If you own chickens, then they’ll likely be many an occasion where it rains. Can your chickens be out in it, will they like such conditions, and is it even safe for them? This is how you are going to need to respond!
So, do chickens like rain? Some chickens enjoy going out in the rain, while others don’t. Either way, the rain is not good for chickens and while their feathers are water-resistant, they are not waterproof. Prolonged exposure, particularly to heavy rain and in accompanying cold temperatures, can cause illness and disease.
This is why it is important that you provide shelter and routinely clean and remove wet and damp hay/bedding as often as possible.
Let us now explore the topic in greater depth so that you can get a better understanding of how to look after your flock, and ensure their health and happiness, as much as possible. Even if you live in an area of greater rainfall.
Is It Ok For Chickens To Be Out In The Rain?
Chickens are hardy birds and can withstand very cold temperatures. This is just one of the reasons why they make such great pets.
You can raise chickens quite well on a modest budget, and they do not tend to need a lot of costly extras.
For example, if you do decide to get supplemental heating, all you really need is one/a a couple of heating pads which you can get for excellent prices on Amazon.
While heating is optional, when it comes to the rain, however, that’s quite another story.
Some chickens will willingly go out in the rain and have a runaround. But whether they enjoy it or not, the question remains, is it ok for them to be out in the rain?
Chickens are intelligent, and they will often look for and seek out shelter. However, if your coop does not provide such protection, you will need to scoop up any chicken out in the rain, and quickly run for cover. This is because it isn’t good for them to be out in it.
Young birds, in particular, do not generally think to run for shelter.
Battery hens, who’ve never experienced rain before, will also stand around admiring the raindrops.
Some breeds can handle wet conditions better than others, but the majority of them will suffer afterward.
Hens need space to exercise, and they need to be active even if there is a lot of rain.
Therefore, you must make sure that their runs and coops are well sheltered, with a strong covered roof, to keep the rain out.
Make sure that the roof is well secured, won’t blow away easily, and is predator-proof.
There are various options when it comes to creating shelter. Some chicken owners like to manufacture them themselves. While this takes knowledge, skill, and know-how there are plenty of DIY videos on YouTube that you can follow along to build them.
They generally work out cheaper but of course, will take time to construct. A lot of the items, like corrugated roof material, can be purchased on Amazon.
Besides this, there are pre-built, well-designed, and solid coops that you can buy that come with shelters.
Below are some of the best you will find at various price points and for various requirements and needs.
Do Chickens Have Waterproof Feathers?
There is some misunderstanding about whether Chicken feathers are waterproof or not. The truth is that their feathers are not waterproof, they are, however, water-resistant.
They indeed have lots of feathers, which protect them from the rain, but, only to a degree.
They can only handle so much and for so much time. If they stand out in heavy rain for too long, they will get soaked.
The reason their feathers are water-resistant is due to the structure of their feathers and not the oil produced from their glands.
To closely examine the formation of their feathers, you must start with the shaft. The feathers on the shaft, are comprised of calamus (feathers close to the body) and rachis (feathers away from the body).
Diverging from the rachis, are the vanes.
The vanes are comprised of barbs. Coming from the rachis, are tiny barbules that knit the barbs together.
From the barbules, there are even smaller hooks – that keep the barbules secure.
It’s the shape of the feathers, that works to repel water, but it also functions as insulation.
Some chicken breeds, like silkies, lack some of this structure, and for this reason, you must not let them be out when it’s wet, not even in light rain.
Ultimately, chickens can handle a small amount of sparse rain.
However, if its heavy, or even a quick 5-minute downpour, it’s best to try and get them under shelter ahead of time.
Can Rain Kill Chickens?
The rain can have adverse effects on chickens, especially, in very cold conditions.
This is because chickens will struggle to keep warm when they are wet and damp and their body temperatures will naturally fall if wet.
Hens are more susceptible to diseases, and this can prove fatal in wet conditions.
For this reason, you must make sure that their coops are dry and clean, and remove old damp hay, replenishing it with clean and dry hay.
Egg-laying hens are especially affected by a change in the weather, when it’s wet out, they huddle together to keep warm, feed more, and drink less water.
