Although there are several reasons dogs eat chicken poop, the main reason for this habit is because they simply enjoy the taste. Other reasons include a lack of B vitamins in their diet, an attempt to hide their tracks from predators, a coping mechanism for separation anxiety, and attention.
If you have chickens and a dog, you may have noticed a gross behavior your dog likes to engage in. While dogs may have many disgusting habits, poop-eating certainly ranks up there as one of the nastiest!
You may find your dog “cleaning up” after your chickens whenever you look away. While there are many reasons dogs like to eat chicken poop (more details on that below), it does not make it any less disgusting.
You may also be worried about the health of your dog. Poop is not food, so there are some health risks to consuming it. Chicken poop has a chance of containing harmful bacteria, such as salmonella.
Poop-eating (also called coprophagia) is very common in dogs. As many as 1 in 4 dogs have been caught eating poop. And as you can imagine, this does not do their breath any favors…so why do they do it?
Canine Coprophagia Causes
If your dog eats chicken poop, there’s a good chance they’ll also eat the poop of other animals. Depending on what they have access to, your dog may eat horse manure, chicken poop, or their own feces.
This is absolutely repulsive to humans, but very normal behavior for dogs. The root of this behavior goes back hundreds of years and is a combination of psychology and physiology.
Your dog does not see anything wrong with eating poop. In fact, they may view it as a positive behavior. As part of their learning process, puppies (who use their mouths to explore the world around them) will often consume poop.
If your dog continues to eat poop into adulthood, you may want to explore other potential causes of coprophagia.
A Balanced Diet
Your dog may eat poop because they are not getting enough nutrients in their diet. If your dog does not receive B vitamins or enough protein through their regular food, they will seek it out however they can. Often, this includes poop-eating.
Undigested proteins are present in many forms of feces, so your dog may sniff them out and eat them to fill the gaps in their nutrition. If this is the cause of your dog eating poop, try consulting your vet to find a different dog food that is more nutritious.
Hide Their Tracks
Dogs will also eat poop for a deeper, more primal reason. In the wild, canines eat the poop of other dogs to cover up their tracks. If another dog is sick or leaves its poop in the open, the smell of this feces can alert both predators and prey to the dogs’ location. In this way, your dog thinks they are protecting their family by eating poop that is left outside…including chicken poop.
Another potential cause for canine coprophagia stems from a deeper psychological issue. Your dog may have problems with anxiety. If this is the case, and you leave your dog alone with access to feces, they often eat poop as a coping mechanism.
If your dog is from a puppy mill or other stressful environment, it may also develop coprophagia. If they were abused in this environment, they may have made the connection between the “mess” created by poop and the abuse, causing them to compulsively try to clean up.
They Want Attention
Dogs are always looking for more attention from their owners. They look up to you and want the social connection that comes from interaction.
If you only give your dog attention when they are doing something bad, this will reinforce the action in their mind. While you think your actions may be punishing your dog and teaching them not to do a particular action, you might actually have the opposite effect.
The way to fix this issue is based on positive reinforcement. Give your dog lots of praise when they do something you want to encourage.
Make sure you are giving your dog enough attention. Take them on walks and play with them so they do not think they have to eat poop when they want attention!
A Matter of Taste
Your dog may eat poop simply because they like the taste. Dogs will scavenge their environments for anything edible. Poop may just appeal to your dog’s taste buds. As odd as this seems, this is the most likely reason dogs eat chicken poop.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Eating Chicken Poop?
While your dog may eat chicken poop for many reasons, it does not make it any less disgusting. You probably still want to get your dog to stop eating poop.
Fortunately, there is a solution for each reason your dog may eat poop. Some of these techniques need more effort and time than others, but if you are patient, odds are that you will be able to curb your dog’s coprophagia.
The most effective way to stop your dog from eating poop is through rigorous, regimented training. You should teach your dog the “leave it” and “drop it” commands so that if you see your dog snatching up some poop, you have a solid command they will respond to. You can also teach them “no,” although this command has varied effectiveness.
Ruin the Taste
If your dog likes poop for the taste, you can circumvent this appeal by using products your dogs will not like.
If you can set up a border around your chicken’s space with bad-tasting and smelling products, your dog may be less likely to go for their poop. Hot peppers and lemons produce strong tastes that your dog will not like.
Whether you want to use these kinds of products in the same area as your chickens may be something you want to talk to your vet about.
Pick It Up
Of course, you can always just pick up the poop as you see it. You cannot remove all the feces at all times, so there is still some risk that your dog will eat chicken poop, but it will still cut down on the supply.
Routinely clean your chickens’ coop to get rid of any poop buildup that will occur. This will also protect the health of your chickens themselves, as they can get sick if not kept in a healthy environment.
Removing the stockpile of poop that occurs in your coop can help remove the motivation for your dog to approach the coop itself, leading to less conflict between your animals.
Burn Their Energy
It is possible that your dog may eat poop to express their nervous energy or because they are bored. If this is the case, try burning through their excess energy whenever you can.
Take them on long walks or runs and play with them. If you can tire your dog out frequently, you may see an improvement in their behavior (in addition to the obvious health benefits)!
Stay Persistent With Training
Poop-eating is very gross. You definitely want your dog to stop eating poop of any kind. It makes their breath nasty and can turn a loving lick into a smelly, disgusting experience!
There are also health risks associated with eating poop, especially chicken poop. However, with some proper training and supervision, you should be able to keep your dog from eating poop.
If you are worried about your dog’s behavior or think that they may have a medical issue resulting from eating poop, talk to your vet and ask for their advice.
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