Water in the Winter

By Mountain Peeps · Dec 28, 2015 · Updated Jan 1, 2016 · ·
  1. Mountain Peeps
    Water in the Winter
    Have you ever found yourself filling the chicken waterer more frequently in the winter than you do any other time of year? Have you ever wondered why that is? I asked the same question a couple years ago. One of our family friends, who used to own horses, explained the answer to me. Most animals drink more water in the winter simply because the air is dryer. There is less humidity around and on us to help keep us hydrated. Thus, we, as well as animals, crave liquid. In this article, I’ll go into more detail as to why chickens, as well as our other pets, need more water in the winter, how much they need and how to tell if they are dehydrated as well as throw in several other interesting facts.

    Is This Statement Really True?
    Many people don’t believe me when I tell them people and most animals drink more water in the winter. They normally think this because in the summer, it seems logical to drink more liquid since we’re hotter. While we do still drink a lot in the summer, our bodies are receiving more water than we realize since the air is thicker with humidity. The tiny water droplets fall on and around us constantly throughout the summer. Now, before we move on, I want to make an important point. Even if areas of the world are known to have less humidity flowing through the air than others, that doesn’t mean they don’t have any at any point in time. Places will always have some percent of water content in the air sometime or another. However, it is also true that dryer areas with less humidity cause the people and animals to drink more -both in winter and in summer. That additionally means that animals in dryer climates will drink more water in the winter than animals living in humid climates in the winter.
    To further prove this statement to be valid, I did an experiment. During a period of the summer in Estes Park, Colorado in 2014 I noted how often I filled my hens’ waterer v.s. how often I filled their waterer that same winter. Here were my results:

    Summer 2014: I filled my 3 gallon chicken waterer once every 2 - 2½ weeks on average

    Winter 2014: I filled my 3 gallon chicken waterer once every 1 - 1½ weeks on average

    See the difference? My hens drank basically twice as much in the winter!
    I did an experiment this winter for fun with all of my pets and tested to see which, (out of my dog, guinea pig and 5 hens) would finish their water first. My dog won when he broke the record by finishing his 2-liter water bottle in only a little more than a day!

    How Much Water Do My Chickens Need?
    On average,
    a single, adult, standard sized chicken drinks 2 cups of water a day. Again, they drink more in the winter. Sometimes, on a freezing cold, dry winter day, a single chicken can drink more than 4 cups of water! So, if you have 8 chickens, for example, they will need at least 24 cups of water daily. It would be safer to give 32 - 40 cups though. But, if you’re like me, you don’t have the spare time to be refilling the water each and every day. So, in that case, you should provide your chickens with a large waterer - such as a 5 gallon automatic waterer. Chickens also do spill water so be prepared to deal with that as well. If you don't want to deal with water spillage, don't hang your waterer or place it on the ground. Elevate it on a brick, milk carton, etc.
    You will need to come up with a way to prevent the chickens’ water from freezing also. The easiest way I have done this is simply by purchasing a waterer with a cord and plug and then plugging it in during winter and unplugging it during summer. If you do not wish to take this approach, you need to either buy a heated base for the water dish or constantly check it throughout the day and make sure it hasn’t frozen.

    Additional Vitamins, Probiotics and Electrolytes
    Since chickens are confined to their henhouse more often in the winter and can’t free range, eat grass and enjoy the sunshine as much, there are several things you can add to their water to insure they stay in peak health. These include:



    •Apple Cider Vinegar


    I, personally, tend to use electrolytes and Apple Cider Vinegar more in the winter and probiotics and molasses more in the summer. The reason for this is because electrolytes are best known to help chickens stay hydrated. Apple Cider Vinegar also helps with hydration along with boosting the immunity, digestive and respiratory systems in chickens.
    Probiotics help boost digestion and immunity and are most helpful to use in times of stress of sickness. Molasses will also help reduce stress in the flock and even aid in healing injuries. Note: Only add molasses to the water in very small portions (1 pint per every 5 gallons of water) as chickens will get diarrhea if they receive too much of it.

    How Do I Tell if My Chicken is Dehydrated?
    Occasionally, despite our best efforts, a chicken will lack water and become dehydrated. Signs of a dehydrated chicken include:


    •Paleness and listlessness

    •Heavy, labored breathing


    If you do not take immediate action, the chicken will soon die. The best way to treat a dehydrated chicken is to move the chicken to a cool, secluded, calm place. Put either Apple Cider Vinegar or electrolytes in a dish full of water and dip the beak of the bird into it. Make sure the bird swallows normally. If the bird doesn’t drink for itself, continue to dip its beak in the water every 10 minutes for at least an hour. Soon, the bird should start drinking on it’s own. Give it some food moistened with water and, once the bird has bounced back to normal, return it to the coop quarters.

    Water is crucial for chicken health and survival all year round and especially in the winter months. Not only do chickens drink more water due to the dryness of the air, but also because their bodies are working extra hard to stay warm. As their caretakers, it is our duty to provide them with clean, unfrozen water. Remember: hydrated chickens are happy chickens!

    Have any questions or comments? Feel free to post them below or PM me.

    Share This Article


To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!
  1. sheetmetaltom
    that was a good read. im going to try the apple cider vinegar.
  2. WVDoug
    Interesting. I wonder why my mixed flock of layers and heritage breeds only drink 8-10 ounces a day? (Actually, less.......quite a bit drips on the ground). I know I have to refill the waterer more often in winter, but only because it's a 5 gallon bucket with a heater in it, not the 55 gallon drum they use the rest of the year. I have a feeling you're counting the water they splash and spill, not what they actually drink.
  3. Americano Blue
    Congrats on making the main page :)
  4. smarsh
    i didn't get too far into this, should be working, don't tell the boss. While it may be true that some animals drink more in the winter, I can tell you, as a sweating mammal, that I do not and neither does our horse. High humidity with heat actually makes us sweat more in an attempt to cool.
  5. Bogtown Chick
    Excellent Article. Explains so much and how important.
  6. S5apiotrowski
    Thanks for sharing. I was just thinking about how quickly I am refilling the waterers. The favorite gallon bucket gets filled daily and the favorite 5 gallon waterer lasts just a few days. They have lots of waterers scattered throughout the yard... but I am glad I got a second 5-gallon one!
  7. silly4buttons
    Awesome thank you I had no idea about putting molasses in there water in the summer months.
  8. Yorkshire Coop
    Lovely article Sarah!! Thank you.
  9. TwoCrows
    Very nice article Sarah!! Water is SO important to the health of birds. Very informative. :)

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: