How Long Can Chickens Go Without Water?

Water is one of the most important things when it comes to keeping chickens and other poultry. Fresh, clean water should be available to your birds at all times in order to keep them healthy.

However, in some cases, it might happen, that you can’t monitor the water level and conditions of your chickens. In this case, you should know, how long can they go without water.

It is important to note, that baby chickens are more sensitive to lack of hydration than adults. In this article, you can learn about how to keep your chickens and baby chicks hydrated, even if you are not around.

How Long Can Baby Chickens Survive Without Water?

Chicks can’t go for long without water. Without water, these little birds can only go for about 12 hours before dying. Some baby chicks can die within 6 hours if they lack water. It explains why chicks need access to water throughout to prevent them from succumbing to death.

How Long Can Chickens Survive Without Water?

On average, chickens can survive for about 48 hours without water. However, most chickens won’t survive beyond 48 hours without water during warm weather. Chickens can stay for two days without water during cold weather since chickens don’t require plenty of water in the cold months.

Chickens living in hot places can succumb to death within 12 hours if they lack access to water. On the other hand, chickens living in cold climates can survive without water for more than two days.

Signs of Dehydration in Chickens

Chickens that lack access to water are at risk of dehydration or heat stress. At times, chicken keepers can’t tell whether their birds suffer from dehydration because of lack of water. Luckily, there are some clear signs to help you know if your chickens suffer from dehydration. Below are the common symptoms of dehydration in chickens.

– Lethargy

Lethargy, simply a lack of energy, is among the clearest signs of dehydration in chickens. If your chickens seem more sleepy and less active than usual, it is most probably they have become lethargic due to dehydration.

Lethargic chickens spend less time foraging or scurrying around searching for food. Although it is common for chickens to rest or take a nap, your chickens should spring up quickly once you startle them. If they don’t, it is possible they are lethargic due to dehydration. Lethargic chickens don’t move at all. They have difficulty walking and maintaining balance.

Without proper hydration, your chickens will be lethargic, and their energy levels will diminish significantly. As dehydration starts to set in your chickens, their blood pressure will drop, resulting in poor blood circulation and poor blood flow to their brains. Poor blood flow and circulation make your chickens weak and sleepy due to lethargy.

– Pale Combs

The color of the comb can help you tell whether your chickens are dehydrated or not. Although the color of your chickens’ combs could change due to factors such as parasitic infestations and heat exhaustion, thirsty chickens usually have pale combs.

Dehydrated chickens also have shrunken combs. Having pale combs is the first indication that dehydration is slowly setting in your chickens. Remember that paleness of the comb doesn’t necessarily indicate that your birds are suffering from dehydration. It can also suggest that your chickens could be having an illness.

You can detect when your chicks have a pale comb due to lack of water access. If your chickens have a pale comb and are breathing heavily, it shows that your birds are going through bouts of dehydration. Shortly after developing pale combs, dehydrated chickens become lame and restless.

– Heavy Breathing

Like in humans, dehydration can cause breathing problems in chickens. Chickens need to drink water frequently to keep their bronchial tubes, lungs, and nasal passages moist. Without water, chickens can’t have a healthy respiratory system since their respiratory organs will be dry.

For that reason, your birds will have breathing problems that make them breathe heavily as they struggle to inhale oxygen and expel carbon dioxide from their lungs. Dehydration also increases your chickens’ breathing rate as their bodies struggle to deliver energy to their body cells.

Dehydration makes chickens’ hearts work twice harder to supply oxygen to their organs. Poor oxygen supply leads to oxygen depletion in chickens’ muscles, prompting your chickens to breathe heavily.

– Diarrhea

Diarrhea is among the leading causes of dehydration and chicken deaths. Chickens’ intestines absorb water from the food they consume each day. If they do not have enough fluids in their guts to digest the food matter, your chickens will excrete the remaining fluids in their bodies through diarrhea.

