Water is a vital life source for all living creatures. And this is why it’s essential to get the watering routine of your chickens just right. Because when chickens don’t have constant access to clean water, this can cause many health problems including dehydration.
Adult chickens drink an average of one pint of water per day, though this can change depending on your chickens’ diet and environment. Chickens need more water (up to two pints) in extreme or hot weather.
So, with this in mind, let’s take a look at the things you must consider when it comes to watering your chickens. This way, you’ll get a clearer idea of how much water your chickens need to drink each day.
This is How Much Water Chickens Need Each Day
Chickens need a minimum of one pint of water per day, though they may need double that. Many things will affect how much water your chickens need each day. This includes things such as the size, age, diet, health of your chickens, as well as climate.
But one thing is for sure, chickens must have constant access to fresh water. Because if they don’t, this will have a negative effect on their health, productivity, and appearance. So below, we’ll look at the water requirements of different types of chickens.
Chicks need plenty of water to grow
Chicks need about 1/3 cup of water (80 mL) per day during their first week of life. Each week, their water consumption should double until they reach an adult’s water needs.
I calculated that two ways. First, I watched what our chicks drank. Second, I did some math based on a dozen chicks. Here’s how it works.
On average, 12 chicks, less than a week old, will drink around 2 pints of water per day. So, from 1-4 weeks, they should be drinking 4 pints per day between them. Then from 4-8 weeks, they should be drinking 8 pints per day.
But watering chicks isn’t easy because they’ll regularly soil the water. And dirty water is bad for chicks because they don’t have a strong immune system yet. As well as this, chicks can potentially drown in their water so It’s vital to get your brooder watering system just right.
If you want tips on keeping water clean for chicks, make sure you read my guide on keeping chicks’ water clean here (LINK).
Some people think that a hanging watering system is best for chicks. This way the chicks can’t dirty the water or accidentally drown in it. However, I’ve found that chicks will just jump up to perch on the hanging waterers – and then they foul that up, too.
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So we just use a ground-level watering system for our chicks, at least until their beaks are stronger. As they grow, though, we do use a hanging system to raise it up so that the water stays at their shoulders to make drinking easier. Here’s a cool way to convert any plastic waterer into a hanging system (via Amazon).
If you use ground waterers for chicks, make sure that they’re shallow and that you check and clean them regularly.
Then, we switch them to a watering nipple system. That way, the water will stay cleaner. We usually switch them to the watering nipples at about a month old, just to be safe.
Most chicks will naturally find the water source, but you can introduce them to it by gently dipping their beaks into it for a second. And it’s important to make sure that all your chicks are drinking because they will become dehydrated very quickly if they’re not.
Broiler/Meat Chickens need water to bulk up
Broiler chickens must have a minimum of one pint of water per day. And in the summer months, they may drink up to two pints a day.
Chickens not only need water to stay hydrated, but they also need it to digest their food. And broiler chickens, with their dense, meaty bodies, have a fast metabolism and grow very quickly. Thus, they need to eat lots of food. This means that broiler chickens will generally drink more water than any other type of chicken.
Laying Chickens need water to lay eggs
An egg is made up of around 70 percent water, so laying hens have to drink around 1 pint of water a day to produce an egg. However, they might drink more or less than this depending on the season. If a laying hen doesn’t get enough water, then she’ll stop producing eggs.
Overall, cockerels and chickens that aren’t laying eggs will generally need less water than laying chickens. At least, that may be the case during cooler months.
During the summer or hotter months, make sure your chickens always have plenty of water. They will need it to help them stay cool.
And while chickens will drink pretty much any water (even the gross stuff), having clean water available really is important for them to stay healthy and happy. Make sure you check out my tips on keeping water clean for adult chickens here (LINK).
How Much Water Does a Chicken Need During Each Season?
The seasons play a huge part when it comes to your chicken’s daily water intake. This is because your chickens will go through different phases of growth and activity throughout the year. Generally, chickens will drink more water in the summer and less in the winter.
To get a clearer idea about this, below, we’ll take a look at your chicken’s water requirements according to the different seasons.
Spring water needs
When springtime comes around, your chickens will be fresh and ready to start breeding and laying. So, this means that they’ll need lots of food and water to prepare for the busy season ahead.
In springtime, there’s lots of foliage and insects around for free-range chickens to eat and these all contain water. At this time of year, free-range chickens may drink less water than caged ones.
Summer water needs of chickens
Your chickens will drink lots of water during the summer, not only to keep them hydrated but to help them regulate their body temperature too. And it’s important to check your chicken’s water more often during the summer because chickens can quickly become dehydrated in the heat.
Chickens prefer to drink cool water, so always keep their water container in a shady area during the summer. And to keep their water fresh, you can add ice cubes to it throughout the day.
Fall water needs
Fall is the time when your chickens begin to wind down from the summer in preparation for the winter. And most chickens will molt in the fall. During the molting season, chickens need lots of extra water and nutrition to help with this process.
So make sure your chickens have plenty of water in the fall.
Winter water requirements for chickens
Chickens will generally drink less water in the wintertime. And if you live in a particularly cold climate, you must check your chickens’ water for ice on frosty mornings. Because chickens can’t drink frozen water.
You can defrost the water by pouring some warm water onto the ice. Alternatively, there are lots of heated chicken waterers on the market. These will keep the water just warm enough to stop it from freezing over.
Personally, I’m not a fan of having to go out and de-ice the watering bucket every day. So we use a stock tank deicer like this one (found on Amazon). We just put it in the tank and it keeps the water free of ice for us. It doesn’t keep the water super warm – just warm enough to not freeze.
If you don’t want to get a deicer, though, then there are heated bucket options (like this one) that work great, too.
How Long Do 5 Gallons of Water Last for Chickens?
If a chicken drinks on average a pint a day, then 5 gallons of water will last 10 chickens 1-2 summer days, or perhaps 2-5 winter days. This all depends on the number of chickens that are drinking from it and the season.
But you should always overestimate a chicken’s water consumption because, as we’ve learned, it can vary each day. Some days chickens will drink more than 1 pint of water, so in this case, 5 gallons will last 10 chickens less than a day.
We’ve got a dozen chickens, and our old waterer was a 5-gallon bucket.
We counted on needing to add a 2-gallon bucket every summer evening. That way, the chickens always had enough water during the summer.
During the winter, we only needed to add a 2-gallon bucket every 3-5 days.
We’ve got a new, 12-gallon waterer, so it should help our flock stay even more hydrated more easily. Just in case you’re wondering what we upgraded to, you can check it out here on Amazon.
How Many Gallons of Water Does a Flock Need?
This all depends on the size of your flock and their living conditions. But to give you an estimate of how many gallons of water and the number of water containers your flock needs, we’ve created this table below.
It’s based on the average chicken drinking one pint per day. But remember, sometimes chickens will drink more than 1 pint a day.
|Number of Chickens||Gallons of Water Per day||Number of Water Containers|
Please keep in mind that when you have more chickens, you will need more watering containers. That way, the chickens don’t fight over the precious resource known as water. They need not only enough water but also plenty of access to water.
Should Chickens Drink Treated Water?
Treated tap water is perfectly safe for chickens to drink. The drinking water that comes from our taps is treated so that it doesn’t contain harmful bacteria. Sometimes, minerals (such as fluoride) are also added to the water.
Treated tap water is actually a great way to keep your chickens’ water clean.
But if you notice that your chickens’ water or watering container has turned green, you need to treat the water yourself to remove these green algae. Green algae are bad for chickens. If they drink it, It can cause gastric discomfort and in severe cases neurological and liver damage. So, you must stop the algae from forming.
To stop your chickens’ water from going green, you can simply add some cider apple vinegar to the water. Approximately 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per gallon of water should do the trick. Alternatively, you can also treat the water with a few drops of food-grade chlorine.
