You may be enjoying a little rain in your garden and wondering if your chickens would want the same.
Chickens can generally be out in the rain, provided they have shelter to retreat to and are not young or unwell. In some more temperate climates, chickens may even enjoy being out during a light rain. However, rain combined with wind and low temperatures can pose a health risk to your chickens.
As you probably are already aware, chickens have their own personalities. And it may not come as a surprise that chickens have their individual preferences when it comes to rain; some chickens may want to stay out while others may run for cover.
No matter their preferences, it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure that the flock stays safe in the rain, and leaving the decision up to chickens is not always the best idea. Chickens’ water-resistant feathers can only protect them for so long, and eventually, chickens will fall ill if they stay out while it’s pouring heavily.
Since it is up to the keeper to decide where chickens stay when it is raining, the decision should be informed and knowledgeable. For instance, knowing why some breeds of chickens like rain more than others or how much rain is too much or what harm can a little rain do to these hardy birds will help keep them protected and healthy. So, if you have a fluffy flock and the rainy season awaits you then answers to the following fundamental questions are all you need to know to keep your chickens happy!
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Do Chickens have Water-Resistant Feathers?
Chickens have water-resistant feathers, but they are not going to keep a chicken dry in a rainstorm. Chicken’s feathers do not alleviate the risk of hypothermia and other diseases that can be caused by prolonged exposure to heavy downpour.
In short, a chicken cannot be expected to stay dry on its own even though its feathers may be able to repel water to an extent. The problem arises when chicken’s feathers get soaked and the skin also gets wet as this can result in it catching a cold or other associated illness.
It should be noted that chickens can withstand light rain for a short amount of time, and they may even enjoy it. Some breeds can endure the rainy weather for a relatively longer period like Rhode Islands as they have tight feathers but breeds like Silkies and Poland with loose feathers and zero water-resistance are at higher risk of falling ill.
How Does Staying in Rain Impact Chickens?
It is established that chickens can withstand mild rain and may even enjoy the experience, but staying wet for a long time can have a bad effect on their health. Although chickens are hardy birds, they cannot endure a fast drop in their body temperature. Consequently, they may quickly show signs of hypothermia if the body temperature goes under their typical 105o F. A chicken suffering from hypothermia may start shaking and shivering, have a hard time breathing and its skin and comb may turn blue or pale.
Besides hypothermia, soaked chickens are susceptible to various respiratory illnesses. The common symptoms after a lengthier period of hypothermia include runny nose, teary eyes, coughing, sneezing, and labored breathing. Wet places are usually the breeding grounds for various fungi and bacteria. Wet chicken feathers are prone to fungal infection which is hard to catch early on as it starts at the base of feathers.
Heavy downpour is not appreciated by a flock as it is a cause of high stress among the chickens. A stress hormone called corticosteroid is released in their body which compromises chickens’ immunity making them weak. In short, a stressed chicken means low immunity and higher vulnerability to viral and bacterial infections.
Can You Rely on Chickens to Seek Shelter?
The next question that may arise is whether chickens are smart enough to know how much rain is too much and seek shelter.
The answer is not that simple. Although, some chickens are instinctively not very fond of rain and learn to stay out of it, do not depend on your flock to head to the coop or the run.
The key to keep your flock thriving is not to rely on your chickens’ instincts alone. Adult chickens may look for a dry and safe place in the rain, but young chooks depend on you to keep them safe.
Even some adult inexperienced chickens, like rescues, may get soaked and be oblivious to the fact that it is bad for them.
Make sure your chickens have access to shelter and placeswhere they can dry off in rain, particularly, young chickens as they have a high chance of getting sick.
Some young members of the flock may follow the more experienced ones to the shelter but, in the end, the keeper must step in to ensure they are covered and kept dry.
Having more than one place as to dry off can benefit the chickens in case one space gets crowded or difficult to get into.
When Is Rain Good for the Chickens?
Healthy chickens are well-equipped to survive in a lighter drizzle. They should be able to enjoy the perks of light rain like the worms that come to the surface and the unfortunate, wet, bugs.
Your flock can enjoy these crunchy treats that effortlessly come their way in the rain without worrying too much about the predators. If you have a flock, just remember that sparse rain is good and fun but heavy downpour not so much.
How to Keep Chickens Safe in the Rain?
Although constant exposure to rain, not having a place to dry off combined with a drop in temperature can hurt the flock, these are not the only factors that can impact the flock’s health.
High moisture levels also affect chicken indirectly by providing bacteria and fungi with optimal conditions to grow. Therefore, it is critical to take extra steps to keep your chubby chooks strong. Here are the measures that you should take if the rainy season is upon you and your fluffy flock:
Make sure that chickens have a proper shelter from the rain. Adult chickens may head to the coop, but this can cause a problem for chickens that are low in the pecking order.
It may be difficult for young chickens to get inside the coop as adults may block their way. To cope with this issue, it is a good idea to have more than one shelter.
An area with sturdy sheeting is sufficient as long as it gives the flock a chance to dry off and a place to stay out of the rain. Be proactive and fix any leaks in the coop beforehand.
It is also important to keep chicken feed dry in the rain. Provide your birdies with sufficient feed and water, as they need the energy to deal with cold temperatures. For more info, check out this article on how cold is too cold for chickens.
Remember that contaminated feed can lead to illness in chickens.
Avoid Moisture and Humidity
Moisture is not your friend and a muddy coop or run is a breeding ground for all sorts of parasites like intestinal worms. Make sure that the coop gets enough sunlight and has good ventilation.
Take measures to keep the coop and the run dry and clean. If the problem has already occurred, then use woodchips to absorb the moisture.
Put in perches and roosts to keep chickens off the muddy ground. Choose the bedding wisely and change it if it gets wet.
These preemptive measures will help keep your flock healthy and thriving. Finally, give your chickens some love and keep an eye on them to detect any signs of illness early on.