Chickens and water are a puzzling combination. I’ve seen my flocks spend hours outside, busily pecking at the ground in a cold October rain, seemingly oblivious to the miserable conditions. And then other times, the birds will work very hard to avoid the sprinkler, even when it is ridiculously hot outside.
It defies logic… at least my logic anyhow.
While, in extraordinary circumstances, it is possible to give your chicken a warm bath, generally speaking, a chicken will not bathe in water. Their preferred method of hygiene involves a dirt bath and preening – not water.
For the record, using dirt to absorb any unwanted oils on their skin is probably much more effective than trying to rinse things off. We have the luxury of using soap to rid ourselves of unpleasantness. Even if a chicken did want to take bath, they don’t have the digits to really work up a lather. They do, however, have the ability to dig holes and cover themselves with dirt.
Will Chickens Use The Bird Bath?
Watching the robins splash and play in the bird bath is just outright fun. Those little feathered fiends can empty out the water in a flash, causing me to make regular trips out to fill it back up! But it is a task I enjoy doing as I know that my efforts are appreciated.
But what about chickens? Will they use the bird bath?
A chicken is very likely to perch on the bird bath and take a drink. In this way, they are making use of the bird bath. However, they are not likely to submerge themselves in the water, the same way that a robin or a sparrow would.
This is not to say the they will ‘never’ do this, but that it would be very unusual. (Chickens are notoriously good at not reading the memo!!!)
### Important Note ###
If you choose to have a bird bath that is accessible to the chickens, then care should be taken in order to accommodate a chicken’s weight.
Chickens are fat (there I said it!). They’re not just big boned, they’re heavy. A Jersey Giant rooster can weigh up to 13lbs. If your bird bath is not built to have a big chicken sitting on the edge of it, then the bath could fall over, potentially causing injury.
Will Chickens Cool Off In Water?
As mentioned above, chickens will generally avoid water other than to drink. This is not a universal law, but rather an observation of typical flock behavior.
With regards to hot summer days, the best way to cool your flock down is by providing them a shady place to lay in, as well as, some cool juicy treats, such as grapes or watermelon to eat. Should you try and force your flock to endure the cooling water of the sprinkler, you could very well cause them stress.
If you still feel inclined to offer it to them, simply place the sprinkler away from the chickens and turn it on. In the unlikely event that they choose to indulge themselves, then you’ve done them a real favor. If, however, they do not, then hopefully you’ve placed the sprinkler far enough away from them as to not disturb their peace.
Should I Bathe My Chickens?
One would think that with a life that is totally spent outdoors and close to the ground, that chickens should be bathed regularly. However, this is not the case. For more on this read, ‘Are Chickens Dirty Animals?’
Other than a few rare exceptions, chickens should not be given a conventional water bath, but rather access to loose dirt whereby they can take a dust bath. In this way, you will have worked with the bird’s natural instincts.
However, it is possible that there might be times where going against their natural instincts is advised.
A hen with a bound egg, for example, could benefit greatly from a warm bath. This process could relax things for the poor girl and help allow the egg to pass.
### Important Note ###
Bound eggs can be fatal, so consult your veterinarian if that is an option for you.
How Do You Make A Dirt Bath For Chickens?
For those who are unfamiliar with the antics of an outdoor flock of chickens, these birds like to ‘flop around’ in strange disturbing motions as they cover themselves with dirt. This is completely normal for the bird, despite the fact that it looks like the animal is having a heart-attack.
If I’m being honest, the first time I witnessed this I freaked, convinced that there was something REALLY wrong with my little egg-machine. But it turns out, it was just being a chicken.
I have found that if a chicken has access to the ground, they will dig themselves a hole and make their own dirt bath. If however, soft ground is not available, then a kitty litter pan filled with fine sand makes a great dirt bath for chickens.
It should be noted, that you will probably need to clean the manufactured dirt bath on occasion as chicken excrete waste without regard. And you don’t want them taking a bath in that.
However, I have never found it necessary to do this when chickens have access to the ground. For whatever reason, they seem to be able to keep that area clear as they going about ridding themselves of oils and potential pests, such as mites.