How Long Can Chickens Go Without Water Before Dehydration?

Chickens are very busy creatures and require water to function at their best.

They are natural scavengers but still do best with a fresh source of water provided by their caretaker.   

If you have chickens or are thinking about getting chickens, you need to know the details of how to keep their water source fresh, so they do not suffer from dehydration. 

The average adult chicken can go up to 48 hours or 2 days without water before becoming severely dehydrated. Extremes in cold and hot climates affect how long a chicken goes without water. If you live in an extremely hot and dry climate, a chicken can die within 12 hours without water.  

There are many essential aspects of keeping your chickens hydrated.  

Let’s look into some of the different options to use to keep your chickens healthy and thriving.  

how long can chickens go without water
Make sure your chickens get enough water (not like this picture!).

Why Is Water So Important To Chickens?

Like all animals on this planet, chickens need water to survive, but these birds need available water at all times. 

They go through at least a liter or quart of water per chicken each day in the summer. 

Chickens require less water in the depths of winter. 

The age and type of chicken also determine how long they can go without water. 

Chickens without fresh water will become ill and even die. 

If they live in an enclosed space, they’ll require more water per day than free-range chickens.   

Water is an essential part of the everyday life of a chicken. 


  • Keeps their digestive systems flowing correctly
  • Works to keep the blood flowing through their bodies
  • Regulates their body temperatures
  • Keeps their joints and muscles moving at their peak performance

What Are The Signs Of Dehydration In Chickens?

When chickens lack water, they become unable to regulate their body temperatures and suffer from many different ailments. 

Some signs to look for in a dehydrated chicken are:

Labored breathing: This sign will be pretty obvious whether you are a new or seasoned chicken owner. 

If your chickens look like they are struggling to breathe, make sure they have fresh water available to them.

Lifting their wings away from their bodies: When a chicken is properly hydrated, lifting wings regulates its internal body temperatures. 

When they become dehydrated, they cannot regulate their temp well, and they will begin to lift their wings away from their bodies and look for a cool place to hide. 

Chickens will show this sign in as little as 24 hours. 

Lethargy: If you have ever been around chickens, you’ve probably noticed they are always busy, so lethargy or lack of movement is abnormal and a reason for concern. 

If you see a chicken not constantly moving and pecking around, it is a clear sign they are dehydrated.

Convulsions: Chickens suffering from convulsions are in a very deep state of dehydration. 

If your chicken is suffering from convulsions, you should contact your local veterinarian immediately. 

Quit Laying Eggs: Chickens require proper hydration to lay eggs. 

The water moistens their food for digestion and keeps all systems running as they should. 

If your chickens are not laying eggs as frequently as they normally do, it’s a potential sign of dehydration.

When Are Chickens Most Susceptible To Dehydration?

hot weather dehydrates chickens
Hot weather is dangerous for chickens and dehydration. They need more water.

Chickens are most susceptible to becoming dehydrated in cases of scorching temperatures and dry air. 

When a chicken becomes too hot, it will automatically look for a fresh water source to drink from.  

If you notice panting in chickens (just like dogs), it’s a sign they’re getting too warm and dehydrated. 

This makes more water come out of their system, so they will look for a water source to replace it.  

When the temperatures are up, you will need to keep the water source cool and easily-available to your chickens to reduce the chance of dehydration. 

Keeping your chickens hydrated is the best way to ensure you are getting the best performance from your flock.  

If you have a chicken suffering from dehydration, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will die, but it means something is going wrong in your farming techniques.  

Learning about your chicken flock and the proper techniques of keeping their water source clean will keep you and your chickens healthy and thriving.  

Aside from temperature, chickens are most susceptible to dehydration and death as baby chicks. 

It’s the leading preventable cause of death in these little fuzzballs, so make sure you do your part and provide them cool, fresh water at all times. 

How Much Water Does An Average Adult Chicken Need?

The average adult chicken can drink around 3 times as much water by their weight as they require in food. 

