Chickens spend the majority of their day pecking and scratching at the ground, eating their feed and drinking water. No matter what the source of water is that you provide, it is good practice to give them fresh water daily, even twice a day if it is hot outside. Many first-time backyard flock raisers are surprised by how much water their chickens go through in one day, as well as how dirty it can get.
As a general rule, replace the chicken’s old water with a clean and fresh supply at least once a day and twice daily if the weather is warmer.
There are many different kinds of watering devices for chickens, but nothing is ever wrong with a good commercial trough or shallow bucket for your hens to drink from. Knowing how often to give fresh water to your chickens and how to keep all your equipment clean from harmful algae and other bacteria is just the beginning of learning about caring for a backyard flock.
Hey chicken buddies: Quick heads-up before going further! I've put together a list of stuff I use and love for my flock. If you're curious about what keeps my hens happy, click here to find out.
How Often Do You Clean A Chicken’s Water?
The container that holds your chickens’ water supply should be changed daily. Simply dumping out the old and replacing it with new water is all the work that is necessary.
Don’t be surprised if you notice the chickens walk around the fresh and clean water you just put down to drink out of a dirty puddle. They don’t have much care for which water is clean and which isn’t.
Washing Out Your Water Container Or Waterer
You should wash out the container once a week to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Using soap and water on the inside of your waterer, bucket or trough is very important. Many harmful bacteria can contaminate a water supply quickly, possibly leading to disease or illness among your flock.
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What Type Of Water Should I Give My Chickens?
A typical rule of thumb would be that if the water is safe for you to drink, then it should be fine for the chickens.
If you have a well on your property that you don’t like to use because of the hard water, it may be pertinent to give them water that has been filtered as well.
Many farmers and flock raisers provide their chickens with water from the tap. Most tap water does contain different minor additives in minimal quantities, such as chlorine or fluoride. Rarely do these minute chemicals cause any issues, but fluoride has been known to come with potential risks to eggs and bone density.
Fluoride is typically not in large enough amounts in our tap or drinking water to be noticeable, and many people believe they are good for our health. Some science has indicated that fluoride can actually cause shell density problems and affect bone strength.
Adding some extra calcium to their daily feeding regimen should help curb any potential issues from fluoride.
Some farmers or backyard chicken enthusiasts save rainwater to give to their flock. If you have gathered enough rainwater that you can maintain them just on that, then remember that it should be kept in a well-sealed and dark container (this one on Amazon will be perfect). This will help to minimize the risk of contamination and algae from growing in your water supply.
Many people have seen algae growing on the inside of a dirty pond or fish tank and this is no different from a chicken’s water supply. Algae is a microorganism that contains chlorophyll and can be seen on the inside of containers that are housing water. Algae needs water, warmth and sunlight in order to grow.
Cleaning out your water vessels daily will greatly reduce the likelihood of any algae growth. Also depriving it of warmth or sunlight is another good practice.
Scrub well, not doing so can make the algae grow back faster.
Biofilm is a pink and slimy bacterial substance that can be seen on the sides and bottom of containers that hold water for longer periods of time. Unfortunately, if you see this, that means you are not cleaning your chickens’ waterer often or well enough.
This substance can be a nidus for issues like Salmonella and E-coli among your flock.
Can I Add Anything To Their Water To Keep It Clean?
Water additives can be very helpful in improving the longevity of your chickens’ water supply as well as reduce harmful bacteria or other microcontaminants.
There are a few different products that are commonly added either to the water supply directly or used to clean the water containers, such as vinegar, bleach and a chemical called Oxine AH.
Apple cider vinegar
The addition of vinegar, white or apple cider, can be beneficial in keeping your chickens’ water supply cleaner, as well as keep algae growth at bay by raising the acidic content. Algae don’t thrive if the water is too acidic because it slows the rate at which it grows.
However, using more than a 2% concentration of vinegar can be harmful so make sure to not be heavy-handed when adding it.
Adding bleach to the chickens’ water supply, even in a small amount, is not the best choice for your flock. Bleach should really only be used for the cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and should be washed off well.
Oxine AH is a disinfectant commonly used for the cleaning of commercial equipment used for animals. It has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.
How Often Should I Wash Out The Waterers?
Washing out the waterers is an important aspect of your flock’s husbandry. Some brands can be run through a dishwasher but others have small crevices that really need to be scrubbed with a brush to rid them of tiny amounts of biofilm and algae.
Running your chickens’ waterer through the dishwasher is another easy way to clean and sanitize your equipment. Just be sure to check with the manufacturer that it is dishwasher safe.
Scrubbing the water containers is key! Thinking that just rising the equipment out or giving it a swipe with a brush will not be enough to maintain bacteria-free and clean waterers.
What Type Of Waterer Should I Use?
There are several types of chicken waterers on the market, and it can sometimes be tricky figuring which one is better for your flock. The truth is whatever works for your chickens and their setup, while also staying practical and sanitary.
Using a fount, a circular lipped trough-like waterer or a raised and cage mounted chicken waterer is the more common choice among flock raisers.
These waterers are usually a good size and can last a long time. It is easy to elevate them on bricks, so they are at a lower risk of contamination from fecal material.
Here is an example of Amazon, as you can see, it’s pricey, but it’ll probably last longer.
Raised cage mounted waterer
These look similar to the same types of waterers for small exotic pets that are kept in an enclosure or cage. They are mounted on the side of the fence or wall and are easy to keep clean (see an example here).
Chicken nipple waterer
The chicken waterers with the nipple system are somewhat popular. A lot of people appreciate that it creates minimal mess and wastes less water (check the picture and price on Amazon).
Some also believe that they are easier to keep clean and free of contaminants like algae and biofilm. The truth is, these containers need to be cleaned with the same level of attention and care as the others and they will develop bacteria at the same rate as other types of chicken waterers. Tiny amounts of biofilm and algae can get into the piping and other intricate parts of the system, requiring cleaning with a fine brush.
Keeping Your Waterer Off The Ground
Not having your chicken’s water supply directly on the ground is a very important tip for keeping it clean. Chickens do not care about where they are defecating and often will get fecal matter in their waterers if they are set below the cloaca.
The cloaca is where their waste comes from and having your chickens water supply above the cloaca will certainly help to keep stool out of it. Plus it means you will spend a lot less time washing it out as well.
Happy Chickens Love Fresh And Clean Water
When raising several dozen chickens, having a waterer that holds up to 20 gallons or more and doesn’t need to be refilled for over a week, can be very practical and time-saving. But if you are only raising a small flock of chickens, having a smaller waterer that can be cleaned more easily and often is better practice and sanitary.
Keeping the water clean is only one of the regular tasks you need to do to keep your flock happy, check my other tips to clean out your chicken coop here.