Can Chickens Sleep Outside In The Rain? (Is It Safe)

Like us, chickens love it when it rains or downpours, because it brings up bugs, worms, and other insects they can feed on. But is it okay for your chickens to sleep outside in the rain? Let’s look at why chickens may sleep outside and whether or not it’s safe for your flock.

Can Chickens Sleep In The Rain? Yes, chickens can sleep in the rain, as long as they’re in good health, it’s not too cold or raining too hard, and they have a place to seek shelter.

Let’s talk a little bit more about these things below.

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Do Chickens Get Sick in the Rain?

Like humans, chickens can get ill if they are exposed to rain without the opportunity to dry off. While their feathers are water-resistant, they are not waterproof.

The rain can have adverse effects on chickens, especially, when it’s extremely cold outside. This is due to the fact that they won’t be able to stay warm, when their bodies are damp and this will result in a drop in their body temperature.

If they sleep outside in the rain for a night or two, most chickens will be find, as long as they have time to dry off and get warm again. The concern comes about when your chickens have no shelter to retreat to, and they are forced to sleep outside in the elements (rain, sleet, and snow).

If you’re new to having chickens, it’s best to monitor them after sleeping outside. It may take a few days or a few weeks before they start exhibiting any symptoms, but here’s what you should keep an eye for.

Hypothermia

This is the condition that affects both chickens and people when they have an abnormally low body temperature. This is a life threatening issue and can be dangerous if your chickens can’t bring their body temperature up to safe levels.

This can occur if your chickens if your chickens become soaked and waterlogged.

Signs and symptoms to watch for:

  • Pale or blue skin
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Low body temperature
  • Pale or blue comb
  • Slow, labored breathing
  • Pale or blue sinus tissue

Adult chickens should have a body temperature of 105℉ and 107℉ (40.6°C and 41.7°C ). A newly hatched chick is about 103.5℉ (39.7°C). (source)

That being said, you should never let baby chickens sleep outside in the rain or cold. They are more susceptible to the rain and cold and can die.

Respiratory Issues

Chicken Respiratory Illnesses and CRD are not noticeable overnight. These illnesses develop slowly overtime, the key is to catch the symptoms early so your chicken has a better chance at recovery.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Reduced egg production
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing or labored breathing
  • Swelling around the eyes and/or beak
  • Decreased appetite
  • Poor comb or wattle color
  • Loss of condition
  • Coughing
  • Discharge from the nostrils and or eyes

If it sounds like your chicken is suffering from a respiratory illness or is having trouble breathing, contact your veterinarian that specializes in avian medicine. The sooner they get medical treatment, the better chance of recovery.

If your chicken sneezes once or twice, there’s no need to panic. The sleep in an environment with dusty bedding that can irritate their sinuses. It’s when you notice several chickens in your flock sneezing or exhibiting more of the symptoms above.

No, your chickens won’t catch a cold from going out in the rain. It’s when they become waterlogged that stress & illnesses can become a concern

Fungal Infections

Too much water can cause them to become waterlogged, which can lead to fungal infections.

Unfortunately, there are several types of fungal infections that can affect chickens, and many farmers have reported higher fatality rates for the flock during the rainy season.

Some of the diseases and illnesses that can affect your birds are:

  • Brooder pneumonia (Aspergillosis)
  • Candidiasis (Thrush)
  • Ringworm (Favus)
  • Fowl Cholera

Stress

While being out in the rain won’t necessarily stress your chickens out. Some chickens prefer to be out in the rain, because this is the perfect time for them to forage for food.

Stress can become a problem if your chicken is exposed to heavy downpours, hurricane weather, thunder, or other harsh weather conditions.

Most chickens will be scared of thunderstorms, especially if they’ve never been exposed to them. Your chickens should always have safe shelter they can run to, if the weather becomes too bad.

It’s no different that you heading indoors when the weather gets bad. Your chickens should always have a safe shelter that will protect them from the elements.

Can Chickens Get Wet?

Chickens have thick insulating feathers under the longer guard feathers, so it’s fine if their feathers get wet. That being said, they are not waterproof.

