The first time my chickens were outside in the rain, I have to admit I panicked a little bit – and I wondered if I should take an umbrella outside to escort them back to the coop. Are chickens okay out in the rain?
Chickens are fine being in the rain as long as they have a waterproof shelter they can retreat to on-demand. Rainy days often mean fewer predators, more bugs, and little to no effect on the chickens as long as they can dry off and stay warm. Here is what you need to know about chickens and rain.
Keep reading to learn about chickens, rain, and how much chickens like (or at least tolerate) the rain.
Chickens Are Okay in the Rain
While chickens aren’t waterfowl (like ducks), they are still okay in the rain. Chickens, before being domesticated, did fine in the rain. And domesticated chickens have retained many of those rainy day instincts that help them stay fine despite any rain.
Chickens are fine in the rain primarily due to their feathers. In fact, they can actually be out in the rain for quite a while without actually getting wet! Okay, so their feathers will get wet – but their skin can stay quite dry under all of those feathers.
So, as long as their skin stays dry, they can generally be out in the rain just fine. It’s when their skin gets wet that they can be at risk of getting too cold too fast (hypothermia). We’ll talk about rain-related sickness later on in this article.
When there’s too much rain, however, or it’s too cold, then chickens are generally smart enough (or that instinct kicks in) to seek shelter. In fact, they can usually tell what the rain’s going to be like faster and better than I do. When I see them all making a beeline for the coop, I know that I probably don’t want to be in the rain, either! However, if it’s a mild rain, then some will still stay out – while those chickens who don’t like the rain as much will hang out under the roofed run or go into the coop.
So as long as your chickens have a safe, waterproof place to retreat when they’re wet (or they can go hide if they don’t want to be in the rain), then they’re just fine in the rain. They’ll go inside when they need to. Just make sure they can access that shelter on-demand.
Do Chickens Like Being in the Rain?
Some chickens like the rain. Others tolerate it and some don’t mind it. It’s going to be dependent on their breed, temperament, and personality.
My chickens, for the most part, actually enjoy rainy days. I think it helps that most rainy days here in Utah aren’t so much a downpour as a drizzle. On the days when it does downpour, though, they all head into the run – where the roof can protect them from most of the rain but they can still be outside.
Chickens also like rainy days for two other reasons.
- First, some predators have a harder time hunting on rainy days. Hawks, for example, may not be able to soar as easily (or as long) if they’re getting rained on. So they won’t be as abundant on rainy days – meaning far fewer worries for roaming chickens.
- Second, rainy days mean more bugs. Think about worms, for example. On rainy days, they’re more likely to be closer to the surface of the dirt – or just on your concrete patio wiggling around. That’s easy pickings for the chickens!
Okay, so I’ve got one Buff Orpington who dislikes the rain. She uses the rain as an excuse to go be broody in the coop, while the other Buff joins the rest of the flock in the hunt for bugs in the rain. But my broody Buff will take almost any excuse to go sit on eggs – or just sit in an empty nesting box.
Do Chickens Like Being Wet?
Chickens aren’t ducks – at least chickens don’t like water as much as ducks do. Chickens don’t mind some types of water, while other types of water are really not appreciated.
For example, our chickens don’t mind a light drizzle or mild rain while they’re in it. They will, when they’re too wet or tired of being wet, go dry off inside their shelter.
They don’t, however, like a downpour or any falling snow. They don’t mind walking through a small amount of snow, though. They also don’t much like sprinklers and they only tolerate the water misters.
However, because we try to stick to late-night and early-morning sprinkler use, the sprinklers aren’t usually much of an issue for our chickens. If you’re using daytime sprinklers, then your chickens may steer clear of the area while it’s going. Or they might hide inside of their coop – that’s what ours do when we’re testing sprinklers during daytime hours.
During the warmest months, though, we do use a water mister to help control temperatures by the coop. My chickens don’t like being in the direct line of the mister, but they do enjoy the fact that it helps with the hot heat of summer. So they tolerate it – but it did take some getting-used-to.
Chickens Can Free Range in the Rain
When it’s raining, let your chickens do their thing. If you let your chickens free range on sunny days, let them do that on rainy days.
