When standing around at the kitchen window and watching your chickens pecking at the ground and spending their time doing normal chicken things, you may not realize how often they are also going to get a drink of water. It may only appear to be a moment or two here and there for each hen, but the truth is that chickens drink a lot more water than you would think.
A full-grown chicken can drink at least half a liter to a whole liter, that’s almost 2 pints for just one hen, in a day. This can be more or less depending on the chicken breed and the size.
Raising a flock of chickens is never easy, but can be rewarding if you have all the essential knowledge. Knowing how much water to provide your chickens is truly important. This article will jump into the basics of knowing how much water your flock needs and how to look out for signs of illness and dehydration among your chickens.
How Much Water Do Chickens Drink In A Day?
Some adult chickens will drink at least half a liter a day (one pint) and can drink as much as a liter in one day. So, clean and fresh water is something that should be provided to your flock every day, and sometimes twice a day if the weather or climate is hot.
If it’s hot outside, chickens can consume almost twice as much, close to over a half a gallon for each hen during the summer months. This is why it is important to check on their water supply during the hotter times of the year several times a day. They can quickly go through their average amount of water if it gets into the upper 90-degree temperatures (Fahrenheit).
Does the water amount vary on the type of chicken?
Yes. The breeds more commonly used for meat production will require additional water since their metabolisms are faster than the average egg-laying breed of chicken and have been known to drink almost twice as much water.
Can a chicken drink too much water?
It’s essential to never restrict a chicken’s access to water, even if you feel like they are drinking too much.
If a chicken is not feeling well, sometimes their water intake will increase, alerting you to a potential issue. Some hens just like to drink more water than others and there is nothing wrong with them.
Restricting water can cause your chickens to produce fewer eggs, look ill and grow less quickly.
How Long Can A Chicken Go Without Water?
Similar to humans and several other animals, they cannot go without water for long. Two days maximum would be the length of time a chicken could go without drinking any water. If the weather or climate is hotter, then they would last an even shorter amount of time.
Baby chicks will last even less time without water, only making it about 12 hours before dying due to dehydration.
What Happens If My Chickens Don’t Get Enough Water?
Chickens that are not provided with an adequate amount of water will start to show a general unthriftiness as well as produce far fewer eggs.
It is crucial that they have constant access to a water source in order to keep their health and egg production up.
Water is also extremely important to the chicken’s overall digestive process. Many farmers and backyard flock raisers have learned that adding some water to their chicken feed can help aid in digestion and nutrient absorption. As well as provide an additional water source during the summer months.
Water And Its Importance For The Chicken Digestive System
Chickens require water while they eat in order to help soften food to travel down the esophagus into the stomach. If the food is not properly softened then it can form hard clumps that will press onto the chicken’s carotid artery, which causes decreased blood flow to the brain, leading to death.
Water is also required for the grinding up of food in the gizzard, where the sustenance is turned into a liquid and the essential nutrients are absorbed while the emulsion makes its way into the intestines.
How Long Can A Chicken Go Without Water In The Wintertime?
Winter months technically pose a lower threat of death from dehydration because it is simply cooler outside. Usually, a chicken can survive for 3 days without water in the wintertime.
If water is not kept thawed with a heater then all the water supply will freeze and chickens will be forced to eat snow in order to stay hydrated.
How Do I Know If My Chicken Is Dehydrated?
Dehydration and heat stress are common killers in flocks of chickens where climates get very hot. Dehydration is serious and life-threatening as the situation can go from bad to deadly in no time.
Symptoms of this dangerous issue are:
- Pale comb or wattles
- Panting/open-mouthed or labored breathing
- Holding wings away from their body
- Limpness or unresponsiveness
- Lethargy and decreased activity
- On rare occasions, seizures or convulsions may be seen
Temperatures that climb into the upper 90s (Fahrenheit) or higher are dangerous times for chickens because they have a very hard time regulating their body heat once it gets over 100 degrees.
What Do I Do If My Chicken Is Dehydrated?
If you find one of your chickens not acting right, and you believe they are suffering from dehydration, providing them with an electrolyte additive to their water can help. They should also be brought inside where there is an optimal temperature.
A commonly used electrolyte solution recipe is ½ a teaspoon of sugar, ⅛ of a teaspoon of salt and ⅛ of a teaspoon of baking soda into a cup of water.
Overheating and heat stress
When it is hot outside, and you suspect a chicken is dehydrated, the first thing to do is make sure that they are not also overheating. If the bird is too hot, bringing them inside to a cool place and put cold water on them in order to help quickly lower their body temperature.
How Can I Get My Sick Or Dehydrated Chicken To Drink Water?
Sometimes when a chicken isn’t feeling well it will not want to drink. Ironically, this can also be the case even when they are actually in a severe state of dehydration. In some instances, they need veterinary care, other times force-feeding the chicken water with a syringe can do the trick.
Subcutaneous fluids and veterinary care
When a chicken is extremely dehydrated to the point where its life is in danger, it may be necessary to take them to a veterinarian that can provide the chicken with subcutaneous fluids to quickly replenish its fluid loss.
Subcutaneous fluids are when they will deliver an injection or bolus of sterile fluids under the skin of the chicken where they will absorb it slowly over several hours. This is much less invasive and expensive, not to mention quicker, than doing intravenous fluid therapy.
Eyedropper or syringe
Using an eyedropper or syringe seems simple enough but if you’ve never tried to force-feed your chicken then it is a learning experience. Attempting to wedge the tip of the syringe or dropper into their beak could end up being more of a fight than anything.
A helpful technique involves gently pulling on the wattles under the chicken’s neck until the bird opens their mouth, this is when you would administer your medications or water, then let go so that it can swallow and not aspirate on the liquid.
A Good Rule Of Thumb: Always Have More Water Than You Think They Will Need
When raising a backyard flock of chickens, feeding and watering should already be a part of your daily routine. Making sure that you always provide enough fresh and clean water plus some for the whole flock is key to having a healthy and happy group of egg-laying ladies.
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