Keeping drinking water fresh and clean for any animal is not easy, but it is essential for their good health. Not only do they like to drink the water, but they like to splash about in it as much as they can, leading to mud, leaves, insects, and all sorts of items landing up in the fresh drinking water, along with algae.
Chicken’s water can be kept from turning green by keeping the bucket out of direct sunlight, cleaning the bucket when it’s refilled, keeping the chickens from fouling the water, storing the bucket outside of the coop, and adding a little bit of apple cider vinegar to the clean drinking water.
At some time or another, the fresh drinking water that you put out for your chickens to drink will turn green. The container or drinking bucket that you use may well be the culprit, but what can we do to prevent this from happening, and will we poison out poultry?
Want to see the watering system we use to keep our chickens’ water clean? See exactly what we’ve got here.
How Can I Prevent The Drinking Water From Turning Green?
Keeping your chickens drinking water out of the sunlight might not be an option for you, as you may need to keep the water bowl close to a water supply, or you simply may have too many chickens and not enough indoor space to keep the water bowl inside the nesting coop.
Fortunately, these are not the only options for you, and here are some possible alternatives that you can use to prevent your chickens’ drinking water from turning green.
1. Keep the containers in a cool place.
Not only will the water be kept cool, but staying out of the sunlight helps to prevent algae from growing in the water. If you do have to place the container in direct sunlight, make sure that the top is covered and that you use a dark container to keep the sunlight out.
The shade of a tree would serve this purpose well, or even partial shade in the hottest times of the day. A lid will help to keep out dust and debris.
2. Keep the flock (and poop) out of the water.
Another important thing to do to keep the water clean (and not green – especially for chicks) is to keep your chickens out of the water. You can do this in one of several ways.
- You can raise the bucket (or watering system) up to discourage your chickens from taking an impromptu bath – or from accidentally pooping in their water.
- Cover the water and use watering nipples. This will prevent all accidental baths and keep the water clean from more sources of contamination.
We’ve got a 5-gallon watering bucket with a lid and retrofitted with horizontal watering nipples for our flock. And the bucket is raised up on blocks so that it’s at a comfortable drinking height for the chickens. It’s been a great system for keeping our chickens out of the water – so that they’ve got clean drinking water on demand.
3. Add apple cider vinegar or bleach to the water if needed.
A drop or two of apple cider vinegar or bleach added to the water will help to prevent algae growth, especially if you do not change the water every day. Be sure to follow the instructions on the package and only use the correct solution allowed – you do not want to poison your chickens, but you do want to keep the algae away.
Which should you use?
Well, if you want to raise your chicken in an organic manner, then you should stay away from bleach and rather use apple cider vinegar to add a little acidity to the water.
On the other hand, you may opt to use a small amount of bleach (that would be safe for human consumption) if you don’t have apple cider vinegar or you’re using untreated water.
Here’s the rule of thumb: if it’s safe for you to drink it, then it’s safe for your flock.
I don’t usually add apple cider vinegar (ACV) to the water, mostly because I don’t want my children thinking they can add “pretend apple cider vinegar” to the water when I’m not looking.
However, if I did add it to our 5-gallon bucket, I’d add up to 1/4 cup of the apple cider vinegar and mix it well. Forums I’ve read recommend 1-2 tablespoons of ACV per gallon. If your watering system is metallic, know that ACV may not be your best choice, as vinegar can corrode metal.
I also don’t add bleach to the water for the same reason. Also, I’m giving my chickens tap water that’s already been treated and that we drink, too. So I don’t want to double treat the water.
4. Scrub the container regularly.
Each time you empty out the old water, scrub down the container with a soapy solution, a scrubbing brush, and a mild solvent before you refill with fresh, clean water.
The mild solvent can simply be a drop or two of the dishwashing liquid that you use in your kitchen. This should kill off any algae spores that are hanging around and wash out any old debris and saliva.
5. Keep the drinking water outside the coop.
If the water container is on the floor, the chickens will mess and scratch around in it, providing food for the algae to grow. If you do have to keep the container inside the nesting coop, make sure that it is at chest height for the chickens and secure it so they cannot knock it over or scratch dirt into it.
We keep our waterer in the chicken’s covered run. That way, it’s still in a covered area to help keep it cool, but it’s easier for me to access it and refill it.
If you opt for a covered watering system with drinking nipples, then you could probably use it in the coop without an issue. However, then it’s also a lot harder to refill, which is a whole other problem. For all these reasons, that’s why I say go ahead and keep it outside of the coop.
6. Refill the water regularly.
Depending on how large your flock is, what time of year it is, and other factors, you may need to refill your water as often as every day. During the hot months, you may want to refill it more than that to help your flock stay cool.
In any case, you want to refill it regularly. Doing so will help prevent the water (and the bucket) from growing any algae that will turn it green.
It’s about finding the balance between ease, efficiency, health, and safety.
We use a 5-gallon watering bucket for our flock.
During the colder, winter months, I only wash the bucket once a month or so. It gets cold enough here that it’s too cold for the algae to grow. And during the winter, I refill the bucket at least once every few days.
During the summer, I check the watering bucket more regularly – at least every couple of days. I refill and clean it as needed. On average, I clean the bucket at least once a week and I refill it every 2-3 days.
Why Does The Drinking Water Turn Green?
