Skip to Content

How Long Can Chickens Go Without Water? [+ Flock Hydration Tips!]

How long can chickens go without water? Water is life – and there is no way around this fact. Like humans, all animals we take care of need to have a supply of clean drinking water to stay happy and healthy.

However, things happen on the farm and ranch – unexpectedly. Like flat tires, surprise droughts, power outages, and stormy weather that comes out of nowhere!

You may be the most responsible chicken owner, but experience an emergency that puts your chicken water supply at risk. In these cases, you may worry and wonder how long chickens go without water. How long will they last if they have no water available, and under what conditions?

Let us investigate more. Together!

Shall we?

How Long Can Chickens Go Without Water

When it comes to mere survival, in theory, healthy adult chickens can go without water for 48 hours. A lot depends on the temperatures and the age of the birds. In high heat, you can expect the first mortalities after only 12 hours, and baby chicks will last only about six hours without drinking.

To stay safe, double-check your flock’s watering stations multiple times daily. Never leave your chickens without water for more than six hours.

red chicken drinking from watering station
Our chicken-raising friends always ask us how long chickens can live without water. Our answer is always the same. Ensure your chickens have plenty of fresh drinking water at all times! That way – you never have to worry about your lovely birds dying of thirst. We also found a reliable source citing that your birds will suffer if they go without water for 10 hours. So – exceeding that number seems dangerous. And risky! (Keep your birds safe – and give them water at all times!)

Do Chickens Need Water Every Day?

Yes! They need water at all times! And while this question may sound naive to anyone who has ever taken care of animals, we should cover it just in case.

Never forget the animal welfare of your flock. If you are serious about the health and wellbeing of your chooks, never leave them without water just because you suppose they can survive.

After all, the consequences of dehydration come on fast and are sometimes irreversible. In the summer heat, the chicken’s health will suffer. And their productivity will fall even after only a couple of hours without drinking water. 

Also, if left without water, your flock will start to suffer from stress. And your laying hens will stop producing eggs.

7 Gallon Hanging Automatic Poultry Waterer | Little Giant
$67.80

Here's an excellent chicken watering station if you're worried about your birds going without water! It's a 7-gallon automatic waterer with an easy-access, wide-mouth opening. Your chickens get comfortable access to plenty of clean water. You can quickly see how much water remains inside the dispenser at first glance. And - it has a rugged handle so you can move it around your yard without stress.

Get More Info
We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
09/27/2022 03:03 pm GMT

How Long Does It Take for a Chicken to Get Dehydrated?

The time it takes for a chicken to dehydrate depends on many factors. Temperatures and fitness are two critical factors. Since birds have fast metabolisms, only a few hours without water will kickstart dehydration. That is why learning the signs of dehydration and symptoms is crucial to helping your chooks in time. And it is why you must ensure your entire coop has plenty of fresh water 24/7.

Read More – 13 Free Chicken Box Nesting Plans!

How Can You Tell If a Chicken Is Dehydrated?

Dehydration in chickens – and birds in general – is a dangerous condition. It comes on suddenly! And unless your birds get something to drink quickly – it can be fatal. That means that even if you get to your chickens while still alive, severe dehydration can sometimes lead to death. No matter how hard you try to fix it!

That is why it is crucial to recognize the symptoms of dehydration in time.

A vital pre-dehydration symptom, especially during the hot weather, is panting. The birds will open their beaks and pant to cool down. Panting doesn’t always lead to dehydration (especially when water is available), but dehydration is always preceded by panting.

The next sign is paleness in the face. Look for the comb and wattles to appear of unusual color. Again, similar to panting, paleness doesn’t signal dehydration exclusively. Instead, it is a sign that the bird is unwell. However, the signs that follow do signal dehydration.

The definite signs of dehydration in chickens are the following.

  • Heavy breathing
  • Slightly spreading the wings away from the body while panting
  • Diarrhea (this is where things get dangerous)
  • Limp body
  • Lethargic behavior
  • Skin that doesn’t spring back as usual after being pinched
  • Convulsions and seizures
  • Unresponsiveness

Of course, if you see a chick suffering from dehydration, don’t give up! Saving your flock-mate is worth a try. 

As with humans and other animals, there are strategies and formulations to rehydrate the suffering chooks and re-supply their bodies with electrolytes. It is always wise to rely on the advice of experienced chicken enthusiasts.

red chicken drinking from wooden bucket on rural farm
We found an excellent chicken-raising report about how long chickens can survive without water. And food! The clean water report on the University of California (Cooperative Extension) website specifies that chickens can (potentially and theoretically) last for weeks without food. But water is a different story! Your birds can only survive a few days without water – and potentially less if the temperature is high.

How Long Can Chickens Go Unattended

No chicken rancher in their right mind should leave their chickens without water or food! However, even the most diligent chicken farmers may have to leave their chickens unattended for more than a few hours – for half a day or even exceeding 24 hours.

But that does not mean you should let your chickens suffer in your absence!

A better option is to have your absence planned – then you can ensure to supply your animals with enough food and water. 

How long chickens can go unattended is dictated by their need for food and water over all other things. So – if you must leave your ranch or homestead, ensure someone is there to check their food supply and watering stations.

(We’re also afraid of leaving your chicken unattended because predators always try to snatch them from their coop!)

Read More – Fermented Chicken Feed Guide! Plus Our Top Five Recipes!

Do Chickens Need Water Overnight?

Yes! Your chickens need clean drinking water. Even at night! That said – we find that most chickens don’t drink at night. Here’s why.

Chickens are diurnal creatures, meaning they conduct their business during the day and sleep soundly at night. They have very poor eyesight at dusk and do not see in the dark. But even if the chicken coop lights stay on during the night, they will still choose to settle down and sleep.

What that means for supplies is that chickens are extremely unlikely to eat or drink at night. Unlike the also-diurnal humans, chooks don’t rob their fridge equivalents at night and don’t seem to suffer from the hungry horrors during the evening hours.

The same applies to water. Chickens sleep at night and are unlikely to get up for a sip of water.

However, since chickens can dehydrate extremely fast – we urge you to provide plenty of fresh water to your flock – around the clock!

rural farm chicken drinking water from kettle
When you raise chickens for the first time – don’t feel alarmed if your chickens drink a surprising amount of water. We read on the Alabama A&M Extension blog that chickens usually drink twice as much as they eat pound-for-pound! So if your coop consumes 100 pounds of chicken feed – expect them to drink 200 pounds of water. And – your ever-thirsty flock’s drinking levels may also increase during the hot weather! (We can’t blame them. We get thirsty under the hot sun too!)

Can Chickens Go 24 Hours Without Water?

Maybe. Chickens can survive without water for 24 hours if housed in a relatively sheltered and cool spot versus being exposed to intense heat.

However, if they happen to get exposed to the harsh sun with no way to escape, it is unlikely they will last for 24 hours, let alone 48 hours which is, as I’ve said, considered the maximum a chicken can survive without water.

As a precaution, we feel uncomfortable letting chicks stay without a source of drinking water for more than six hours. If the crisis goes on, they will become dehydrated. As you’ve already learned, dehydration quickly leads to an overall decline. And it will kill a bird surprisingly fast.

Can Chickens Go 24 Hours Without Food?

Nearly all animals we’ve researched can last without food for longer than without water. In theory, adult chickens can survive for days or weeks without food.

Free-range chickens can go without food (additional regular feed, that is) for a long time – depending on the food availability in the environment.

There is one catch with food and water for chickens. Birds and especially grain-eating poultry, need water to soften and consume food. Otherwise, their crops dry out. As a result, the food hardens and cannot get easily digested. So, the ability to process food directly depends on the accessibility of water. 

That is why chickens will likely stop eating if there is no water available.

young chickens drinking drops of water
We found a printer-friendly winter chicken-raising fact sheet citing that your flock needs plenty of water 24/7. The article raises a valid concern for hydrating your chickens during the winter! Remember that your chicken watering station may freeze. So – double (and triple) check your watering stations a few times per day. And – replace your watering bowls frequently to ensure they don’t freeze!

How Do I Ensure My Chickens Will Have Water While I’m Gone?

If you need to be gone for several days, the best way to ensure a steady fresh water supply is to have a trusted family member double-check while you’re away. You can also have an automatic chicken waterer or a chicken fountain. You can buy the ready-made product or make your own with additional effort.

If you don’t need to get automated but want to ensure that the water will not get spilled by stronger chooks and wasted, pick a quality waterer that can’t get flipped over. A hanging bucket waterer with water nipples might be a great choice both safety-wise and hygiene-wise.

Can Chickens Drink Tap Water?

If you raise aquarium fish, you might know that some tap water is unhealthy for them – potentially due to the chlorine content. That might make you wonder if chlorinated tap water (and tap water in general) is also a poor choice for your chooks.

Luckily, tap water is perfectly safe for your chickens to drink. That is – if it is safe for human consumption, it is safe for birds. The tiny amount of chlorine or fluoride in tap water won’t harm them, but the former will ensure that the water is 100 percent void of harmful microorganisms.

The ultimate rule for chicken water quality is to ensure it is always fresh and clean.

Read More – Can Chickens Eat Grapes? What About Grape Vines?

Conclusion

Like most other creatures, chickens require a constant supply of clean and fresh drinking water. Doubly so during the temperature extremes when it is very hot or frigid (and the water is prone to freezing). 

Regarding how long a chicken can survive without water, 48 hours is the theoretical maximum for healthy adult chickens in moderate temperatures. However, I wouldn’t risk testing this – the price can be too high. If too much time passes, at best, your flock will get stressed, weak, dehydrated, and stop laying. At worse, they will face a miserable death. 

Thus, it is better to secure your chooks with reliable chicken waterers that will ensure a steady water supply even in the case of your absence. To be safe, double-check your poultry watering stations to ensure they always have plenty of water to drink!

What about your flock?

How do you ensure they always have plenty of clean and fresh water?

We love hearing your feedback and swapping farm stories and tips.

Thanks again for reading.

And – have a great day!

Keep reading!

Share the love!

Author

  • An environmental analyst, gardener, insect enthusiast, and a mom of three, trying to pour her life-long naturalist experience into useful articles. She is passionate about protecting biodiversity, achieving harmony with natural ecosystems, and raising kids conscious of - and conscientious about - our shared environment.