Our chickens have a whole “pasture” in our backyard that they have on-demand access to during daytime hours. They can go in their run, in their coop, or to the pasture. They go back and forth or where ever their chicken heart desires.
They’ll generally self-regulate and make sure they’re getting dry when they need to – and then they’ll probably rush back out to eat more bugs in the rain.
Chickens Will Find Shelter from the Rain if Needed
Chickens will find shelter from the rain when they need to. Sometimes it’s because that particular chicken doesn’t like the rain, like my one very-picky Orpington. Other times, it’s that instinct and/or sense of self-preservation they have to dry off so they don’t get hypothermic.
In any case, chickens will almost always seek shelter from the rain when they need to. So make sure they’ve got access to a shelter – and they should be just fine to enjoy being outside in the wet weather.
Won’t My Chickens Get Wet and Cold in the Rain?
Rain will always get you wet, sure. But it’s not always cold. If it’s a warmer rain, then your chickens may enjoy being out in the wet longer than if it’s a cold rain.
However, thanks to those insulating feathers they’ve got, most chickens can be out in the rain for a while before their skin gets wet. And most chickens will seek shelter before that happens. And they’ll definitely seek shelter if they get cold.
Can Chickens Sleep in the Rain?
While wild chickens and birds have to sleep in the rain, they’ll still seek the shelter of some sort. They’ll try to stay as dry and as safe as possible.
Similarly, a chicken could probably take a nap or even sleep in the rain, but they’re going to prefer a dry, safe place to sleep at night.
So if you’ve got a bird that didn’t make it back to the coop before dark on a rainy day, they could be fine out overnight on their own. The big risks in this sort of instance are predators and temperature changes. So rain may factor into that, but I’d be more worried about my chicken being eaten than getting wet.
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Even so, that’s why we use an automatic chicken door (like this one on Amazon) with a daylight sensor and a timer – that way if the sensor thinks it’s sunset (because of all of the clouds), the timer can override it. That way, all of my chickens can get back into the coop so I don’t have to worry about them being stuck outside or them having to sleep out in the rain.
Can Chickens Get Sick from the Rain?
Chickens are less likely to get sick from being wet than they are from a rapid change in body temperature (or hypothermia). Chickens need a regular body temperature – or they get sick and die pretty quickly.
So if their body temperature drops (due to the cold or wet) and they can’t dry off and get warm? Then yes, they can get sick and die. It’ll happen faster if there’s a bad wind (and wind chill) associated with the rain.
Another way that chickens could get sick from rain is if they can’t dry off sufficiently. Wet feathers could harbor all sorts of bacteria and fungi that could cause health issues, sickness, or death.
So make sure that your chickens have a waterproof, dry shelter – so that they can stay warm and dry off when it’s raining. That way they’ll stay healthy. Usually, a good coop is more than sufficient. Just check it regularly to make sure it’s staying dry – and you’re good to go.
What to Do with Chicken Feed and Water During Rain
Wet chicken feed is a mess! Plus, once it’s wet it attracts rodents, bugs, and germs, and can get moldy crazy fast. That’s why I think it’s important to keep your chicken feed under some sort of roof.
Plus, having your chicken feed and watering systems under a roof (easily accessible from the coop) means that your chickens can stay dry while eating and drinking. That doesn’t mean that the food and water need to be in the coop – especially if your run has a good roof.
Just for reference, here’s how we’ve got ours set up. That way, even if it’s raining (or snowing) our chickens have access to their clean, dry feed – and plenty of clean water.
If you’d rather keep your chicken feed out, that’s fine. But you may want to go out and cover it (or move it) for the duration of the rainstorm.
What Should I Do if Rain Causes a Muddy Coop and Run?
If the rain is making your chicken coop muddy, that’s something that should be addressed and fixed – when it’s dry. A muddy coop can be hard on your chicken’s feet. Thankfully, it’s a relatively easy fix. I’ve got a whole article of fixes for muddy chicken coops and runs. Click here to go read it.
Cite this article as: “Are Chickens OK out in the Rain?” Backyard Homestead HQ, 13 April 2020, backyardhomesteadhq.com/are-chickens-ok-out-in-the-rain/.