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Can Chickens Swim? Will they drown?

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If you have chickens at home, and any type of water, you may be worried about whether or not your chickens can swim. I mean, it’s a reasonable question. With ducks and geese, this is a given. They are built for life in the water. But what about chickens? Should you be worried about them?

Can Chickens Swim? Chickens have a natural ability to swim but can do so only for short periods of time. Their feathers are not designed to repel water and as such, they become heavy and waterlogged which causes them to tire quickly.

chickens following little boy

Chicken Water Safety

Typically, you don’t have to worry about chickens around water. Your average chicken won’t ever purposefully enter the water. The real danger is when a chicken accidentally falls into a tank of water.

On a farm, this is probably the biggest danger your chickens will face. If you have other animals, especially hooved animals, you are likely to have water tubs and tanks sprinkled throughout your property so these animals can drink.

The smooth sides on livestock water tanks can create a drowning hazard for chickens. Inevitably a chicken will be wandering around, stop for a drink and decide one of your stock tanks is a good place to get that drink.

water bucket from well

If they fall in for any reason, whether because they lose their balance when leaning over to drink, or because another animal bumps into them or startles them and they fall, once in they may not be able to get out.

On the farm, if your chickens free-range, you will want to be sure that any standing water taller than a full grown chicken has a ramp, brick or other device a chicken can use to gain their footing and jump out.

Will A Chicken Drown?

A chicken, like any other air-breathing animal, can absolutely drown. Typically this happens because the chicken becomes waterlogged and tired.

There is a popular myth that chickens will drown in the rain.

Chickens will not drown in the rain. They should be provided a way to get out of the rain and stay dry or the rain could cause them to become cold or even hypothermic, resulting in death.

While this death could be misconstrued to be caused by drowning, the root cause is typically cold, not water.

Now, it is possible for chickens to drown in puddles caused by the rain. But it isn’t the rain itself drowning those chickens, its the water left behind.

Young chicks are particularly susceptible to drowning in the shallower puddles left by the rain. They are also much more susceptible to getting wet and cold.

rooster with other animals near water

What To Do If Your Chicken Was Swimming / Is Wet?

Drowning isn’t the only issue swimming can cause for a chicken. If they are submerged in cold water and not able to get dry and warm, they can get sick just like we would.

If you find that your chicken has fallen into the water and is soaking wet, you can use a blow dryer on a low setting to help them dry out. If you have an area on your farm for incubating chicks, with a heat lamp, that will work as well.

On a very hot day, this isn’t necessary, but it is always good to make sure your chicken is warm and dry before letting them spend the night outside in the cool air.

Do Chickens Like Swimming

Some chickens have developed an affinity for swimming. This is probably due to a combination of the chicken’s own confidence and explorative nature as well as encouragement from an enabling owner.

Roxy the swimming chicken is one such example. This Gold Laced Wyandotte hen appears to enjoy swimming in her owner’s pool.

Final Thoughts

While chickens can swim, they don’t naturally do so. Prolonged periods in the water can cause chickens to become waterlogged and tired, and ultimately lead to drowning. The best way to keep a chicken from drowning is to make sure that all water on the property is either shallow or has a way for the chicken to climb out if they should fall in accidentally.