Photo by Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden

Your chickens need to always have access to plenty of clean, fresh drinking water.  This is especially important in hot weather when their need for water increases significantly.

Problems Caused by Lack of Water

  • Dehydration – When chickens don’t have enough water, they can quickly become dehydrated.
  • Poor Egg Laying – Hens that don’t get enough water will lay fewer eggs.
  • Forced Molt – Going without water too long can cause a hen to go into a molt, which may stop her egg production entirely.
  • Stunted Growth – Water is necessary for proper digestion. Lack of water for young chickens that are still growing can cause them to grow more slowly.

Tips to Make Sure They Get Plenty of Water

  • Water temperature – Chickens prefer a water temperature of 55° F.  If water is hotter or colder than this, they’ll drink less.  Keep their waterers in the shade during the summer months so that the water will stay cooler. In extremely hot weather, you may also want to add ice to their water.
  • Taste – If water does not taste good to the chickens, they won’t drink as much. Dissolved minerals and medications can cause water to be less palatable. Because they can affect the taste of the water and discourage drinking, don’t add medications to poultry waterers in hot weather.
  • Chicken waterer

    5 Gallon Dura Fount Waterer

    Large Waterers – During the hot summer months, since your chickens will use more water, you may want to switch to a larger waterer to make sure that they never run out.  5-gallon or 7-gallon founts are a good idea if you have a lot of poultry. It’s also a good idea to use a fount as a backup to any automatic waterers that you are using.

  • Automatic Waterers – There are several types of automatic waterers available: poultry cup waterers, expandable low pressure watering system and automatic water bowls. These are all made to be connected to a water supply so that your chickens will have a continuous supply of water. Some automatic waterers will work off of normal residential water pressure (30 to 80 PSI). Others require low pressure (less than 5 PSI) to operate.  For those that require low pressure water, you can use a pressure regulator or feed them from a tank using gravity.
  • Keep Waterers Level Please make sure any founts or automatic waterers you use are level and not leaking.  A fount that is tilted slightly or that is leaking can run out of water long before the end of the day and cause your chickens unnecessary stress.

For more information on water and heat stress, see The Chicken Health Handbook, by Gail Damerow.

This post was originally published in 2011 and was updated on Jun 24, 2015.