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.
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Is It Ok For Chickens To Be Out In The Rain?
It’s generally okay for chickens to be out in light rain. However, if the rain is heavy or prolonged, it’s best to provide them shelter to avoid stress or illness.
Thankfully, chickens are intelligent, and they will often look for and seek out shelter from rain if required.
But this is not likely the case for all your birds.
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 truth is, it is best to ensure that there is cover available.
Make sure that cover is well secured, won’t blow away easily, and is predator-proof.
There are various options when it comes to creating shelter.
Some chicken keepers like to manufacture them themselves.
Why Do My Chickens Stand In The Rain?
Chickens might stand in the rain due to curiosity, to cool off, to forage, or because they don’t mind light rain.
Out of Curiosity
Chickens are naturally curious and are often interested in exploring their environment, including experiencing different sensations.
Rainfall introduces a novel and sensory-rich experience for them.
The sight, sound, and feel of raindrops can capture their attention, leading them to stand or walk in the rain to investigate what is happening or going on.
To Cool Off
Chickens do not have sweat glands like humans do, so they rely on other mechanisms to regulate their body temperature.
One way they cool themselves is through evaporative cooling.
When it’s hot outside, rain can provide temporary relief from the heat.
Wet feathers can help dissipate heat from their bodies, bringing their temperature down and providing a sense of comfort.
Rainfall often brings out insects, worms, and other small creatures from the ground.
These critters become more accessible to chickens as they surface or seek refuge from waterlogged soil.
Rain Doesn’t Bother Them
Chickens are generally more tolerant of wet conditions.
It could be due to the natural insulation of their feathers or attributed to their evolutionary heritage and domestication (the fact that they have been exposed to frequent rain and have developed a resilience and adaptability over thousands of years) or a simple combination of the two!
Do Chickens Have Waterproof Feathers?
Chickens’ feathers aren’t fully waterproof, but they do have a degree of water resistance due to a preen gland that secretes oil which they spread on their feathers during preening.
The preen oil helps to condition the feathers, keeping them flexible and healthy.
It also enhances their water resistance, enabling them to repel a certain amount of water.
However, this doesn’t make them completely impervious to water. In a heavy downpour or if they get drenched, the water can penetrate the feathers and reach the skin.
Therefore, while chickens can manage light to moderate rain, it’s important to provide adequate shelter for them to avoid getting too wet, especially during heavy rain or in cold conditions.
Too much exposure to wet and cold conditions can lead to health problems such as hypothermia or respiratory issues.
Can Rain Kill Chickens?
While rain itself won’t directly kill chickens, prolonged exposure to cold, wet conditions can lead to hypothermia, respiratory issues, and other health problems which could potentially be fatal.
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.
Diseases And Ailments More Likely In Wet Conditions
Many chicken keepers 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.
How do I protect my chicken coop from rain?
Optimize Coop Location
Ideally, position your coop on higher ground to prevent water from pooling around.
Avoid low-lying areas or places prone to flooding.
Ensure Proper Roofing Is In Place
Ensure that your chicken coop has a well-designed roof that slopes down and away from the entrance.
This allows rainwater to drain off easily. Choose a durable and waterproof roofing material such as metal, asphalt shingles, or corrugated plastic.
Consider Overhangs and Eaves
These extensions provide additional protection by directing rainwater away from the coop’s walls and windows.
Seal Gaps and Cracks
Inspect the coop for any gaps, cracks, or holes where rainwater may seep in.
Use a suitable sealant or caulk to seal these openings, ensuring that the coop remains watertight.
Pay particular attention to joints, corners, and areas where different materials meet.
Treat the exterior walls of the coop with a waterproof paint or stain.
This helps repel water and prevents moisture from seeping into the coop.
Consider using materials like vinyl siding or treated lumber that are naturally resistant to water damage.
Construct the coop with an elevated floor or use raised platforms inside.
This helps keep the coop’s interior dry by preventing water from seeping in from the ground.
Dig drainage trenches
If your coop is in an area prone to heavy rainfall or standing water, consider digging shallow trenches around the coop.
These trenches will help redirect water away from the coop, preventing flooding.
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 the climate.
Just prepare in advance, it will be worth it when the time comes.
Are you wondering what else chickens may or may not like? Then my following guides may be of interest:
- Do Chickens Like Water? [To Drink, To Play In, Or To Swim?]
- What Do Chickens Like To Play With? [The Entertainment Guide]
- Do Chickens Like To Be Petted? [What About Being Held?]
- Do Chickens Like Music? [Do They React Or Lay More Eggs?]
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.