Anatomy Physiology

Hold Up, Did My Chicken Just Fart?!

I pride myself on creating well-researched articles with the goal of learning something new and passing it on to others. So it might seem a bit lowbrow writing a post on poultry flatulence. It started out as curiosity, then I got sucked down the rabbit hole of reading about gassy animals. Most of us giggled at fart jokes as kids and some of us probably still get a kick out of their farting prowess. My mother died last year at 96 and she still found her bodily functions entertaining. I’m hoping to blend that deeply held amusement with the workings of the gastro-intestinal tract with a bit of science learning to balance out the adolescent humour.

My quest all started when I read a post in an online Facebook chicken group in which a member recounted the story of waking up from a nap to a terrible smell with her house chicken asleep on her stomach (I won’t even go there). When she ruled out all possible options she came to the only reasonable conclusion: her hen had just cut the cheese, tooted, pooted or broke wind.

Ever the curious one, I quickly googled it to find that there were 2.5 million results under ‘Do Chickens Fart?” and a handful of website posts on the subject! Is there nothing new in the world of blogging? Apparently not, but I’m hoping this topic is as new to you as it was to me.

Is asking the age-old question ‘If a tree falls in the forest does anyone hear it?” akin to ‘Does my hen squeak out silent but deadly ones when I’m not around?”.

I’m sure I can find some ‘knock, knock chicken fart jokes’, but we’ve got more serious stuff to learn about, that is: do chickens fart and if so, how and why?

In most species the intake of air or the production of digestive gases can be expelled from various orifices: burp (mouth), fart (butt) and queef (vagina).

In mammals, including us, flatulence is the by-product of digesting fibrous plant materials in legumes, grains and vegetables, which end up in the large intestine where microbes break them down and use them for energy. The result of the fermentation process is gas.

I had a dog that loved broccoli and within minutes of eating it he was blowing stink bombs that made our eyes water. If chickens were dogs you’d have to wear gas masks just to be around them. Birds eat vegetables and produce gas but aren’t constantly burping or farting, because their digestive systems don’t support the same bacteria as mammals. Vegetarian livestock, like horses or cows, are infamous for their ability to pass gas. We’re often hearing if you want to cut global warming stop eating beef who are massive producers of methane gas.

My research found that while chickens can fart it isn’t a common occurrence. You are most likely to see the evidence of digestive gas as bubbles in their poop.

Chicken Fart: When you hold in a sneeze, but can’t help releasing squeeks of air out of your nose. – Urban Dictionary

Some species can swallow air and then expel it out their butt – also considered a fart. Sonoran coral snakes can suck air into their cloaca (vent), then force it out with a popping noise to ward off predators. Since chickens also have vents I wonder if that’s possible and what purpose it would serve. Maybe none, so it might be comparable to a queef in women. But I digress, I’m supposed to be talking about chickens.

I spend a lot of time with my birds and am happy to report that I rarely have been witness to their gassy emissions. Anyone who has had a broody hen knows that they usually only get off the nest once a day (sometimes less often) and then they make a mad dash for food and water and deposit an enormous, stinky poop. This pit-stop break is sometimes accompanied by the release of pent up gas that can make you gag.

The only other time I’ve experienced chicken farts is when dealing with my hen Mango, who survived being egg bound, only to be left with a permanently distended vent. This resulted in her not having control of her vent, which dripped poop like a tap, which would harden and act like a cork. One night at bedtime, when she was on the roost bar near my eye level I noticed just such a plug. I managed to gently pry it loose and out sprayed projectile diarrhea and the most hideous gassy stench, accompanied by sound effects.

That said, a study has demonstrated that chickens who eat canola seeds and soybeans, rich in sulfur and amino acids, produce the smelliest farts.  

After a bit of a deep dive I found these – clearly adults are still as captivated by farts as when they discovered the whoopee cushion for the first time.

Perhaps this post wasn’t your cup of tea or maybe you’ve chalked it up to learning one more interesting fact about the weird world of chickens. Regardless, we can cross that one off the list and move on to something more edifying. And if you are the type to be amused at such topics feel free to pass this info along to like-minded chicken keepers and give them a laugh.

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