Just like you, chickens need fresh, clean water to thrive. Follow these easy tips to quench your chicken's thirst so they can be healthy, strong, and egg-cellent layers.
While a chicken will drink, on average, a pint a day, it can vary widely depending on the season, the size of the hen, and the outside temperature. In the height of the summer when temperatures are climbing above 90 degrees, a single chicken can drink up to a quart in one day. That’s why it’s essential that you check your watering system often to make sure that your girls have a constant supply.
How do you feel about drinking water with floaties? Yup, chickens don’t like it either. Just like you don’t love drinking water from a cup that’s been sitting out for days or has weird things floating in it, chickens want their water to be fresh and clean.
To keep your chicken’s water supply free from food, shavings, and other icky things, go for height. Either suspending the watering system from the ceiling of the coop or placing it on a stack of bricks or wood to raise it off the floor will keep the good water in and the yucky stuff out. Aim for the waterer to be as high as your shortest bird’s shoulders.
You can also try out a watering system with nipples— openings big enough to drink from, but tiny enough to keep the ick out. You will need to train your chickens how to use the nipples. Once one chicken figures it out, though, usually the rest will follow suit.
Have you noticed the similarities between your water preferences and your flock’s yet? Just like you, chickens are partial to cool water. While keeping water cool in the winter isn’t hard (more on that later), it can be an issue in the summer. The solution? Ice cubes! Keeping their water on the rocks will ensure they’ll want to keep drinking, especially when they need extra hydration in hot weather.
Wintertime brings the opposite struggle for water. With subzero temperatures, your watering system can easily freeze, completely cutting off the hen’s water supply. If you don’t want to move the water into the coop (it can get wet, messy, and increase risk for frostbite), look into a thermostatically controlled deicer. These can come installed a watering system, or you can buy an individual one that you can place inside the system you already use. With either option, once your water reaches a certain temperature, the deicer will kick on and bring the water up to a temperature above freezing.
To help your hens stay in tip-top shape, you may be interested in adding vitamins or supplements to their water like a chicken water protector. Apple cider vinegar can help their digestive system and liquid vitamins can maintain their egg production. Supplements can change the taste of the water, though, so when introducing the supplements, add them in gradually, increasing the dose over a few weeks so the chickens can get used to the taste and not go on a water strike.
Watering systems can also get rusty or grow algae, depending on what they’re made of, so make sure you clean out your container regularly. Adding apple cider vinegar to the water will also discourage algae growth.
You have a lot of options when it comes to chicken watering systems — here are four options you can consider.
Pros: traditional look, durable, vacuum pressure allows water level to remain consistent
Cons: reacts to vinegar, potential to rust, metal is sensitive to temperature so water will be colder in winter and hotter in summer, may have to fill daily or more often
Pros: non-reactive to vinegar and supplements, won’t stain, better insulated against extreme temps
Cons: less aesthetically pleasing, may have to fill daily or more often
Pros: non-reactive, non-staining, insulated, larger capacity than gravity fill waterers (only have to fill monthly), can sit on the floor (don't need to be raised)
Cons: teaching older chickens to use the system can be harder—try to start with young chickens
Pros: Can be more affordable, you control how it looks
Cons: takes extra time and effort, could be harder to keep consistent water level