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Home > Birds > Do Chickens Pee? Vet Explanation of Avian Physiology

Do Chickens Pee? Vet Explanation of Avian Physiology

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Dr. Luqman Javed Photo

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Dr. Luqman Javed

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you have just purchased a chicken or are thinking about getting one, you probably have several questions. One of the most common questions we get is whether or not chickens pee. Many people may be surprised to learn that chickens and other birds do not pee the way humans do.

In this article, we are going to take a look at the urinary system of chickens. Keep reading while we look at the inner workings of the chicken so you can better understand how their bodies operate.

new chicken divider

Does a Chicken Excrete Urine?

The normal metabolic processes of animals produce nitrogenous wastes. These must be eliminated by the body via the kidneys. The kidneys also play a role in maintaining electrolyte balance and proper hydration levels within the body.

Mammals release these waste in the form of urea, found in urine. Birds, on the other hand, release this waste in the form of uric acid and urates. The kidneys of chickens process nitrogenous waste and water levels within the chicken’s body. The result of this process is the formation of a chalky white, semi-liquid suspension of bodily wastes which travels down tubes known as the ureters and into the bird’s cloaca, a common passageway for waste, eggs, and sperm. As birds lack a urinary bladder, the cloaca is essentially a holding chamber for waste produced both by the kidneys and by their digestive system.

Chickens have the ability to further regulate their hydration by having this waste enter their large intestine, as the cloaca provides access to the digestive system. The large intestine has the ability to reabsorb water from the waste produced by the kidneys, which allows a chicken to better regulate their hydration.

When a chicken passes droppings, they release all the waste contained in their cloaca at once. Their droppings usually have a greenish-brown colored fecal component, white urates (which is the waste produced by the kidneys), and clear urine.

Chicken couple
Image Credit: klimkin, Pixabay

Can Chickens “Hold” Their Droppings & Urine?

Generally speaking, chickens have very poor sphincter control and will readily produce droppings at frequent intervals throughout the day, including when they’re asleep. In fact, this is considered relatively normal for them. It is a trait they share with so many other birds.

The only time a chicken will hold their droppings in (alongside all other waste) is when they are broody. A hen that’s incubating eggs will not pass droppings on her eggs. This is because their droppings contain naturally occurring bacteria, which can harm developing chicks within their eggs. The shell of an egg is, in fact, porous, and a transparent layer of mucous on the egg (known as a cuticle) offers protection against bacteria and other pathogens. Nonetheless, it isn’t foolproof, and therefore, broody hens will “hold in” their waste while they incubate eggs.

Broody hens tend to leave their nest once a day to quickly, drink, and evacuate their bowels. When they do so, they release their waste (it is usually a very large dropping). Broody hens with chicks will also “hold” their waste when they sit on their chicks to offer them warmth.

mother hen protecting chicks
Image Credit: R. L. Webber, Shutterstock

Do Chicken Eggs Come Out With Poop?

Since we are already talking about bathroom activity, we might as well answer another common question: Where are chicken eggs delivered from? As mentioned earlier, the eggs come out of the same place that the droppings come out of: the cloaca. However, intrinsic mechanisms of their reproductive system create a fold within the cloaca as an egg is being passed through, which prevents it from coming into contact with the droppings.

Furthermore, their reproductive system also has the ability to store sperm in a location away from the droppings so that they can safely fertilize eggs without the risk of contamination. Likewise, a rooster’s body has similar mechanisms to ensure that the sperm they deposit into the female’s cloaca are dropping-free.

Keeping Eggs Clean

Many egg collectors will tell you that most eggs have poop on them when they are retrieved. However, this has nothing to do with the eggs and the poop sharing the same hole, and most eggs will come out clean. However, as the egg sits, there is a good chance that a chicken will poop on the egg as they generally don’t regulate their bowel movements. Keeping the area clean and frequently collecting the eggs will help minimize the risk of fecal contamination on eggs.

chicken eggs
Image Credit: Couleur, Pixabay

Vent Gleet

A chicken can occasionally get a condition called vent gleet, also called the pasty butt. This condition occurs when the cloaca gets inflamed. It can be caused by both bacteria and viruses. Their vent tends to become very dirty, pasty, and crusty appearing. The feathers around their vent appear soiled, and chickens suffering from this condition often produce a very unpleasant odor.

If you suspect your chicken is suffering from this problem, we recommend contacting your veterinarian for an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. If multiple hens seem to be suffering from this issue, it might be sexually transmitted by your flock’s rooster. In such an instance, you should have all your birds inspected by your veterinarian.

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Final Thoughts

Chickens don’t pee, but they still have and need to get rid of excess waste in their system. Like other birds, they produce urates, which they release from their body alongside their other waste in the form of droppings via their cloaca. The cloaca is a very important part of your bird’s anatomy, and therefore, if you suspect that your chickens have an issue with their cloaca, you should promptly have them looked over by your veterinarian.

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Featured Image Credit: munzelminka, Pixabay

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