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How Much Water Do Chickens Need to Drink Per Day?

E. L. Danvers is a full-time professional writer and investigative journalist based in Southern California.

Read on for more info on how much water to give your chickens each day, as well as how to combat heat stress and dehydration.

Read on for more info on how much water to give your chickens each day, as well as how to combat heat stress and dehydration.

Properly Hydrating Your Chickens

There is no hard and fast rule about how much water each chicken will drink in a day.

One thing is certain: chickens need an ample supply of fresh, clean water available at all times. Their waterer must be clean of dirt and algae build-up, and the water must be reasonably fresh. Most chicken owners empty and refill their waterers at least every other day to keep the water from going stale or getting fouled with dust and algae.

A chicken’s water needs depend on size, age, and status. A laying hen requires much more water than a non-laying hen or a rooster. Eggs are at least 85% water, which is drawn from the hen’s body. Obviously, she needs to replenish that amount of water on top of her daily normal water requirements.

Meat birds also drink more water than regular pullets because they grow quickly. Their bodies require more of everything—more feed, and more water as well.

The chicken’s diet also affects the amount of water they require. A free-range chicken consuming a lot of juicy bugs and plants will not need as much water as a chicken eating only dry pellet food.

The weather and climate will play a part, as well. In hot weather, a chicken will drink more water. Chickens in a very dry climate will drink more water than chickens in a humid climate.

The only real way to answer this question is through direct observation, however, since most research related to the water consumption of chickens has been performed in broiler settings, where mass amounts of chickens are bred specifically for meat consumption.

I would err on the safe side, however, and budget half a gallon of water per chicken per day to start. When in doubt, always err on the side of providing too much water rather than too little. For example, if you have three chickens and are choosing between a one-gallon and a five-gallon waterer, buy the five-gallon.

I have four laying hens who together drink about half a gallon of water daily. However, I live in the Pacific Northwest’s mild and humid climate. They are in the shade most of the day and roam about the yard in a chicken tractor. I would take this data—sixteen ounces of water per chicken per day—as an absolute bare minimum.

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Chicken Heat Stress and Dehydration

Heatwaves and high-temperature environments can be serious threats to your chickens. In extended periods of high heat, hens will actually stop laying eggs. Temperatures above 104° Fahrenheit (40° Celsius) may even risk a chicken’s life.

You can fight back against heat stress in a number of ways, including:

  • Supplement your chickens’ water with electrolytes. You might try using Life-Lytes Supplement, a poultry-specific vitamin and electrolyte supplement. (You can also find a homemade electrolyte solution in the Sources section below.)
  • You can set up a few inexpensive misters in the area where your chickens roam. The water particles in the air will help cool your chickens down.
  • If the weather is getting excessively hot, you can keep a tub of cool water on standby. If one of your chickens looks excessively hot, you can submerge it up to its neck to help cool it down. One way of knowing a chicken is very hot is if it’s constantly lifting its wings slightly. This means it’s trying to improve airflow about its body.

Sources and Further Reading

Comments

Alesia on August 04, 2012:

I'm worried that my chickens aren't drinking what they ought. I have 22 chickens-7 roosters and 15 hens that are beginning to lay. In this heat 90's they are drinking total of 1/2 gallon or less for all of them. I can't cram it down their throats. I change it every single day and I also put out extra containers where they hang out and still only drink very little. What should I do?

India Arnold from Northern, California on March 04, 2011:

Great information for those who are new to the world of chickens! I'm linking in Erika, if you don't mind. Good work here.

K9

mtsi1098 on September 11, 2010:

Interesting...my parakeets hardly drink any water...congrats on your 100th hub...

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