We give our chickens treated tap water to drink because it’s what we’re able to give them. Our secondary water isn’t treated, but it’s also not available all year round. So we stick to the treated water. Our chickens are quite happy with it.
We find that if we scrub out their watering container on a regular basis, then the treated tap water is enough to keep their water algae-free and healthy.
- During the summers, we scrub their container every 1-2 weeks.
- During the winters, we scrub their container every 1-3 months.
During cold Utah winters, not a lot of algae grows – unless it gets warm. So, it really depends on how things look. Make sure you inspect your chickens’ water regularly, too.
What is the Best Way to Water Chickens?
Our chickens do best with a covered watering system that uses watering nipples. This keeps their water clean, cool, and free from algae. Other systems will work better for other chickens and circumstances.
It really all depends on your chickens, their living environment, and the space you have available. As well as this, some watering systems are easier to maintain than others. So below, we’ll look at the most common watering systems for chickens.
Gravity waterers are the most common type of chicken waterers. This is because they’re reasonably priced, durable, and readily available. These inverted water containers have a small rim at the bottom which is constantly full of water. As the chickens drink from the rim, fresh, clean water is released, by gravity, from the container above.
Gravity waterers are available in lots of different sizes, and designs. They’re easy to fill and maintain, and you can usually see the water line clearly through the container.
However, because gravity waterers are generally made from plastic, they’re lightweight and not very sturdy.
You can get metal (or even stainless steel) gravity waterers, and those will hold up better than the plastic ones. However, those can get quite hot in the summers if they aren’t kept in a covered, cool area.
We generally only use gravity waterers for our chicks. And then we stick to the plastic ones.
Watering cups attach to a water pipe or bucket, and they provide a small shallow bowl for your chickens to drink from. Watering cups will either be constantly full, or they’ll have a mechanism where your chickens have to peck the cups to release the water. You can see what they look like right here on Amazon.
Watering cups are good because they reduce water waste and keep water fresh and clean. However, they are susceptible to freezing over in the winter if they’re not well insulated.
They’ll also come with whatever pros and cons to the container they’re attached to. Attaching them to a metal container isn’t easy, but it is doable if you don’t mind drilling a hole through metal. If you do, please make sure you clean up any metal shards before you use the container.
If you’d like to build your own watering system with plastic PVC pipes, there are some great DIY watering cup kits already ready for you on Amazon.
Nipple waterers are one of the most hygienic watering methods with the least water wastage. These nipples, with a small hole in the middle, attach to a closed container. And when the chickens peck at it, it will release small drops of water.
However, you have to train chickens how to use nipple waterers and not all chickens take to using them. Additionally, nipple waterers are vulnerable to freezing over in the winter.
Our chickens were trained to use watering nipples within 1-2 days. And when it’s paired with a deicer inside the actual watering container? Ours have all worked well all winter long.
Seriously. Get a deicer. Here’s a link to the one we use: stock tank deicer (found on Amazon).
And here’s a link to a DIY chicken watering nipple kit on Amazon. That way, you can build your own watering system using whatever you want. Our first watering system was built with these and a food-grade 5-gallon bucket. Oh, and spoiler: the Home Depot orange buckets aren’t food-grade.
A water trough is an open container that usually sits on the floor, and they are either manual or self-filling. These can be made from a range of different materials from ceramic to galvanized steel.
Unless they’re raised, open water troughs get dirty easily and they have to be cleaned and refilled a lot. Thus, they create more water wastage.
What are the Best Chicken Waterer Materials?
Chicken waterers come in many different materials, each with its own benefits. The most common materials for chicken water are galvanized metal, plastic, and stainless steel. And we’ll take a closer look at these below.
Galvanized metal containers are a popular choice for watering all different kinds of livestock. This is because they’re sturdy, durable, and last a long time, even when they’re exposed to the elements. As well to this, galvanized containers won’t rust.
But you can’t see the water line through galvanized containers, so you’ll have to physically check them. Additionally, you mustn’t treat galvanized containers with cider apple vinegar because it will cause corrosion.
