Can a Chicken Drink Too Much Water?

It can be rare to think about how much water a chicken can drink, but do problems happen if they drink too much? Chickens can suddenly switch to drinking too much water, show signs of disease, and other changes that can cause alarm. If a sudden shift in drinking habits occurs in a flock or even a single bird, it could point to a development that must be fixed.

Chickens can drink too much water, although it is rare. Even when a chicken drinks double what they normally do, the water consumption itself is unlikely to be a problem. Drinking too much is an indication of other issues, such as disease or stress, affecting the bird.

When keeping any flock of chickens, it is important to notice changes and developments in behavior. With how essential water is to a chicken’s wellbeing, cautiousness around changes is a good thing. 

How Much Is Too Much Water For A Chicken?

It can be difficult to pin an exact amount of water where it is suddenly too much for a chicken; instead, it is much better to focus on changes in daily water intake or look for signs of overdrinking.

The standard adult chicken will drink between 0.5 and 1 liter of water per day. However, this amount may change dramatically depending on breed, weather conditions, age, and other factors, so it is best to take it as a rule of thumb. The larger the bird, the more they will be drinking every day.

In most cases, especially for home farms and backyard chickens, it is perfectly acceptable and even preferred to give your chickens access to water at all times. They will not drink themselves to death or to the point of causing health issues; remember, drinking too much water is a symptom, not a cause.

There are a few different ways to keep an eye out for your chicken’s health through their drinking habits. Some common signs include wet droppings and rapid weight loss.

What is more likely than overhydrated chickens is your baby chics are getting enough or any grit at all, learn why it’s so important in my article.

Keeping Water In Good Condition For Drinking

To encourage your chickens to drink the correct amount of water every day, it is important to make sure their water is kept in good condition. Often, if the water is not clean and free of dirt, debris, and other particles, chickens are much less likely to drink it. Conversely, water should also be free of food, feed, and other things that may encourage chickens to drink even more than usual.

Water containers should be regularly cleaned to ensure that water is clean and healthy to drink. This will encourage normal and healthy drinking habits across the board for all chickens, even if only one chicken in the flock seems to be having issues. Get a pack of 6 Chicken waterer cups for a bargain on Amazon.

In the summer, your chickens are likely to need fresh water more often. They are likely to drink more from the heat, and if the water is allowed to sit and get warm, they are unlikely to drink it. 

During the winter or cold snaps, the chicken’s water supply could freeze, also causing a shift in drinking habits. Keep an eye on the water supply to make sure it stays clear and cold without freezing over.

Maintaining normal, healthy conditions for water is important even if you fear that your chickens are over drinking. Having access to clean and healthy water is important for their long term health.

Look For Wet Droppings And Other Signs Of Overdrinking

One of the easiest ways to tell if a chicken is drinking too much water is by looking for signs of it. Common signs of over drinking include:

  • Higher water consumption
  • Wet droppings
  • Rapid weight loss

All of these point clearly to over drinking, and some will require attention. Chickens drinking too much water is a warning sign of other issues; if the problem persists longer than expected or you are unsure of the cause, consult a veterinarian. They will be able to help diagnose issues with the chicken and explain the reasoning. Additionally, if it is a spreadable problem, they could identify and isolate the issue before it spreads to the rest of your flock. 

Higher water consumption seems like an obvious sign of over drinking, but it is important to make further note of. It is unlikely to be an issue if your chicken drinks more than usual one day. Perhaps they ran around more or it was a particularly hot day. However, if higher water consumption continues for a few days or more, that is often a sign that further research is needed into why. This is noticeable if you:

  • Suddenly need to refill water containers more often
  • Notice an increase in spilled water
  • Find dehydration in some members of the flock 

Needing to refill the water containers more often is self-explanatory, but the other two signs can be more troublesome. Chickens may spill more water around their drinking pans if they are drinking quickly or recklessly. The spilled water can cause issues by making the ground wet, so be sure to clean and dry the ground when noticed. 

