Chickens need water to survive, just like all living things, but how long can they go without water? Most healthy chickens can go 2 days, or 48 hours, without water, depending on the individual chicken and the climate. That said, chickens will start to suffer at around the 24-hour mark.

We look at the factors that will affect that length of time and how much water that a chicken needs every day to survive.

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How Long Can a Chicken Go Without Water?

Ameraucana Chicken
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The length of time that a chicken can go without water depends on several factors. In hot climates, a chicken might only be able to survive without water for about 8 hours. Temperatures over 104°F (40°C) will see chickens succumb to the heat and will die quite quickly without proper shelter and adequate water.

Baby chicks can only go about 12 hours without water and will die fairly quickly after this point. But they will start to experience serious health issues even starting at 6 hours without water.

It also depends on how healthy the chicken is or if they are going through molting and feather growth. Issues such as these can impact how long they can go without water.

Effects of the Lack of Water

Frizzle Chicken
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The obvious effect is dehydration, followed closely by death. But it can also trigger short-term health effects because the lack of water can be a shock to the chicken’s system.

A hen that goes without water for at least 24 hours will stop laying and will not lay for another week or two. The lack of water can also trigger a molt in hens, which can lead to a lack of laying for an even longer period of time.

Another problem that can arise for a chicken without water is a dehydrated crop. Chickens use their crops for temporary food storage, and if there isn’t enough water, it can disrupt their digestion.

The 24-hour mark is when chickens start to truly get into trouble. The lack of water makes it impossible for them to regulate their body temperatures, and they will need to find a way to stay warm or cool off.

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What About in the Winter?

Brown chicken sitting in the snow
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You might think that dehydration is only an issue in the hot weather of summer, but it is just as much of a problem in cold weather. Dehydration isn’t quite as serious in cold weather, as chickens can go up to 3 days without water.

It’s easier to stay cooler, hens aren’t laying, and the molting and regrowing of feathers tend to stop during the winter. This means the need for water isn’t as imperative as it is in hot weather.

That said, if it gets particularly cold in your neck of the woods, your chickens might endure dehydration because their water will be frozen for long periods of time. Technically, they can eat snow, but it isn’t good for them.

They won’t be able to regulate their body temperature when dehydrated, so it’s harder for them to warm up, which can be quite dangerous in frigid temperatures.

Do Chickens Need Water Overnight?

Chickens are like us: awake during the day and asleep at night. Also, once they settle in for a good roost at night, they will remain asleep throughout the evening, so they won’t likely get up for a midnight snack and drink of water.

It’s still best, though, to keep food and water inside the coop, or you risk the feed getting wet from the weather and going moldy. It can also be an attraction to pests.

How Much Water Do Chickens Need?

Chickens spend most of their time foraging and need constant access to food and water. Chickens that spend most of their time indoors need about 180 mL–250 mL of water every day, but outdoor chickens usually need more (almost twice as much).

Your safest bet is to ensure that you provide a chicken with 500 mL of fresh and clean water daily. That is if you have one chicken, so you’ll need to increase that amount if you have a flock.

If the weather is particularly hot, you’ll probably want to give them fresh water twice a day in case the water evaporates or gets too warm to drink.

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When Your Chicken Has Been Without Water

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The first thing that you need to do is obvious: Give them water before anything else. You won’t want your chicken to eat before being given water, as their crop will be dried out, and without the proper moisture in it, they can develop crop issues.

Impacted crops can happen when chickens eat too much food without the right amount of moisture.

Once they’ve had their fill of water, you should provide them with wet feed, as it will be easier for them to digest.

Best Ways to Provide Chickens With Water

1.

Keep it in the shade: You should keep the chicken’s water source in the shade, particularly on hot days. Water in the heat can evaporate quickly and be too warm to drink. This will also mean you’ll be replenishing the water much more frequently.

2.

Elevate those containers: You’ll want the water containers to be a little higher off the ground so all the chicken’s scratching won’t kick dirt and debris into the water. You’ll need to find the sweet spot between high enough to avoid the dirt and low enough for your chickens to reach.

3.

Hide the containers: Don’t hide water from the chickens, of course, but you do want to ensure that the water is located in areas where other animals won’t see it. Consider keeping the food and water inside the coop.

4.

Provide enough water sources: Now that you know that one chicken needs about 250–500 mL of water per day, you’ll want to have enough containers if you have a larger flock of chickens. This will also help on hot days, and you need to ensure that all chickens will have a chance at getting their fill of water for the day.

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Conclusion

On normal days and with healthy chickens, they can go 2 days without water, but as you’ve learned, there are other factors to consider. Are the chickens healthy? Are they molting? How hot or cold is it?

It’s essential to ensure that your chickens have enough fresh and clean water every day, and the containers should be checked at least twice a day.


Featured Image Credit: Martchan, Shutterstock