Other than leaves floating about in the drinking trough, the only other reason that the water will look and turn green is because of algae. Algae, more commonly known as “the green stuff floating in the water bowl,” is a plant-like life form that can replicate itself. It requires light, food, and slow or non-moving (stagnant) water to grow.
A drinking water bowl, bucket, or trough creates the ideal environment for algae to grow. Add in the weather temperature – the warmer the weather, the faster it will grow – saliva, dust, bits of food, and you will soon have green stuff floating around in your chicken’s fresh drinking water.
In ideal conditions, algae will grow very quickly, and your big bowl of clean drinking water will be reduced to green floating algae plants.
Can My Chickens Drink Green Water?
Can chickens drink green or nasty water? Chickens have a higher tolerance for unclean water than humans do. But should they have to drink green water? No. Chickens deserve clean drinking water, too.
Green water is not a healthy choice for your chickens and can lead to infections and diseases. The algae in the water can act as a haven for all sorts of bacteria to proliferate in the water. Too much of the algae itself is also not good for your chicken’s health.
Your chickens can build up a resistance to small amounts of the algae but should not be exposed to it often. Too many algae can lead to respiratory problems and even the sudden death of your chickens.
Cleaning their drinking containers every day or every second day at least should keep them healthy and disease-free.
Tips For Keeping The Water Bowl Clean
Cleaning the water containers every day is not always possible. While they do have to be cleaned and scrubbed regularly, a daily clean, while often necessary, might not happen.
To help keep the container clean for a while longer – providing that the chickens do not mess or spill it or mess in it, and for your own peace of mind, try these quick tips:
- Use proper chicken drinkers. Hang the container up to the height of a chicken or place it on a stand, preventing dirt and debris from falling into the water.
- Have more than one container. Set them up at different locations around the yard. Not only does this help make sure your chickens stay hydrated, but it also helps prevent bullying at any one site. It can also lower water spillage.
- Do not use open containers. Chickens will mess in open containers, which means that you will have to clean more often!
- Add a drop of organic apple cider vinegar to the water. This will increase the acidity level in the water, making it next to impossible for algae to grow.
And seriously – don’t forget to keep the water out of direct sunlight. Algae love stagnant, sunny water. So if you keep it shaded, you’re telling the algae to hit the road.
Which Water Container Should I Use To Prevent Algae?
There are many water containers available, each designed for a specific purpose:
- Pros – Galvanised containers are sturdy and strong and will last an awfully long time. These containers are often used on farms or homesteads and can be knocked about and trampled by cattle and other four-legged animals but can be used over again as long as they are washed daily. They can be kept outside and will not be damaged by the weather.
- Cons – As they are not see-through, you cannot see when the water needs to be topped up. They cannot be cleaned with apple cider vinegar as the galvanized finish will corrode.
Stainless Steel Containers
- Pros – Stainless steel containers are rustproof and last a long time. They can be washed with any soap or sterilizing solutions without being harmed. It can be used outside indefinitely and should withstand being trampled by the farmyard animals.
- Cons – Very expensive and can be heavy depending on which size container you buy. The water would need to be checked on a daily basis as it is not visible through the steel sides of the container.
- Pros – Plastic containers are lightweight and sturdy and can be used many times. They are sturdy enough to be used for lightweight jobs around the farm or homestead and can be used for storing chicken feed when not used as water containers. Weather and small animal resistant to a point, the lid seals well and will keep any rodents and knitters out. The watermark is visible through clear containers.
- Cons – It is not strong enough to withstand a trampling from cattle or farm animals. It can eventually wear out or become brittle if left out in the sun for too long. It can be cleaned using sterilizing solutions, but the plastic may degrade over time and retain the smell of the solution used.
We use a plastic, 5-gallon bucket. You can see it in action here via my YouTube channel in this video on the chicken’s drinking water, or by clicking the image below to open up YouTube with my video queued.
Green VS Clean Water: Final Thoughts
While it might not be easy to keep floating green stuff out of your chickens’ water, it can be done with a bit of planning. By keeping the container in the right place, cleaning regularly, and adding an organic, slightly acidic solution to the water, you should have healthy, clean water for your chickens to drink!
You can do that by using apple cider vinegar or small amounts of food-grade chlorine. Just be careful and follow the amounts as directed for human consumption. You sure don’t want to add too much – it could be fatal for your flock or could be passed down to the eggs and meat you eat.
Happy homesteading, friends!
Learning from your own experience is essential, but learning from others is also intelligent. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- Armitage, Neil. Wading through the Watering of Chickens! Cluckin. cluckin.net/wading-through-the-watering-of-chickens.html
- Barnes A. Things That Are Toxic To Chickens. The Open Sanctuary Project. Published November 10, 2022. https://opensanctuary.org/article/things-that-are-toxic-to-chickens/
- Clemson. Water turns green. BackYard Chickens – Learn How to Raise Chickens. Published March 18, 2011. https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/water-turns-green.459090/
- Munniksma L. How to Stop Algae Growth in Water Tank? – Here are 7 Ways. Hobby Farms. Published October 10, 2023. https://www.hobbyfarms.com/algae-livestock-water-tanks-troughs/
- Natkev. water holder turning green. BackYard Chickens – Learn How to Raise Chickens. Published June 15, 2014. https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/water-holder-turning-green.278123/