Although counter-intuitive, dehydrations showing up in one member of the flock may point to signs of one chicken hogging most of the water. This is highly unlikely, but it is worth keeping an eye out for.

Wet droppings are the most consistent and easiest way to notice that a chicken is likely drinking too much water. This is simple; if a chicken’s poop is coming out watery, runny, or otherwise changed into a more liquid form, it is likely that they are drinking too much water. This may happen every so often without pointing to other issues, so do not feel the need to jump the gun. If wet droppings continue for a few days or are combined with other issues, it is worth seeing a veterinarian for.

Wet droppings may also be a sign that the chicken is choosing to drink water rather than eat their feed, which is a feature shared by this next sign as well: rapid weight loss. A chicken who is losing weight quickly is likely experiencing an issue that must be fixed. It can also point to over drinking, as chickens will commonly replace eating with drinking if, for some reason, they cannot eat. 

A chicken that is having issues with its food may turn to drinking water as a substitution. This can be for a number of reasons, but for most backyard chickens, this occurs when they are not getting enough food. More information can be found here.

For an idea of how to tell if your chickens are underweight and what to do about it, see my article.

6 Reasons For A Chicken Drinking Too Much Water

There are a small handful of dangerous reasons why a chicken may be drinking too much water. The list is small because chickens rarely over drink; however, when they do, it is often cause for alarm, whether short or long-term. Keep an eye on your chicken’s drinking habits for any dramatic shifts, then take a look and ensure that none of these problems are occurring.

1.Chickens Drink More Water While Hot

Likely the most common reason that a chicken is drinking too much water is thanks to heat. When chickens get hot or overheat, they can dramatically increase their water intake. This is the reason why chickens tend to drink more in the summer than any other season.

If your chickens have started drinking more water just recently, check the weather and humidity. If there has been a spike in temperature, it is likely the cause of the increased drinking. This is especially true around the turn of the seasons from spring to summer.

Consider adding more shade and cool corners to the coop if your chickens are hot on a routine basis. Get a UV shade block to protect your chickens for a great price on Amazon. Additionally, store their water out of the sun and provide the chickens with ample space to spread out in the heat. When hot, chickens will move away from each other and likely fill the coop, rather than huddling together.

During warmer times in the year, keep an eye on your chicken’s water, and ensure they have access at all times. In the vast majority of cases for home farms, there is no need to limit the amount of water chickens have access to, and this will ensure that they are comfortable and hydrated. 

2.Kidney Damage Or Disease Can Cause Your Chicken To Drink Much More

Damage to your chicken’s kidneys could cause issues with processing food and water, making them drink much more. Kidney dysfunction can show up in a number of ways, but the most common is through kidney disease.

The kidneys are used to process and filter blood, which carries a vast array of minerals and products through the body. Chicken kidneys process things the same way. When kidneys begin failing, it means that the chicken cannot filter out what your body needs and what should be waste.

The kidneys filter extra waste and water to create urine. When they fail, this process is not as effective, causing more frequent urination, which can lead to dehydration. Additionally, the body may not be receiving the correct minerals it needs to live, leading to other debilitating health issues.

Thanks to their importance for the health of the chicken, kidney damage is a dangerous thing. If your chicken is suddenly drinking much more water with seemingly no reason why, it is important to get them checked out by a veterinarian in case it is a kidney issue. Kidney disease is chronic, meaning that it gets worse with time.

Kidney disease or damage in general can lead to a host of health issues and even death if not treated properly and effectively, so be vigilant when it may pop up. If treatment is avoided for some time, it may be too late for the veterinarian or other professional to do anything effective for the long term.

Do your chickens have an insulated coop? Learn how to keep a warm happy flock in my article.

3.Environmental Stress

Environmental stress can show up in a number of different ways and have a direct influence on the health and actions of your chicken and flock. At the basic level, environmental stress means that something around the chicken is causing it duress, influencing its behavior. This could be something literally in the environment, such as an unkempt coop, or interactions with other members of the flock.

