How to treat chicken diarrhea

Treatment for chicken diarrhoea depends on the age of the chicken. Diarrhoea in chicks is usually the result of bacterial infection and can be fatal if left untreated. If your chickens are grown, you have more time to act. In adult chickens it may have other causes, including nutritional deficiency. Treatment in babies consists of frequently washing the cloaca to prevent blockage. Adult chickens rarely become blocked by diarrhoea because they are capable of grooming themselves. If your chickens are grown, you may skip the washing step and move on to oral treatment. Do not use oral treatments for baby chicks except on the advice of a livestock veterinarian.

Carefully examine the cloaca of each chick. The most critical measure you can take to save the lives of baby chicks is to ensure that their vents do not become blocked. If you see faeces adhered to the vent, you must remove it. Hold the chick in one hand. Do not squeeze. Dampen the paper towels or sponge in warm water and apply to the adhered faeces. Do not immerse the chick in water. Gently rub the moistened faeces to separate it from the vent area. Continue until the vent is free of faeces. Dry your chick with a fresh paper towel and return it under the heat lamp. Dampness can lead to hypothermia. A hair dryer set to the lowest possible setting may also be used to dry your chick. Vents must be checked frequently, a minimum of twice a day, until the diarrhoea outbreak has passed.

Begin oral treatment if your adult chickens have diarrhoea. First, try feeding yoghurt or buttermilk. Only use plain, organic, whole milk yoghurt--flavoured and low fat varieties have too much sugar and additives and too little beneficial bacteria. Chickens relish dairy products, so simply present the yoghurt or buttermilk at feeding time. If the diarrhoea has not cleared up within 24 hours, move on to the next step.

Give your chickens potassium permanganate, which can clear infections that cause diarrhoea in poultry. Do not use metal utensils to measure or mix this material. In a glass or disposable plastic container, dissolve one tablespoon of the potassium powder in a quart of warm water. Place one tablespoon of this liquid per bird in a second container, and add one cup of water per tablespoon. Mix well, and place this solution in the birds' waterer. If your entire flock is not affected, you may isolate the birds who are and only treat them. However, as the cause may be contagious, you may wish to treat the entire flock. If the diarrhoea worsens, or potassium permanganate has not cured it after three days, move on to the next step.

Give each affected bird 1/2 teaspoon Epsom salt. Mix the salt with wheat bran and yoghurt or buttermilk to form a thick, crumbly paste. Assuring that each bird gets the proper dosage may require supervision, separation, or hand-feeding.

Prevent the spread of disease and parasites by keeping your birds on clean hay. Rotate your coop to a new location periodically, or shovel out old bedding and manure and air the coop thoroughly. Scrub waterers and change water daily. Promptly remove any manure from feeders. Keep coops warm in cold or wet weather, and make sure that your coop has adequate ventilation. Do not overcrowd chickens.

Feed your chickens a balanced diet that includes green plants and food scraps in addition to a commercial mash. Allowing them free access to a growing field or lawn during the day is ideal. A diet that consists only of grain invites intestinal infection.


Baby chicks are especially prone to disease and, unfortunately, it is common for losses to be quite high during the first few days. Keep your chicks warm and dry with constant access to clean water and food. Chicks may be kept on wood shavings (never cedar or treated wood, which are poisonous), but timothy hay is best and suppresses odour. Bedding should be changed frequently. You may be able to wait three to four days initially, but as the chicks grow changes will become much more frequent.


Bacteria that causes diarrhoea in chickens can cause severe illness in humans. These diseases include campylobacter and salmonella, some of the most common causes of food poisoning. Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 30 seconds after handling chickens or anything that has been in contact with a chicken.

Things You'll Need

  • Warm water
  • Paper towels or sponge
  • Yoghurt or buttermilk
  • Potassium permanganate powder
  • Plastic measuring spoon
  • 2 glass or disposable plastic containers
  • Epsom salt
  • Wheat bran
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About the Author

Angela Libal began writing professionally in 2005. She has published several books, specializing in zoology and animal husbandry. Libal holds a degree in behavioral science: animal science from Moorpark College, a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is a graduate student in cryptozoology.