How Long Can Chickens Go Without Water in the Winter?

Chickens don’t drink plenty of water in the winter, unlike during the hot months when they are susceptible to dehydration because of heat stress. Most chickens can go for up to 72 hours without drinking water. Therefore, a lack of water in the winter won’t harm your birds, unlike in the warmer months. Chickens, however, require water in the winter to keep hydrated.

Can Chickens Eat Snow to Stay Hydrated?

Chickens can eat snow to stay hydrated if they can’t find a reliable water source. Wild birds usually eat snow in the winter when they get thirsty, and there is no water around.

The problem with your chickens eating snow is that they will need to consume plenty of snow to keep hydrated. It’s good to have water for your chickens, even in the winter, so the birds don’t have to consume plenty of snow to keep hydrated.

How Much do Chickens Drink in the Winter?

Chickens usually don’t drink plenty of water in the winter because they don’t need to cool their bodies but keep warm—the average chicken drinks around one cup of water in winter. Baby chicks don’t drink plenty of water in winter, unlike adult chickens. Most baby chicks will barely drink half a cup of water.

What Happens if Chickens Don’t Get Enough Water?

Chickens need water, whether in winter or the warmer months, although water is especially crucial for chickens in hot weather. Here is what will happen when your chickens don’t get enough water.

  • Dehydration – Your chickens risk suffering from dehydration when they don’t drink enough water, particularly in hot weather. Dehydration can make your chickens suffer heat stress if they remain dehydrated for several hours in the summer. Your chickens will be in danger of dying from heat stress due to dehydration if you don’t give them water to help them cool off their bodies.
  • Reduced egg production – Hens need more water than roosters, baby chicks, and young chickens. Hens that don’t get enough water usually lay fewer eggs. So water is important for helping your hens maintain their egg production.
  • Stunted growth – Water is crucial for chickens because it helps them digest food and also helps their bodies absorb nutrients from the food they consume. Young chickens can suffer from stunted growth if they don’t get enough water because their bodies won’t effectively absorb the nutrients in the food they consume daily. Consequently, they won’t experience optimal development and growth because of a lack of nutrients their bodies require for growth.
  • Digestion problems – Chickens won’t digest food if they don’t get enough water. Therefore, they will experience digestive issues, such as constipation. Chickens need twice as much water as the foods they consume.
  • Forced molt – Chickens can experience forced molt if they go for long without water. Thus, they will lose their feathers unexpectedly. A forced molt can also make your hens cease laying.

How to Tell if Chicken is Dehydrated?

Dehydration is a serious problem for chickens. Extreme dehydration can be deadly to your birds, so it’s good to look for signs of dehydration in your chickens, especially in hot weather.

Fortunately, several signs show you when your chickens are experiencing dehydration. Here is how to tell if your chickens are dehydrated.

  • Panting or breathing problems-Dehydrated chickens usually experience breathing problems, especially when experiencing acute dehydration. Dehydrated chickens also pant a lot as they try to overcome dehydration.
  • Pale wattles and combs– This is another sign to tell you when your chickens suffer from acute dehydration. Chickens can develop pale combs and wattles if they go for a long time without water. Chickens need water to maintain healthy wattles and combs, and any sign of paleness can indicate that your birds aren’t getting enough water.
  • Lethargy Dehydrated chickens are lazy and inactive. They aren’t eager to move around because dehydration depletes their energy. They also exhibit signs of extreme exhaustion even when they are indoors.
  • Walking problems– extreme dehydration can make chickens develop walking problems. For instance, dehydrated chickens usually limp when walking. They also have trouble keeping their bodies balanced; thus, it looks like they are staggering while walking.
  • Spreading wings– Dehydrated chickens usually spread their wings away from their bodies as they attempt to beat heat stress because of dehydration.
  • Seizures– Dehydration can be deadly for chickens, particularly if they go for several days without water. Chickens with severe dehydration experience seizures and convulsions and are thus in danger of dying.
  • Unresponsiveness– Chickens experiencing dehydration can be unresponsive. They aren’t alert like usual. If your birds are unresponsive, it is a sure sign they are experiencing acute dehydration and need water.
  • Diarrhea– Dehydrated chickens have digestion problems because their bodies don’t have enough fluids to digest and absorb the feed you provide them daily. Dehydrated chickens will therefore exhibit digestion problems like diarrhea and constipation.

How to Keep Your Chickens Hydrated When Water is Frozen?

Winter means your chickens will drink less water, unlike in summer. It would be best to keep your birds hydrated, even in winter. First, you can allow the chicken to eat snow to meet their water intake needs.

Secondly, you can also give your chickens foods that contain plenty of fluids to ensure they are hydrated during the cold. Or, you can warm the water a bit to make it easy for chickens to drink water in the winter without freezing.

How to Stop Chicken Water from Freezing?

Winter comes with its challenges. For instance, winter can freeze your chickens’ water, making it too cold for birds to drink. You can keep the water from freezing and becoming too cold for your birds by placing it in an electric-heated container.

Also, you can keep the water in black bottles because the black color will help trap heat from the little sunshine present in winter, preventing the water from freezing.

You can also keep your birds’ water moving because moving water doesn’t freeze, unlike stagnant water. Some chicken keepers use heated pet water bowls to keep their birds’ water warm and prevent it from freezing.


Chickens can survive for more than 72 hours without drinking water in the winter. Although they can go for several days without drinking water in the winter, that doesn’t imply your chickens don’t need water at all. The birds still need water to keep hydrated. So ensure your flock has access to water, even during the cold months.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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