It can be hard to identify environmental stress, and occasionally you may not be able to find the cause without trial and error. To find what is causing environmental stress, first look at anything that may have changed recently around the chicken. Were new members added to the flock? Has it been a while since the coop was cleaned? Did an attack happen recently? Is the feed in good condition?

It can be extremely difficult to identify what is causing environmental stress, so do not worry if nothing changes after some initial attempts. It is important not to change too many parts of a chicken’s environment at once, even when trying to solve the first issue. This can exacerbate the issue or even cause new stress for other members of the flock who, so far, may have not been affected.

If, after some attempts to solve the issue, you still have not made any progress, consider pulling the chicken inside to a warmer and more comfortable environment as a sort of recharge area. This can prove especially effective if the issue was with another member of the flock. 

4.The Chicken May Not Have Enough Access To Food

If a chicken does not have enough food, it may attempt to substitute eating with drinking more water. This can be common in chickens with limited food access, such as broiler chickens. 

Food can be limited in chickens for a number of reasons, but the top reason is to limit and control weight gain in chickens. If you are doing this with your flock and notice a sudden uptick in the amount they are drinking, do not worry (assuming your food measurements are correct). It is possible to healthily limit the chicken’s access to water as well to stop the issue from continuing.

If you are limiting your chicken’s access to food for a valid reason, consider limiting their access to water as well, after they have eaten for the day. The flock should have the ability to eat and then drink before the water is taken away.

Limiting the water with the food will require more work than otherwise, but will directly stop this issue. Look for signs of dehydration or lack of water once the water has been pulled to ensure that you are providing them with enough time to drink after processing their food, as doing otherwise can cause another set of health issues. 

Do your chickens get bored? See my article on keeping your chickens happy and entertained.

5.Worms and Other Infections May Be Causing Issues

General infections, especially of the stomach and digestive track, can cause an increase in the amount of water that chickens drink. This is due to a number of reasons, as varied as the infections that could be causing the issue. However, they largely come down the chicken not getting enough sustenance from their normal intake thanks to parasites and health issues grabbing the majority of it. 

The symptoms of most infections in chickens include:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Breathing issues
  • Stains from waste on their rear
  • Abnormal or non-existent eggs

And, finally, drinking too much water. This is an exhaustive list, and more infections and symptoms can always be found. However, if you notice your chicken drinking more water when combined with any one or more of these symptoms, you should take them to visit a veterinarian as soon as possible. Infections can lead to further health issues and even death if left untreated. 

Worms in particular are dangerous for a chicken that is drinking more than usual, as they can directly lead to dehydration. If you suspect your chicken has worms, do not eat their eggs until treatment has subsided.

6.Changes In Food May Cause Increased Drinking

Often, chickens get a significant amount of their hydration from their feed. If you have recently changed their feed to a drier option, they may be drinking more water to compensate for the change.

This is not an issue – in reality, the chickens are simply getting back to the point they were previously with the past food. If it seems to be developing into a large problem, consider switching their feed back to the previous one or another with a fairly high hydration count.

The drier a chicken’s food is, the more they will need to drink on the side. This does not directly correlate to dry vs. wet food, although that does have an influence. All feed has different levels of dryness depending on the ingredients and preparation methods. For comparison, consider how you may not need water while eating fruit, but will likely accompany chips with a drink. It is a similar process for chicken feed. 

Changes in food may also lead to stress in the chickens, causing further issues that could result in excessive drinking. This change is unlikely to develop into anything serious, but you should keep an eye out for further problems that could come up. 

Do your chickens poop in their water? This can lead to common infections, don’t let this happen to your chickens! Learn how to stop this happening in my article.

Dane McManis

Dane started learning about farming while volunteering on a farm. Now he and his wife raise chickens, pigs, and ducks on their small farm with their two little girls.

Recent Posts