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Eating Snow

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Poppy Putentake, Feb 7, 2017.

  1. Poppy Putentake

    Poppy Putentake Chirping

    Aug 5, 2015
    Hi all,

    I've noticed my chickens eating snow lately. They appear to prefer eating snow over using horiontal nipple watterers, although open containers of water are their first choice.

    They were raised on vertical nipple watterers from day one, and that is how I usually supply water during the summer.. (I took away open waterers in the booder after a week or two, as soon as I saw all of them using the nipples.)

    They are apparently very healthy. They free range most of the day, scratching up any patches of bare ground they can find. They seem to find some of their own food even in winter, as they consume about twice as much commercial feed on those days when they are confined. The five of them have been laying an average of about 4 eggs per day since mid-January, when they were 7 months old. (One, the Golden Comet, had started laying in November at 5 months.)

    Should I consider snow-eating a reasonable backup option for water suppy? I am thinking of always keeping a container of snow in their enclosure (a roofed tractor) in case their supply of liquid water freezes up on days I have to confine them and I'm not saround to bring them more water as soon as it freezes. Is there any possible harm from them eating snow?

    Friendly greetings to all,


    ! each: Black Sex Link, Golden Comet, Buff Orpington, Barred Rock, Golden Laced Wyandotte.

  2. Folly's place

    Folly's place Free Ranging

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Mine like to eat snow too, but it's NOT an alternative to having fresh unfrozen water available. I'm in Michigan, and have 'cookie tin' type heated bases for my waterers in cold weather, because I'm not home to bring out water three times daily, every day. Mary
  3. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Crowing

    Jul 3, 2016
    Pac NW
    My Coop
    Mine seem to enjoy nibbling at snow but I do make sure there's always water available to them. Same thing when it rains and they're drinking from mud puddles, I still provide water.
  4. Howard E

    Howard E Songster

    Feb 18, 2016
    Wild birds eat snow all the time. Also, believe it or not, a long time ago allowing the birds to eat snow was one of the cold weather strategies they used to provide their birds moisture. For some, it was a whole lot easier than trying to keep their water pan from freezing.

    So, yes they can. But the amount of moisture in snow can vary a lot, from wet slushy stuff to nearly dry powder, so what they get can be highly variable. Best to see to it they have fresh, unfrozen water if you can.
    1 person likes this.
  5. Folly's place

    Folly's place Free Ranging

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Wild birds, and chickens from long ago, weren't trying to lay eggs in winter either. That's a huge difference! Mary
  6. Zoomie

    Zoomie Songster

    Dec 6, 2015
    Mora, NM USA
    My perspective: the only downside to eating snow is it requires more energy for the bird to melt the snow. However, water set out in the cold will also be pretty cold, and the bird will have to raise that water to their body temperature as well when they drink it, so it's not like it's all that bad of a thing. As long as the birds have plenty of food and shelter they will be fine. If they don't have enough to eat, or there is no shelter, yeah, the extra energy it costs them to heat that snow up to body temp could become important.

    I remember once someone told me it was "bad" for horses to eat snow. Well say. Did you ever try and stop them? Just how are you going to do that, anyway? I have concluded that horses will eat snow if they feel like it and there is just not a whole heck of a lot that I can do about it. And further, it does not harm them at all. If it did, all the wild ones would have died off in the first winter.
  7. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Crowing

    Apr 12, 2013
    Boulder, Colorado
    I think my horses eat the snow because they can't be bothered to hike the 300' to the water tank. But on topic, my chickens eat snow all the time when out. Ever see a goose bathe in snow? Hilarious! One of these days I will catch it on my phone.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2017

  8. azygous

    azygous Free Ranging

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Howard has stated this issue accurately. There is no harm whatsoever in letting your chickens eat snow as a backup option. The only problem is if you rely on snow as a water source, your chickens may not get an adequate amount of water from it to satisfy their needs.

    Humans run into problems eating snow because our water needs are so great that the amount of snow needed to satisfy them would seriously decrease body temperature, and hypothermia would be a deadly danger. No so with chickens. But you need to make sure your chickens have plenty of fresh water and not rely on just snow to satisfy their winter water requirements.

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