When you think about birds that are naturally good swimmers, it’s highly unlikely that a chicken would make the top ten. Lacking the webbed feet of ducks and waterfowl, are chickens able to swim at all?
We’ll be taking a look at whether chickens can float in water, and, if so, how long they are able to survive, so if you’re keen to know the answers, then read on!
Chickens are not physically built for swimming. They do not have webbed feet to help propel them through water, and their feathers will become waterlogged after a short period in a pool, pond, or deep puddle. However, if they accidentally enter water, they may be able to float for a limited time.
Being half-submerged in water is not a natural state of affairs for a chicken, and is likely to cause panic or stress, particularly if the entry to the water was sudden or unexpected.
Chickens can float for a limited time, but that's about all - they're not capable swimmers
If a chicken falls into a water source unexpectedly, it is likely that it will be in a state of shock, and may well instinctively react by panicking and thrashing around trying to navigate its way to safety.
Chickens’ feathers are unlike those of ducks and geese; water pools in the pockets close to the chicken’s body, becoming heavy and waterlogged.
The sudden additional weight can pull the chicken’s body under the surface of the water, presenting a serious risk of sinking and drowning.
To find out whether chickens are ever drawn to water and what their chances of surviving a fall into a pond or pool, then please carry on reading.
Chickens lack similar feathers to those of ducks and geese
A chicken’s feathers are not waterproof. As chickens are not waterbirds, they are not naturally adapted to spending extended amounts of time in watery environments, and generally do not need to rely on a waterproof plumage for survival.
Chickens do possess a uropygial gland that secretes preen oil, used to coat their feathers to give a degree of water resistance. However, this protection falls short of the same level of waterproofing seen in many other bird species, such as ducks, geese, gulls, and swans.
This oil allows chickens to withstand light rain, but offers little defense against intense exposure to water, such as being submerged in a pool.
There may, of course, be some exceptions, but generally speaking chickens will do whatever they can to avoid entering anything but the shallowest of puddles.
They are not naturally adapted for spending time in water, and can quickly become chilled from even short periods with their feathers exposed to wet conditions.
Chickens can quickly become susceptible to hypothermia when they get wet
Chickens can survive in water for no more than 15 minutes. They are able to move through the water using their legs as paddles, but as their feathers become heavier and waterlogged, this pulls them deeper into the water, which poses a risk of the bird becoming submerged and eventually drowning.
Chickens should not be exposed to water or wet conditions for long periods of time, as they are unable to thermoregulate their body temperatures due to their feathers not being waterproof.
Wet feathers can quickly lead to a severe drop in body temperature and the onset of hypothermia, so any chicken that has been in water would benefit greatly from extra warmth and being dried on exiting.
Swimming isn’t a natural activity usually associated with chickens. When chickens enter water, more often than not it is when they are attempting to escape a threat, or fall in by accident while drinking.
Chickens do not need to seek water to cool down in hot weather, beyond as a cool, refreshing drink. Most chickens will actively avoid entering water and may panic if they do find themselves in a pool or pond.
Swimming isn’t a natural activity usually associated with chickens
Drowning is a real and serious risk for any chicken entering water, no matter how shallow. Chickens’ feathers are not naturally waterproof and can become waterlogged and heavy after a short time exposed to water.
Heavy feathers can drag the weight of a chicken underwater, and as they are unable to right themselves to safety if they tip over in the water, this can lead to them drowning.
Anecdotal accounts exist of chickens drowning in water bowls and water buckets, so even the smallest of water-filled containers can pose a hazard.
Chickens can float, but, unlike ducks, do not have the ability to right themselves in water if they tip off balance.
Even though they lack the webbed feet that make ducks and geese such strong and capable swimmers, chickens’ feet do help them to paddle and stay upright in water, for a limited period of time.
Chickens’ feet do help them to paddle and stay upright in water, for a limited period of time
According to research estimates, a healthy adult chicken would be able to float for 10 to 15 minutes. Other factors include how calm the chicken is, as a panicking, stressed chicken is less likely to fare as well as one that is not flapping or thrashing about.
If a chicken falls into water, help should be offered for it to safely exit the water as soon as possible.
If you have a pool of water in a yard in which chickens are kept, it is advisable to place bricks or a ramp near the side, so the birds can leave the water when they choose and always have the option to step onto solid ground.
Chickens lack the ability to right their balance if they topple over in the water and face a real risk of drowning. If you see a distressed chicken in water, then you should always step in and help it out, where safe to do so.
If a chicken falls into water, it needs to be taken out as soon as possible
Some chicken owners say their birds do enjoy spending short periods of time in paddling pools or strutting through shallow water containers, but it’s certainly not the case for all chickens, and the general consensus is that chickens should never be forcibly placed in water as it may cause intense stress.
Chickens may occasionally wade through puddles, but generally, it’s not widely thought that they seek water play for pleasure.
If chickens spend extended periods of time in wet environments, e.g. standing in, sitting in, or wading through puddles or pools, they can quickly become waterlogged and at risk of developing hypothermia.
Young chicks are unable to swim, and their downy feathers mean they would quickly become waterlogged very quickly. This could, in turn, cause drowning if the chick is unable to return to dry land, or lead to hypothermia even if it does make it safely out of the water.
Chicks do not have the tight feather arrangement of mature chickens that helps them to float on water, and their downy covering offers no protection against getting wet, meaning they will quickly become chilled and unable to warm themselves up.
Young chicks are unable to swim or float, so water should be completely avoided
Water baths are not needed as part of a chicken’s hygiene or cleansing routine. Instead they use dust or sand as an aid to cleaning and maintaining their feathers. It’s highly unlikely that a chicken would voluntarily take a bath as a way of refreshing its plumage.
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