Chickens can be an amazing and wonderful addition to any home, especially homes with a little extra room for them to forage. Not only do they provide farm fresh eggs, and in some cases, meat, but they also have big personalities that make them fun to watch and care for.
Are chickens safe in the rain? For the most part, yes. Some chickens may even find that a drizzling or a light rain may be just the thing to convince a fat, juicy worm to come up for a tasty chicken snack. Rain can be beneficial to chickens, though most chickens know to seek shelter before the weather gets too bad.
Chickens who are younger or less experienced, such as rescues, may not know that too much rain is a bad thing. Some rain can help bring bugs like worms to the surface, but too much rain may make your chicken sick. I want to try to help you, and your chickens prepare for when too much rain becomes an issue, and they need to come out and what can happen if they don’t.
Can Chickens be Out in the Rain?
Chickens can absolutely be out in the rain. In fact, chickens will find that a light rain is a good opportunity for a snack. It encourages worms to emerge from the soil, and it can also offer cover from predators, which can allow for a larger ranging areas that they can safely forage in.
It is for this reason that you may find your chickens hanging out in the rain when you have already sought shelter from it.
How long and how heavy of rain are the more concerning issues. If rain is too heavy, it can make a chicken sick, but this isn’t usually something you will need to worry about.
Most chickens living in a decent size flock will either know to seek cover or they will follow the more experienced flock in seeking cover. Roosters can help in this area as they will try to corral the younger, less experienced chickens to make sure they are safe.
Rescues, those who have lived a life almost primarily in a covered cage, may need to learn about the rain. If they can be introduced into an existing flock, this will help them to learn.
Just remember, rain is a learned experience. Your chicken may not be stupid for standing in a thunderstorm. It just may have no idea about it. In this case, you may need to step in to protect it from itself.
Do Chickens Get Sick in the Rain?
Sporadic exposure to the rain should be fine for most chickens. If you have a day or two of rain, your chickens will most likely be ok, as long as they are drying off for a while in a warm area. There are a few issues that can occur with heavy or prolonged exposure to the rain when it comes to chickens.
If you are new to keeping chickens, make sure to keep a close eye on them both in the rain and for a few weeks after to make sure they are not exhibiting any of the following issues. Some may develop within hours, other days or weeks, so you will need to keep an eye on them until you know how they will react in the long term.
Hypothermia happens when their body temperature drops too low. Some of the symptoms of hypothermia are:
- Low body temperature
- Slow, labored breathing
- Pale or blue comb
- Pale or blue sinus tissue
- Pale or blue skin.
While a chicken’s normal body temperature ranges around 105 to 107F, they can tolerate the cold much better than the heat. A rise in temperature of 8 degrees or less (113 is dangerous) can put your chickens at risk when it comes to the cold they can handle a drop in body temperature of more than 25F degrees. If their temperature hits 75F, they could be in danger.
Respiratory illness in birds is never fun to deal with and can put the life of your chicken at risk quite quickly. Respiratory infections can make a chicken feel miserable. Some of the symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Excessive tearing in the eyes
- Anorexia (loss of appetite)
Respiratory illnesses will need a vet diagnosis as they can be caused by either bacterial or virus exposure. Being wet for long periods of time can start a domino effect that can lead to a respiratory illness, it is not the water doing it.
No, your chicken cannot catch a cold from going out in the rain, but the rain can be a catalyzing event that causes it to propagate.
Funky Feather Fungus
Chickens that get too wet too often can begin to develop feather fungus. While this would mean that the chicken has been exposed to the bacteria that causes it, a chicken that gets wet often and heavily can develop it much easier as the nearly constantly wet environment makes for the perfect breeding ground.
This is a bacterial infection that is characterized by what looks like mold growing around the base of the feather follicle and can go unnoticed for quite some time.
First off, when it first starts, it isn’t even visible, though some of the effects of it can be such as redness around the follicles. As time passes, the feather itself can be affected and cause them to fall out.
Treatment will most likely require a vet to do a skin scraping to determine the exact cause and which bacteria are responsible for the infection.
How Constantly Being Wet Can Affect the Immune System
Chickens that spend too much of their time wet, especially from wet weather conditions, can take a hit to their immune system. The constant wet state can cause the chicken in question, or even a whole flock, to start getting stressed. Once a chicken begins to get stressed, their bodies release corticosteroids, which is a stress hormone.
This stress hormone can actually weaken the immune system within hours of it being released and will cause more issues the longer the chicken is stressed. This can result in them being affected more by the natural bacteria in their environment, which can result in things like respiratory issues and, eventually, death, if not dealt with in time.
Best Ways to Prevent Illnesses in Wet Chickens
The best way, honestly, it to keep them dry. While most chickens will not be into this, you can limit the issues by providing more than just one shelter or dry place for them to get out of the rain.
Offering things like outdoor shelters with perches can help to get them off the wet ground and out of the rain at the same time. Since many types of chickens have relatively water-resistant feathers (they are not waterproof like a duck’s feathers) they can tolerate the rain longer than others.
If they have bushes and such in the area where they range, then they can use those to get out of the rain as well, but offering more areas will be useful as well as places that are completely dry in the rain. Some chickens may head to the coop or henhouse, but some may crowd the opening which would prevent others from coming out of the rain as well.
This can be solved by making sure that you offer a number of dry and/or weather protected areas that can ensure your entire flock can get out of the rain when it is getting to be too much for them. By offering places with perches or roosts as well will also allow them to get their feet dry too, which can be an issue depending on how much rain you are getting.