Their feathers have a preen gland that secretes an oily, waxy substance. When a chicken rubs their beak against the gland, the oil gets attached to the beak. They then rub their beak on other parts of their body and this makes their feathers resistant against dirt and water.

Think of it like this, when you use RainX on your windshield that helps protect your windshield from the rain, and you don’t have to use your windshield wipers that much. However, when you’re caught in a huge rainstorm or you haven’t reapplied it in a while, the RainX no longer works and you’re forced to use your windshield wipers.

Your birds feathers will protect them from a light or misty rain. However, if they stand or sleep outside in heavy rains for too long, they will become waterlogged and look like a wet rat.

This is when their health is at risk, especially, if it’s cold outside.

If your chickens have been exposed to heavy rains and they are having trouble drying off due to the damp and wet conditions. A dog blower comes in handy when you need to help your chickens dry off quickly.

Can Chickens Drown In The Rain?

Most chickens will be fine, and will seek shelter if the rain becomes too much. That being said, it’s not uncommon for a chicken to drown in the rain, especially, if you experience a hurricane or tropical storm that dumps a lot of rain at once.

Depending on where you live and whether or not your property has sufficient drainage. If your property has standing water or you get a storm surge, you should take your chickens to an indoor space like a garage or basement.

Some people have seen chickens standing out in hail storms or heavy downpours, yelling when they could seek shelter.

Which Breeds Are Most Susceptible To The Rain?

With global climate affecting so many different states, it can be hard to find the right chickens for your backyard. You may be wondering which chickens do best in the rain?

Every chicken regardless of breed is susceptible to illness if left out in the rain for long periods of time. There are some chickens that do worse than others.

Araucana

The Araucana chicken lacks the tail bone, oil gland, and tail feathers that are usually found at the base of the chickens tail. Since Araucana’s don’t have the preen oil gland, this makes it virtually impossible for their feathers to shed water.

That being said, I’ve seen some Araucana chickens run into their shelter the moment we turned on the sprinkler, or it starts to rain. They will be fine if they get caught in the rain, but their feathers will get wet more quickly than other breeds.

Rhode Island Reds

A Rhode Island Red has tight feathers, but like Silkies, they don’t have tail feathers. I couldn’t find any information on whether or not they are able to secrete oil to keep their feathers dry.

However, many people who own this breed state the importance of having shelter to keep them dry on rainy days. Like other breeds, Rhode Island Reds won’t die if exposed to rain for short periods, and are able to get dry to warm up.

It’s okay for them to forage for food when it starts to rain, as they’ll likely heading to the shelter when they’ve had enough.

Silkies

silkies feathers are not waterproof
Silkies don’t do well in the rain and should be put inside shelter to prevent from getting waterlogged.

Silkies have been referred to as the “chickens with fur like feathers” in writings by Marco Polo dating back to his Europe and Asian travels in the 13th century. This is because their feathers differ from other breeds, in that they don’t have barbs that hold the strands together.

This is what gives them that silky, fluffy appearance that chicken lovers adore. Their feathers are more like a down, and similar to the undercoating of other breeds.

Those adorable silky feathers are not waterproof, so Silkies don’t do well in wet or cold climates, unless they are have a warm shelter. Their feathers are hardly even water-resistant, and will get soaked very quickly.

If you have silkies, they should be put inside shelter immediately, so they can stay warm.

Final Word

Most chickens will be fine to sleep in the rain, as they will seek shelter when they’ve had enough. If you notice the rain getting too hard and they haven’t gone into the shelter, you may want to go outside and get them inside so they won’t get too wet.

You should never let your baby chicks sleep outside in the rain, cold, or heat.

As long as your flock has a warm, dry shelter, they are smart enough to seek shelter when the weather becomes too much. If you get a lot of rain in your area, consider setting up a rain barrel system for your chickens. Chickens can drink rain barrel water if you set it up correctly.

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References and Further Reading

https://www.evolutionfarmvets.co.uk/respiratory-disease-chickens