Water

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Many people don’t include information about water in their information about keeping chickens – because it is, well, just water isn’t it? Well, in fact there is much to be said about drinking water for chickens and it is absolutely essential for their well being.

Here are the main things you need to know about water:

Dirty Water

Dirty Water or Bacteria Soup?

Water needs to be fresh: if you leave it in the container for a few days at a time, it will start to go stagnant and turn green.

Now I hear you say that chickens can drink out of a muddy puddle and it does them no harm? That water is usually fresh rain water and the mud will certainly not harm them – but water kept in plastic containers that has turned green should be thought of as “bacteria soup” because it’s full of bacteria that can harm them.

Green drinking water is a sure way to be asking for trouble with diseases and should be avoided.

Changing their water daily or every-other day is easy enough and if you rinse the container out, you can use a small washing up brush around the lip and inside to remove any build-up of anything nasty.

A chicken’s body is constantly challenged by bacteria that cause diseases in their environment. Their body will build up an immunity (known as acquired immunity), however giving them large doses of “bacteria soup” will risk them becoming ill so please change water daily or at least every other day!

When you change their water, watch them rush over and take a drink – they do appreciate clean drinking water!

Carrying Chicken Water ContainersWater needs to be kept in the shade during very hot weather: Chickens can handle the cold very well, they fluff up their feathers to trap air which insulates their body, however they can’t handle the heat very well. Chickens can’t sweat, they can only pant to lose heat through the air they breathe out and drink water to cool themselves down. During very hot weather, it is best to place their (fresh!) water in a shaded position (and after reading about shelter for chickens under the ‘Getting Started’ menu, you will of course be providing them with adequate shade).

Water containers left in the sunlight can soon heat up the water inside to a high temperature which means chickens can’t lose as much heat by drinking so please, keep their water in the shade during hot weather and if you can, give them some fresh, cool water when it’s hot.

Water containers

Water containers for chickens come in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit your needs. Some are galvanised and will last a very long time but the majority are plastic.

Galvanised Containers:

  • Last a life time, withstands Knocks
  • Withstands frost
  • Cannot be used to give Apple Cider Vinegar since the acid corrodes the galvanising
  • Doesn’t show you how much is left in the container.

Plastic Containers:

  • Can be used to give Apple Cider Vinegar in the water
  • Shows you how much water is left
  • Will only last a couple of years – bases crack, locking bits snap off or handles break, colours fade in the sun.
  • Will crack if you drop or knock it when full.

There is a full range of water containers for sale on this page at Amazon.

57 Comments

  1. My family are getting 2 hens. Is it alright to put feed and/or water in ceramic bowls?
    It sounds kinda stupid but just to make sure.

    • That’s fine but you will find the feed will get flicked out everywhere and the water will get muck in it. There are a number of feeders available that overcome this problem.

    • Not at all. If they free range and have a good diet with fresh, clean water, they should be fine.

  2. My galvanized waterer was getting full of muck a few hours after changing the water. So I changed to a hanging bucket with the metal nipples. The problem is it has been 2 days and the chickens don’t seem to know that the nipples are their water. I thought they would peck at them since they are red just out of curiosity and learn that it is water, but they haven’t. Any suggestions?

    • I haven’t used these before but I think a call to the supplier might help. They usually know how you should get them started.

  3. do they need to have water in their coop over night, or just outside during the day? if so where do you put the container in the coop?

    • It’s an organic approach so some people give it weekly, even all the time but as a general rule of thumb, one week per month is good. I always give it for the first week of the month so I remember when to give it.

    • Please read my page (or the page on poultrykeeper.com) about Apple Cider Vinegar – this should help.

  4. I obtained some hens from the welfare trust in mid may 2014. I cannot see any sign of worms but should i be proactive and start giving worm treatment, or wait until I find evidence of worms, thank you.

    • In an ideal world, we would send off samples for testing the worm egg count and only worm when necessary but unless you are a commercial farmer, the expense isn’t usually warranted for a small flock.

      So as hobby keepers we normally worm every 3 months when birds are on the same ground or some worm every 6 months if their birds are on a larger area or have different ground that they can be moved onto regularly.

  5. How much apple cider vinegar should I add to my chickens water. I have an automatic water system but from this heat it still gets green

    • The dilution rate is usually on the pack – about 20ml per litre (2%).

      It’s herbal though so it’s not critical – I usually put in a splash without measuring it!

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