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Keeping Chickens Safe Around Water

When you introduce chickens to a backyard or garden situation for the intention of free-ranging it’s good to know how to keep them safe around water if they’re wandering near ponds and pools.

In this article, I’ve put together everything you need to know about keeping chickens when you have a pond or pool along with information on bathing, swimming and why chickens don’t need water baths to stay cool.

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Can Chickens Swim?

This is probably a question that not many people think about, but it’s helpful to know if you’re going to be keeping chickens in an area where there’s a pond or pool.

In short, chickens can swim if they need to get out of danger such as escaping a predator or if they’ve fallen into a body of water and they need to swim back to land, but they don’t usually choose to swim for fun.

Although chickens can swim, their bodies are not designed to swim, so if they do it’s usually because there’s a problem.

How Long can Chickens Swim For?

If a chicken is put into a situation where it needs to swim it won’t be able to swim for long because its feathers will begin to absorb water and will weigh down the bird making it difficult to keep afloat for any length of time.

How long a chicken can manage to stay afloat will depend on the size and feather structure of the bird, a chicken with lots of fluffy feathers will quickly become waterlogged.

Although a chicken can appear to float on water like a duck, it doesn’t have the same features such as waterproof under-feathers which repel water or webbed feet which help to propel the bird through the water.


Will Chickens Go into a Pool or Pond

It’s very unusual for a chicken to choose to go into a pool or pond unless it falls in by accident, it’s spooked or has panicked when trying to escape something.

As a chicken keeper myself who also has a pond, I’ve never seen a chicken go into the water, although they will take a drink from the edge of the shallow end.

If you have a pond then don’t worry too much about your chickens going in there, but it’s a good idea to have a ledge or shallow end so if they do get in they can easily get out again.

garden pond image with a sloping edge to show how a chicken could get out if they fell in

Should You Let Chickens Go in a Swimming Pool?

Because chickens aren’t built for swimming and they don’t choose to swim unless they’re escaping danger or are spooked, they should never intentionally be placed into a pool.

Chickens are easily stressed and can also go into shock if they’re put into a frightening situation.

If a chicken does end up in a pool then chances are they’ll quickly get to the side in a bid to get out as quickly as possible, but if there’s no way for them to easily get out, they might need a little help.


Do Chickens Like Getting Wet?

Chickens don’t particularly like getting wet, especially when the weather is cold. Their feathers absorb water and it can take a long time for them to dry out, so given the choice, they will avoid water where possible.

When it rains, chickens will usually find shelter until the rain stops, although some will carry on grazing regardless of the weather.

In general, chickens are much happier and content when they’re warm and dry.


Chickens Walking on Frozen Ponds

Although I’ve never witnessed a chicken choosing to go into unfrozen water, I have seen them walking across a frozen pond.

Larger breed chickens can be fairly heavy, so for obvious reasons walking across thin ice isn’t a good idea and it’s pretty scary to watch too.

If chickens normally take a drink from a pond they can get confused when the water freezes, causing them to wander onto the ice.

Keeping drinking water ice-free during a hard frost can be difficult, but we found that keeping an extra drinker topped up with fresh water near the pond helped to stop them from walking on it.

If you are unfortunate enough to have a chicken who’s fallen into freezing cold water then you will need to dry them as much as possible and bring them inside until they’ve warmed up again.


Should You Give Chickens a Water Bath?

If you’re a member of a chicken group or forum, you might have noticed that some owners have taken to bathing chickens.

I can just imagine the look on a traditional farmers face if you ever suggested bathing a chicken, but with the number of people keeping chickens as pets on the rise, chickens are becoming more pampered than ever before.

While there are some cases where a warm bath can help with some minor ailments such as problems with laying or caked feathers around the vent, there’s really no need to bathe a chicken to keep them clean.

Chickens stay clean through preening their feathers using their beaks and dust bathing in dry soil or sand.

This way, the chicken can clean away any dry skin and debris without becoming cold and wet in the process.

If you fully submerge a chicken in a bath their fluffy feathers become waterlogged and will take a long time to dry out afterwards, especially if it’s a cold day.

So as a rule, a chicken should never need bathing unless there’s a good reason, the best thing you can do to keep your chickens happy and clean is to let them find a place to dust bathe on a sunny day.


Should You Put Out a Pool For Chickens When it’s Hot?

When you keep chickens it’s only natural to want to make sure they’re happy and healthy, especially when they need to deal with ever-changing weather conditions.

When it comes to hot days chickens are very good at regulating their body temperatures in ways that don’t involve water such as finding shade or bathing in cool soil, so there’s no need to provide them with water to cool down.

The best things you can do to keep your chickens cool on a hot day are:

  • Make sure they have access to plenty of fresh, cool drinking water.
  • Allow them to free-range so they can find the coolest spot to relax in.
  • Give them a cooling treat such as watermelon or cucumber.
  • Allowing them an area where they can spread out and dust bathe.

For more information on sunbathing chickens, you might find the following article helpful:

Do chickens like sunbathing?


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