Watering Options for Chickens & How Long Can They Go Without


We often spend countless hours deciding what food is best for our chickens, but we don’t spend enough time worrying about their water. Did you know that chickens can go up to a week with no food, but they can only last a short time without water?

Depending on their age and the temperature outside, a chicken will begin to suffer from the effects of dehydration in just a few hours. A healthy adult chicken can only make it about 36 hours without any water. (Merck Veterinary Manual)

Maintaining an adequate water supply for your chickens is imperative to their survival.

Water understandably is a key ingredient in the backyard poultry-raising world. There are certain things you should always remember when it comes to keeping your flock hydrated, especially when you are out of town or away for most of the day. The following guide will help you stay prepared and keep your chickens healthy and happy.

How much water does a chicken need each day?

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, the amount of water a chicken needs per day depends on a couple of factors including age, outside temperature, humidity, and whether they are laying eggs or not. (source)

An adult laying hen will need anywhere from 5 to 11 ounces of water per day in an environmental temperature of 69.8°F (21°C).

A young chicken will need slightly less water, but they are more susceptible to changes in temperature. Young chickens will also suffer from the effects of dehydration quicker than an adult bird.

A chicken’s need for water increases rapidly as the temperature around them increases, regardless of their age. A chicken’s ability to survive in hot weather is directly related to their access to water. (National Academies Press)

It is difficult to know exactly how much water your chickens will need each day. The best thing you can do is to make sure that they have continuous access to water throughout the day. That is the only way you can be sure that they will not run out of water before you can refill it.

Ways to Make Sure Your Chickens Always Have Water

There are a number ways to make sure your chickens have access to water at all times.

Check on Your Chickens Throughout the Day

Depending on your set-up, all waterers can possibly break or get knocked over or have an issue with the filling mechanisms. This could cause your chickens to be without water.

One way to prevent this is to check on your flock at least twice a day and make sure that their waterers are working correctly.

Use Hanging Poultry Waterers

You can buy hanging waterers designed specifically for chickens. These specific waterers are either plastic or metal and come in multiple sizes. You can hang these inside your chicken coop to keep your chickens from knocking them over.

Use a rope or baling twine to secure the waterer to the rafters or top of your coop. You will want to hang it low enough that the chickens can reach it to drink. Many people attach clips to the end of the rope or twine to make the refilling process quicker. 

Side-Mounted Chicken Waterers

These cylinder chicken waterers can be mounted on the outside of a chicken coop. These waterers make it easier for you to refill without having to go inside the coop. This design also helps to keep your chickens from being able to knock their waterer over.

Make Your Own Waterers

You can purchase various supplies such as 5 gallon buckets or PVC pipe to create your own watering system. There are different kinds of accessories you can attach to the buckets or PVC pipes that deliver the water to the chicken.

These include watering cups and watering nipples, designed specifically for poultry to drink from. These allow for less spillage, prevent contamination and make the supply of water last longer than hanging waterers.

homemade chicken watering setup

Use Multiple Waterers for Larger Flocks

If you find yourself refilling your chickens’ water each day, you should try setting up multiple waters or upgrading to a bigger one. This just serves as a safety net in case you can’t refill their water one day. You will know that they have plenty of water to last until you can check on them.

Tips for Preventing Your Chicken Waterers from Freezing

During the winter months, everything on the farm has the potential to freeze, especially watering systems. The following are just a few ways that chicken owners can prevent their waterers from freezing.

Bring the Waterer in at Night

One way to prevent a mobile waterer from freezing through an extremely cold night is to bring it inside. You can bring the waterer in the house or set it in an enclosed area that will help keep it from freezing.

This will stop it from freezing solid overnight and you can return it to the coop first thing in the morning. This option is only viable if you are going to be home and able to return the water to the chickens early the next morning.

Break up the Ice in a Waterer Multiple Times a Day

This is the most time-consuming option and depending on your lifestyle, it may not be possible. If you are able to, you can check on your chicken’s waterer multiple times a day and break up any ice that is forming. The goal is to keep it from freezing solid.

Buy an Extra Waterer

Another option is to buy an extra waterer than you can switch out daily with the frozen one. As long as you don’t  have extremely cold winters, you might be able to keep fresh water out for your chickens by switching their waterer each day.

Every morning, you will remove the frozen waterer and set it somewhere it can melt. Then you can fill the empty one with fresh water and set it inside the coop.

Buy Heated Poultry Waterers

The easiest solution is to purchase heated waterers for your chickens. This can also be the most convenient, yet most expensive option.  

Keep in mind that these waters will need to have a nearby power source. The heating element in these waterers will prevent the water from freezing during cold weather.

Buy a Heated Base for Your Waterer

If you have a regular waterer, you can buy a heated base to set your waterer on. Make sure that you buy a heated base that is compatible with your current waterer.

This base will keep the water warm enough to prevent it from freezing. It will also need to be set up near a power source, so keep that in mind if you decide to get one.

Get a Deicer for Poultry Waterers

You can also purchase a submersible deicer that you can put into waterers and buckets. These are relatively small so they can fit in many chicken waterer set-ups and they will prevent the water from freezing.

Most of these are safe for use in plastic containers. These also will require a nearby plug-in.

Make Sure Your Chickens Have Water When You Are out of Town

When you know that you are going to be gone for more than 24 hours, you will need to make sure your chickens have access to plenty of water. The following are some ways you can make sure your that chickens do not run out of water while you are gone.

Put Extra Waterers in Your Chickens Coop.

Depending on how long you will be gone, you can add extra waterers to your coup to make sure your chickens stay hydrated while you are gone. If it is going to be hotter than normal, add more for safe measure.

It is better to have too much water available than too little.

Get a Larger Waterer

If you are currently using a smaller waterer for your chickens and you are going on vacation, consider investing in a larger waterer. Set both up of them for your chickens while you are going to be gone. This will allow your chickens to have plenty of water to last them until your come back.

Have More Than One Person Check on Your Flock While You Are Gone.

Most people only have one person checking on their animals while they are out of town, but it is a good idea to ask at least two trustworthy people to check on your coop while you are out of town. This ensures that if one person forgets or is unable to make it, there is someone else who will.  

Final Thoughts

Water is essential for all animals, especially chickens. Many backyard chicken owners have experienced the loss of a chicken due to lack of water. Thankfully, there are many different products available to make sure our chickens have plenty of water. Find the waterer or method that works best for you and your flock so that you never have to lose one of your favorite chickens to dehydration.

April

April has owned and worked with domestic fowl including chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, and guineas since 1998. She has a B.S. in Agriculture from Cal Poly in Pomona, CA where she studied genetics, nutrition and reproduction.

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