Chickens will also be more stressed when wet, which in turn means a reduction in the quality and quantity of their eggs.
This also means that their immune systems are compromised and they will be susceptible to other illnesses and diseases during this time.
Many chicken farmers report higher mortality rates of their birds in the rainy season; this is hardly surprising when you learn of the poultry diseases that chickens are more likely to contract in wet conditions, these include:
Salmonellosis, E-Coli, and Pullorum Disease
These bacterial diseases can proliferate and fester in water and are more likely to affect birds that live in farms with poor sanitation.
They can strike birds of any age. All three diseases affect the digestive system of infected chickens.
The symptoms include severe diarrhea, white pasty diarrhea in pullorum, loss of appetite, rapid weight loss, omphalitis in young chicks, and strained breathing.
You can treat the infected flock with these diseases with antibiotics, but, the only way to prevent an occurrence or reoccurrence of these diseases is to maintain a high standard of hygiene in farms and pens.
This is caused by an organism Eimeria sp in poultry that infects the intestine, whereby parasite replication does serious damage to the intestinal mucosa.
Wet litter and warm coop temperatures are favorable for the germination of coccidian oocysts.
Symptoms of infection in your chickens include bloody feces, diarrhea, extreme fatigue, weight loss, and decreased egg production.
Treatment involves administering anticoccidial drugs to all your flock and maintaining high standards of hygiene.
Litter must be changed to prevent oocyst spores infecting other birds.
Ensure that your birds have access to fresh clean water, that they have sufficient space, as overcrowding can give way to coccidiosis.
Chicks should be vaccinated against coccidiosis, you must give them medicated starter feed.
Infected birds should be quarantined for a minimum of two weeks to prevent the spread of coccidiosis to other birds.
This is a disease caused by aspergillus fumigatus in poultry.
When conditions in the coop are humid and damp, this can facilitate the growth of fungus.
The birds then breathe in aspergillus spores and these spores cause lesions in the lungs that lead to respiratory problems.
This disease will spread rapidly if ventilation is inadequate.
Many birds will die within days of being infected, but symptoms include: lethargy, loss of appetite, difficulty in breathing, and weight loss.
There is no known treatment for aspergillosis, however, spraying antifungal antiseptic helps to prevent further issues developing.
The best way to prevent aspergillosis is to maintain good hygiene practices, provide good quality litter and feeds.
If a spray is required, it is best to speak to a specialist or vet who can prescribe you with safe products or tell you where to source them safely from.
This is a bacterial disease that affects birds over the age of 6 weeks.
The bacterium that causes fowl cholera is called pasteurella multocida. It is severely contagious with high mortality rates in very serious cases.
The organism spreads quickly in wet weather as damp litter serves as an ideal home for a great number of microorganisms.
Symptoms include discharge from the nostrils or beak, yellow or green diarrhea, loss of appetite, strained breathing, swelling of the leg joints, footpads, and wattle.
Fowl cholera can be treated with sulfa drugs, and poultry birds can be given a fowl cholera vaccine.
Practice a high standard of hygiene, and protect your birds from contact with rodents, birds, and other animals.
Again, if you suspect this in your chickens it is best to speak to a specialist or vet who can prescribe you with safe products or tell you where to source them safely from.
While chickens are hardy and strong birds, they do not generally like the rain.
While a small amount of rain here or there is nothing to worry about, more frequent and heavy exposure is absolutely a cause for concern.
The best thing you can do if you own chickens is to provide shelter and areas where your chickens can go in the event of a downpour.
Whether this is inside space, or a well-built and constructed coop, either way, you are going to want to keep your chickens dry and their environments free from damp to prevent bacteria, infection, and disease from proliferating.
If you ever suspect that a poultry disease is starting to take hold; contact a vet, or specialist poultry farmer as quickly as you can.
You may not have much time and you want to prevent any disease in its tracks before it gets the chance to go through your flock.
For the most part, a minor amount of rain is nothing to worry about.
Of course, this will depend on where you live, the season, and climate.
Just prepare in advance, it will be worth it when the time comes.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.