Water is the source of life for virtually every living thing on Earth. Dehydration, one way or the other, will be a death sentence for people and animals.
If you own livestock, you know how critical it is that they have constant access to fresh drinking water.
We already know how much can chickens last without food. But how long can your chickens last without any water?
In a mild weather conditions an adult chicken can last about 48 hours without water, while a chick may last between 6 and 8 hours without water. Hot, humid conditions greatly increase a chicken’s demand for water.
In other words, chickens won’t last very long at all without water, and adult chickens will last about as long as an adult human in the same conditions without any water.
Keeping your chickens hydrated is priority number one, so keep reading to learn about all the factors involved in determining their water requirements.
What Happens if a Chicken Doesn’t Get Water?
If your chickens don’t get access to enough water in a timely enough fashion, they will begin to dehydrate.
Dehydration impairs all of their bodily processes, including their ability to digest food, pass waste and fight off disease.
In hot weather, dehydration can also lead to heat stroke, which is potentially fatal.
All of these factors combined become debilitating quite quickly, and might put a chicken at substantial risk well before dehydration itself kills.
Laying hens will stop laying quickly when they become dehydrated, so if you’re relying on eggs for income or food, it’s doubly important to make sure they always have plenty of water.
How Much Water Does a Chicken Drink in a Day?
The amount of water a chicken drinks in a day can vary greatly depending on the weather, their stage of life, and overall health.
Chickens generally drink between 1 and two cups of water per day in mild weather. However, in hot weather they can drink up to four times that amount.
It’s important to make sure your chickens have constant access to clean water so they can stay hydrated in all conditions.
Of course, these are just averages. Some chickens may drink more or less depending on their individual needs.
How Much Water Does an Adult Chicken Need?
Adult chickens drink more water than chicks, but they don’t need as much water per day as you might think.
The average adult chicken needs between 1 and 4 cups of water per day, depending on the weather conditions.
A laying hen will need twice as much water as normal since her eggs will be using up a ton of water.
How Much Water Does a Baby Chick Need?
Chicks need less water overall than adults, but their demand for water is far higher, as they dehydrate much faster and are less able to resist the effects of dehydration.
A baby chick needs between 0.5 and 1 cups of water per day.
However, it’s important to note that chicks dehydrate much faster than adult chickens. This means they need access to water more frequently throughout the day.
It is especially important to ensure chicks have constant and uninterrupted access to fresh water.
Climate Makes a Big Difference
As one would expect, local climate and weather conditions make a huge difference in an animal’s demand for water. This certainly includes our chickens.
In cooler weather, chickens will need less water if they maintain the same activity level, whereas they will need dramatically more water regardless of activity and hot, humid, or extremely dry conditions.
Accordingly, you should adjust your estimation of how long they can last without water based on the typical conditions that they live in.
If you live in a particularly hot or extremely dry place your chickens may only last 36 hours without access to water, or perhaps even shorter.
And the hottest environments, chickens cannot go even a whole day without access to water.
Chicks, as always, are extremely vulnerable to dehydration and without constant access to water in the same conditions can die in as little as two or three hours.
How Can You Tell If a Chicken is Dehydrated?
The first sign of dehydration in a chicken is usually labored breathing.
As dehydration grows more severe, other symptoms will begin to manifest, such as general lethargy, lifting the wings away from their torso, loss of color in their combs/wattles, and eventually seizure followed by coma.
If left unchecked, severe dehydration can lead to organ failure and death. In fact, dehydration is one of the leading causes of death in chickens.
This is why it’s so important to make sure your chickens always have access to plenty of clean, fresh water.
Do Chickens Need Water at Night?
As a general rule of thumb, chickens are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day and inactive at night.
Usually because they are asleep, but even if they aren’t sleeping they are usually roosted and resting.
They generally won’t get up to get a drink in the middle of the night, although you might occasionally notice this behavior if you were watching.
However, this is no excuse for allowing your chickens to go without water. You should always allow your chickens access to fresh, clean water at all times, even at night.
How Long Can a Chicken Go Without Water in the Winter?
Extremely cold weather does not reduce or eliminate a chicken’s need for water, and the time that it takes them to perish from dehydration remains about the baseline quoted above: 48 hours for healthy adults, and around 6 hours for chicks.
Do not assume that because it is cold outside your chickens will need any less water. You’ll also have to contend with potentially freezing temperatures impairing their access to their usual water supplies.
Will a Chicken Eat Snow to get Water?
Yes, they can. However, this is a desperate move when chickens don’t have access to liquid water.
It is very hard on their bodies, and chickens are trading body heat for water, a transaction that will eventually kill them from hypothermia if they do not perish from dehydration anyway.
Never, ever allow your chickens to attempt to subsist on snow for their water requirements.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.