Constant diarrhea makes chickens dehydrated since it deprives them of the fluids they require to keep their digestive systems working properly. Severe diarrhea can indicate that your chickens could be suffering from acute dehydration.

The ultimate solution to prevent dehydration in your chickens due to diarrhea is by providing the birds with enough water to help them replace the fluids they have lost due to diarrhea.

Watering Your Chickens When Leaving

Chicken keepers with a busy schedule rarely get time to provide their birds with sufficient water. As a result, their birds suffer from dehydration since no one is around to give them water when they get thirsty.

Fortunately, there are easy ways you can water your chickens when leaving your home. Check the insights below on how to water your chickens when leaving home.

– Chicken Watering System

A well-constructed chicken watering system can provide your birds with clean water throughout, whether you are around or not. A watering system such as Farm Innovators Plastic Poultry Fountain will guarantee your birds a constant water supply.

This watering system also keeps water unfrozen and accessible to your chickens all year round. The thermostatically controlled chicken watering system heats water when necessary. It can hold four gallons of water and use just a hundred watts of power, enabling the system to keep the water from freezing below the freezing point.

This durable watering system is ideal for watering your baby chicks while away. It comes with ten plastic panels that offer a safe environment for watering your fragile baby chicks.

The innovative watering system allows you to design your poultry waterer as you wish. Its perfect design helps prevent water flow, and therefore you won’t have to keep cleaning water spillages in your coop.

– Tall Water Tub

If you water your chickens with a shallow water tub when you are away, they will either spill the water or make the water dirty. But having a tall water tub can solve such problems since your birds are unlikely to spill the water while drinking.

Nevertheless, make sure the tub is steady enough such that your chickens won’t easily bring it down while drinking. You can even place the water tub close to one of the walls of your coop to keep it steady. However, the water tub shouldn’t be too tall for your chickens to climb up and down while drinking water. Otherwise, your birds won’t drink water while you are away.

Worse still, some chickens can fall into the water tub and die from drowning if they cannot come out of the tub. Fill the water tub to the brim while leaving to ensure your birds won’t struggle to drink the water once you leave home. Check the water level in the tub when you come back to see whether your birds have been drinking water while you are away.

If the water level in the tub is where it was before you left, then your birds didn’t drink water at all. If the level has gone down, it means your chickens have been taking water in your absence.

– Small Pond

Having a small pond is especially useful for backyard chicken keepers. Knowing that your backyard chickens have water around will give you peace of mind since you know that your birds won’t succumb to dehydration. A small pond in your backyard will provide your backyard chickens with water even when you aren’t necessarily around to water your birds.

However, make sure the pound is clean before filling it with water. Dirty water is a potential threat to your birds’ health since it is prone to bacterial buildup and mold, some of the leading causes of death in chickens.

Ideally, it would help to clean the pond each day before refilling it. Ensure the pond isn’t too deep for your chickens, especially if you have baby chicks in the flock. Baby chicks can drown easily after falling into a deep pond, and therefore the pond should be shallow enough for your chickens.

– Ask a Friend

You can request a friend to water your birds while you are away. The good thing about asking a friend to provide your chickens with water in your absence is that you can call them and remind them to water the birds if you won’t be returning home soon.

However, ensure the friend you are requesting to provide your chickens with water is reliable, and they won’t fail to water your flock in your absence.

Do Chickens Need Water at Night?

Chickens need to have access to water throughout the day. However, chickens don’t necessarily need water at night since they roost at night, and they can’t wake up to drink water at night. Therefore, ensure your chickens drink enough water during the day before they return to their coop at night.

How Long Can Baby Chicks Go Without water?

Baby chicks can’t go for long without water like adult chickens. These tiny birds will only live for around 12 hours if they don’t have access to water. Baby chicks can die within 6 hours in hot weather if they lack water.


Whether adult chickens or baby chicks, chickens can’t live for long without water. Lack of water will ultimately dehydrate your birds, exposing them to the risk of death. Therefore, ensure your chickens have enough water throughout to keep them hydrated and on the path to good health.

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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