A good rule to go by is to keep a liter of water available at all times for every chicken you own. 

It’s not about how many times per day chickens need a clean supply of water; they need to “graze” at the water containers, as it were. 

As chickens grow from their baby chick stage, they will require more water. 

This does balance out when they reach their full adult weight and can vary from different chicken breeds. 

Researching the types of chickens, you want to add to your flock will help you know how much water your chickens need. 

When chickens are laying eggs, they require more water for this process to go smoothly. 

When chickens tend to lay fewer eggs in the winter, they will not need as much water. 

It is almost more important to check the water and make sure it is not frozen than to worry about the exact amount of the drink. 

Making sure your flock has enough space and no overcrowding will keep your water source cleaner and your flock better hydrated.

A single water source will only work if there is enough room for all of the chickens to access the drinking water. 

There are pecking orders in all animals, and you want to make sure all chickens have access to the water dispensers. 

Chickens will even fight over the spots if there aren’t enough; click the link for our full guide on fighting.

The more chickens you push into a small area, the more frequently you will need to clean the water source.

If your chicken is not getting adequate amounts of water daily, it also causes them to eat less as they need water to break down their food. 

This stunts the growth of your chickens and causes more permanent issues down the road for your flock.

Does Your Water Source Need To Be At A Specific Temperature?

There’s no real temperature requirement for water, but if it’s kept at or below the chicken’s average body temperature of 105-107° degrees Fahrenheit (42° C)

Any fresh water source is better than none, but there are advantages to keeping it below body temperature.

Chickens use water to help regulate their body temperatures by drinking the cooler water. 

This is more vital during sweltering times of the year as it not only keeps them hydrated but it’ll even improve the egg-laying performances of your hens.  

How To Keep Your Chickens From Becoming Dehydrated

Offer regular water access to your chickens at all times. 

This is, by far, the best way to keep your fowl from getting dehydrated. 

Pick a watering unit, and keep it filled each day. Here are some great options (with links to Amazon): 

  • Galvanized waterers stand up well to wear and tear, but you need to watch and make sure there is no rust inside the tower or along the bottom where the chickens get the water from.  
  • Rubber water drips are easy to maintain and come in many different styles. Your chickens can tear this one up with their pecking easier than the galvanized option. 
  • Plastic water vessels are very popular and not very expensive. These come in several different options to pick from depending on the size of your flock, and some are even automatic waterers.

There are several waterers available for chickens, and no matter which you choose from, keeping the water clean is critical. 

Chickens are very dirty fowl, and you will need to clean the waterers at least once a day. 

It has also been shown to help chickens stay hydrated by adding electrolytes to their water source. 

Electrolytes are minerals essential for cell function and growth and, when added to water, can help boost your chicken’s internal systems.

If you are going to be gone for a trip, you should make sure there will be fresh water available for your chickens. 

Ask a neighbor or friend to keep their water source secure while you are away. 

Do Chickens Need Water At Night?

Chickens are much like humans, and once they are roosted for the night, they do not need water.

They rely on the water stored in their system to keep everything working until the morning and go the whole night without water. 

We also recommend keeping the waterers outside of the coop; it’s unnecessary and raises the chance of mold and messes anyway. 

Do Free-Range Chickens Need A Fresh Water Source?

If you have free-range chickens, you still need to keep a clean water source available, so they don’t become dehydrated. 

While they may pick up water along their treks during the day, there is no guarantee the water they are drinking is fresh and free of bacteria. 

Access to water free of bacteria and other parasites is what keeps the chicken functioning at its prime. 

Free-range adult chickens in average weather conditions can go the longest without fresh water before suffering from dehydration.  

Chickens kept in an enclosed building tend to eat more grains and require more water for digestion.

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Growing up amidst the sprawling farms of the South, Wesley developed a profound connection with farm animals from a young age. His childhood experiences instilled in him a deep respect for sustainable and humane farming practices. Today, through, Wesley shares his rich knowledge, aiming to inspire and educate others about the joys and intricacies of rural life.

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