Plastic containers are lightweight so they’re easy to move around. This is one of the most economical materials. And it’s popular among chicken owners because it doesn’t react badly to cider vinegar.
However, plastic can be a bit flimsy and it will break easily. And as well as this, you need to replace plastic containers more often than steel or galvanized waterers. Because over time, plastic will degrade when it’s exposed to the elements.
In my experience, plastic containers will last, at best, 2-3 years. Where you’ve got them (in the sunlight or not) will affect that length.
Personally, we stick to plastic because it’s safer for my children, who are big helpers with our chickens.
With plastic, I don’t have to worry as much about my children getting burned in the summer or stuck to the bucket in winter.
Stainless steel is one of the most durable types of water containers. They’re hygienic, easy to clean and they’ll withstand the elements for a very long time. As well as this, they won’t rust if you use cider vinegar in them.
However, stainless steel containers can be quite heavy and they’re expensive to buy.
Where Should I Put Chicken Waterers?
When it comes to finding the right location for your waterers, this will depend on your setup. However, there are some important points to follow when it comes to setting up your waters.
1. Place Them Apart – If you have more than one waterer, always place them away from each other. This way, dominant chickens won’t be able to prevent the weaker ones from drinking.
2. Keep Them in the Shade – Water will stay cooler and cleaner when it’s not in direct sunlight.
3. Elevate Them – You should raise the waterer up off the ground to prevent it from being soiled. And you should make a platform or a step up to it if you have small or young chickens using it.
4. Make Sure There’s Head Space – Make sure that your chickens have enough space above their waterer to raise their heads after drinking. They need to do this so that they can swallow the water.
5. Keep Them Out of the Coop – You should never keep the water in the coop. It will get dirty very quickly and it will also create dampness and mold inside the coop.
We’ve got a covered run built out of an old dog kennel. We keep our watering system inside of that, and it works well. It’s not completely shaded, but it’s pretty good. It gets the job done for sure!
How Often Should I Clean My Chicken’s Water?
Ideally, you should give your waterer a quick wipe and a rinse each time you fill it. This does a good job at removing biofilm, the slimy stuff that builds upon the surface of water containers.
As well as this, you should give your waterers a good scrub with a brush and warm water at least once a month. You can use vinegar, bleach solution, or dish soap to clean them. Just make sure you rinse them out properly, especially if you use bleach.
Realistically, though, just do it regularly. And definitely do it any time it looks dirty.
- In the summer, we clean the watering bowls out about once a week.
- In the winter, it’s more like once every month or so, and we must time it to when there’s not a ton of snow.
- During the spring and fall, we clean their watering buckets somewhere between the summer and winter levels, depending on the weather and how the buckets look.
Conclusion Chickens and Drinking Water
Giving your chickens water is far from simple, while still being a relatively simple idea.
As you can see, there are many different methods to choose from. Some waterers will save you time and effort and others are better for preventing water wastage. So, it’s worth taking the time to work out which watering method best suits your and your chickens’ needs.
Regardless of the method you use, the most essential thing to remember is that your chickens must have constant access to fresh clean water.
After all of my experience with chickens, I really recommend that you get a closed system with watering nipples. It works in cold, heat, and anywhere in the yard. It stays cleaner, and cooler, and most systems will let you drop a stock tank deicer in them easily.
If you’d like to take a quick look at my chicken watering setup, I’ve got some fun videos of them over on YouTube. Click this link to head to my YouTube channel now in a new window – and then check out the chicken playlist.
It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- Anger, Rachel Hurd. “Safety Check: 4 Water Sources for Your Chickens.” Hobby Farms, 3 Nov. 2020, www.hobbyfarms.com/safety-check-4-water-sources-for-your-chickens.
- “Chapter 12 – Water Quality.” UK Ag Extension, Kentucky Poultry Federation, afs.ca.uky.edu/files/chapter12.pdf.
- Lesley, Chris. “The Complete Guide To Chickens And Water | Chickens And More.” Chickens and More, 25 Jan. 2021, www.chickensandmore.com/chickens-and-water.