During the hot summer months, keeping your chicken cool can be a daily struggle, especially when it comes to heatwaves. Chickens are not well suited to endure extremely hot weather and are somewhat limited in ways to cool down. To prevent chickens from experiencing heat stress, chicken owners may find themselves wondering whether their feathery friends would appreciate a dip in some cool water.
Do Chickens Like Getting In Water?
Chickens won’t get in the water and will do everything to avoid it. When it rains, they will run to seek shelter in pens, bushes, coop, or anywhere that provides shelter. Their feathers and bodies are not built waterproof and can’t be exposed for long periods to water.
You may find, however, that they might be more than happy to soak their feet in some shallow, cool water on those hot summer days to cool themselves down.
In this article, we’ll look at whether chickens need a pool of water on hot days and whether your feathery friends can swim.
Do Chickens Swim?
Finding yourself wondering if chicken like getting in water is quite common for new chicken owners. After all, they are hardly ever around bodies of water.
The mass population of domesticated chickens is in factory or farm settings where the housing conditions are more often than not on the poorer side.
Even with backyard chickens, they are unlikely to have access to natural water sources for them to indulge in the idea of any water activity.
Chicken also do not take water baths, instead of cleaning their feathers by taking dust baths almost daily. Short of their access to drinking water provided by their owners, chickens are rarely given a chance to go for a swim.
As such, you may be wondering whether providing them with a swimming area during hot weather would be advisable. The good news is that chickens can swim, though they do so poorly compared to other water-suited birds.
As a result, the likelihood that a chicken chooses to do so for pleasure is slim and unlikely.
That said, if you live in a hot, humid area, there are some things you can do to help your birds get some much-needed relief. I’ve written an in-depth guide to help you keep them cool.
Why Are Chicken Poor Swimmers?
Although chickens are capable of swimming, they can only do so for a short amount of time. In addition, unlike more water-friendly birds like ducks, chickens do not have any webbing between their toes to help them move in the water. This forces them to use more energy to travel in the water, causing them to tire faster.
Another strike against their swimming capabilities is that although their feathers are somewhat water-resistant and can protect against light rain well enough, chicken feathers are not waterproof. As a result, when exposed to water for a significant amount of time, a chicken’s feathers will soak through and cause them to submerge and drown.
If you have Silkie chickens, you want to ensure they are not exposed to water or freezing temperatures as they don’t have the same type of feathers as other chicken breeds.
Another issue for chickens when it comes to swimming is that if a chicken loses their balance in the water, they are unable to bring themselves back into an upright position.
Needless to say, if a chicken is unattended and becomes off-balance in the water, the outcome is never a happy one.
So, although chickens do have the ability to swim and will do so if necessary, giving them access to a swimming area (especially unsupervised) may cause more harm than good in hot weather.
With that said, that does not mean that they would not enjoy dipping their feet in a shallow, filled wading pool.
What is a Wading Pool?
A wading pool is a kiddie pool. Many chicken owners will fill these pools with a small amount of water, just enough for a chicken to submerge their feet. They then make this available to their adult chickens, sometimes throwing ice cubes into the water to maintain its cool temperature for longer.
You never want to put a kiddie pool in an area with young chicks.
Will Your Chicken Use the Wading Pool?
Every chicken is different, so how much a chicken will like stepping into a body of water will depend on the individual chicken. Some chickens may not seem interested in it and steer clear of it altogether, while another chicken’s interest is piqued and may even begin to play in it.
For the most part, chickens don’t seem very keen to partake in water activities, and who can blame them. After all, they have quite the disadvantages when it comes to how well they swim.
However, it is not unheard of that some chicken’s enjoying their wading pool in the summer.
Even if a chicken does not like water, they are generally not above resorting to utilizing its cool relief by standing in it. This is because when a chicken steps in cool water, it helps its body temperature drop.
Are You Able to Supervise Your Chicken?
If the answer is no, then a wading pool is likely not the answer for you and your chicken.
Whether you fill the wading pool up shallow, it is always better not to leave your chicken unattended even with this small body of water.
Keep in mind that chickens can and have drowned in their drinking water bowls even when shallow. It happens so much so that you can even buy drown-proof water feeders.
This is especially true when it comes to baby chicks, which is why your chicks should not be given access to the wading pool. As long as you supervise your chickens, offering them the wading pool as a solution to combat heat stress can be just what your chickens need.
Risks Associated with Chickens Engaging with Water?
As mentioned, chicken feathers are only slightly water-resistant, so be sure you don’t leave them outside when it rains.
Whether you offer your chicken a wading pool and they happen to enjoy it and get decently wet, or you decided to allow them to try swimming while supervised, be sure to help them dry off afterward.
This may sound counterproductive. After all, you wanted your chicken to get in the water to help cool off. So why not leave them wet once they are done cooling off in the water? Well, it can potentially compromise their health.
As you may know, experiencing hot days does not always mean hot or warm nights to go along with it. If you are in a climate that has hot days but cold or chilly nights, leaving your chickens wet can cause them to catch a cold.
If you know your chicken will have time to dry off in the sun, there is not much to worry about, but even if you dry your chickens, they will still be damp and able to stay cool as a result.
Unlike other pets, chickens don’t need to swim or be in the water to cool down. If you’re concerned about them becoming too hot, ensure they have plenty of cool water to drink and shelter to help shade them from the sun.
If they do have access to a kiddie pool, ensure you monitor them so they don’t accidentally drown. Don’t be surprised if they’d rather drink from the pool, instead of taking a dip!