will put the chicks at risk of early infection.
Should You Worry About White Chicken Poop?
As we’ve seen, white chicken poop can indicate serious problems. However, Pullorum disease and Gumboro are no longer as common as they used to be. Thanks to modern poultry-keeping methods, Pullorum, in particular, is almost extinct.
Most of the time, when you notice white chicken poo, the chicken probably just has too much water after drinking. Nevertheless, it’s important to take precautions and confirm whether it’s an infection. When you notice white chicken poo:
- Identify the chicken that dropped it.
- Isolate it from the rest.
- Observe if it has other signs, such as ruffled feathers, lack of appetite, or general weakness.
- If it exhibits these symptoms, eliminate it from the flock and disinfect the coop.
- If you have a large flock, have a veterinarian look at them to confirm if any more are infected.
White chicken poo is a fairly common sight in backyard chicken coops. Therefore, there’s no cause for alarm if it happens occasionally. However, if it happens alongside other signs, it might indicate that the chicken is infected.