Rain water OK for chickens?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by kittydoc, Aug 14, 2014.

  1. kittydoc

    kittydoc Songster

    Apr 18, 2012
    Near Indianapolis
    This is probably a "duh" question asked out of an abundance of caution, because my chickens drink muddy rain water out of puddles all the time. But I'm thinking is it OK for rain water to be the only source of water for chickens? In ye olden days, I imagine that was the primary source for watering them. I just want to be sure, because we have more pollutants now than a hundred years ago, though I would think rain water would probably be cleaner than ground water. We are on a well, so God knows what our water quality outdoors is like. I know it tastes awful, but the birds have been drinking that for 3 years. It's clear at least.

    If I install a length of gutter and divert it into a rain barrel, is that OK to use for watering chickens? I know it's fine to use to water plants, but wanted to see if anyone was using it to water their chickens. I'd like an easier set up to water the birds than what we have now, at least when the weather is above freezing. I see these plastic barrels with spigots advertised at Home Depot, etc., all the time. Just wondered if anyone used them, and what their experience was. Thank you!
  2. sandesnow

    sandesnow Songster

    Nov 20, 2013
    Nova Scotia Canada
    I would go for it and build a way to collect water for them. Many do it! And like you said, they drink out of mud puddles. ;)
  3. thomasboyle

    thomasboyle Songster

    Feb 28, 2013
    Northwest Hills of CT
    Anyone who has a well is drinking rain water. When it rains, the water flows through the ground into the underground water tables. So if it is good enough for 1/2 of America, it should be fine for your chickens! If you mount the rain barrel on a stand 4 feet high or so, you should easily be able to attach a hose of some kind to the spigot and water your chickens using gravity feed.
  4. CrazyTalk

    CrazyTalk Songster

    Jun 10, 2014
    My well is 300 feet deep - there's a bit of difference in water that has filtered through 300 feet of ground and water sitting in a bucket.

    Rainwater IS safe, as long as it's collected and stored correctly, and that means screens to keep debris out, and things like that.
  5. kari_dawn

    kari_dawn Songster

    Nov 2, 2009
    North Texas
    ...I just read a thread about a member who's dog got giardia from drinking rain water out of a rain barrel. The chickens got giardia as well. Giardia is a zoonotic (means YOU can get it too). Their vet said giardia was picked up through the squirrel and bird excrement in the rain gutters and on the roof. I think that well water is safer...lots of filtration...that is my word of caution to you. Giardia is nasty stuff. I guess if you were super worried about it, you could boil it? If not, I suppose you could just chance it *shrug*
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2014
  6. CrazyTalk

    CrazyTalk Songster

    Jun 10, 2014
    People get giardia from improperly maintained wells pretty often.

    It typically comes from feces, and gets into wells with surface runoff when they're not properly sealed. In the case of a dog getting it from a rain barrel, the dog probably transferred it there himself (or some other animal did).

    If your dog can get its head in the barrel, the barrel isn't being properly kept.

    Most well water isn't filtered other than for sediment - it just gets pumped through a softener and a sediment filter and goes to the tap. Periodically people bleach wells, but usually only when a problem occurs.

    Also, there are huge areas of the world that live off of rainwater collection. You just have to do it correctly - and that means not letting animals into your containers, and disposing of the first couple gallons that come off the roof in each storm, and things like that.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2014
  7. sunflower4you

    sunflower4you Chirping

    Jul 22, 2014
    We have had rain barrels for a couple of years for watering trees and the garden so when I decided to get chickens I thought it logical to water them with the rain water, too. In my research, I did not find any issues with using rain water for chickens. I did stick a copper pipe in my barrel since I read that can help keep algae growth down. Not sure if it is doing anything...we go through our rain water pretty quickly since we have many trees to water. I have only had chickens for close to 2 months so I am not the best voice of experience/testing, but they have been fine so far.
  8. jentralala

    jentralala Chirping

    May 1, 2014
    I use rainwater collected in rain barrels for my girls. I think it goes stagnant a little quicker than our city water, but I change it every few days so it's not really a big deal. The girls seem to like it, and since we have 4 barrels and live in FL, it's a good use for the water.
  9. DCchicken

    DCchicken Songster

    Aug 29, 2013
    Be careful using rain water that was runoff from your roof unless your roof is metal or slate. Modern roof shingles have all kinds of chemicals in them to make them stand up to uv rays, fires, and maintain that color. Just like with plastic drinking bottles that leak chemicals into the water, so do the roof tiles. So it may be ok for your plants. But animals or yourself, stay away. Unless of course you filter it first.
  10. RonP

    RonP Crowing


    I would worry about what relieved themselves on the roof also.

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