Have you ever heard one of those stories that sounds so ridiculous the first time you hear it, that you just know it can’t be true? But then… you keep hearing it, over and over again, until you begin to wonder if there isn’t something to it.
This is the story of how chickens can drown in the rain came to be.
In all fairness, I don’t think this ‘homestead legend’ started with chickens. The story may actually have originated with turkeys; credit due to their particular level of intelligence being… ‘unique’. But at some point, the legend morphed (as they often do) and it became, ‘a chicken should NEVER be out in the rain, because they’ll drown.’
For the record, rain poses no direct threat to the respiratory system of a chicken.
While their nostrils, or more correctly termed ‘nares’ are on the top of their beak, their anatomical design prevents falling rain direct access to their nasal passage. And even if water should find its way into their nose, the inside of a chicken’s nares does have sensitivity.
This means in the event of something foreign (dust, moisture, bugs, ect) finding its way into your chicken’s nose, a sneeze would be triggered. And one good sneeze should be enough to push the undesired element out.
Admittedly, there are times that I do question the reasoning capability of some of the members in my flock. But I can tell you that none of them as so ‘limited’ as to repeatedly try and inhale water through their nose. (It just doesn’t feel good!)
Can Rain Kill Chickens?
While drowning in the rain (meaning the actual precipitation and not the resulting flood waters) is not a risk for your chicken, that does not mean that rain can not harm them.
In wet and cold conditions, a chicken is at risk from hypothermia.
Heat loss is more prevalent when water comes into direct contact with a chicken’s skin. And should the temperature be cold and the windy blustery, then your chicken’s ability to retain their body heat is going to be limited.
For this reason, it is necessary for anyone raising a flock of chickens to take certain precautions in order to ensure the well-being of their birds. And in the case of rain, your flock will need somewhere to dry off in – preferably a dry place that is out of the wind.
You will also need to provide an ample source of food, as generating body heat requires calories. And contrary to what you might think, your feathered friend will also need a good supply of drinking water (despite the fact that it was water that got them into trouble in the first place).
With their bodies working overtime to stay warm, they will require a certain amount of fluids. And if these fluids are not available, then your birds run the risk of dehydration – even in the rain.
With the nuances of chicken care being many, it can seem overwhelming to anyone looking to start their first flock. However, it pays to remember that chickens have innate instincts that have kept them around for thousands of years.
So the next time you see a chicken in the rain, don’t freak out.
Admittedly, these birds can, at times, be fairly ‘limited’ in their mental capacity. But rest assured that they have all that is necessary to survive a summer’s rain.
For an in-depth look at chickens playing in the rain, check out, ‘Should Chickens Be Out In The Rain?’