Do you feel like the day is hotter than usual? Your chickens could be feeling the same!
In worse cases, such hot weather could leave your chickens dehydrated.
Dehydration in chickens can be deadly. It’s so important to know the signs of it and find ways to treat and prevent dehydration in your flock.
Knowing how to help dehydrated chickens will keep your birds healthy, allowing them to lay plenty of eggs and produce delicious meats for you and your family.
In this article, you will learn the following:
- Causes of chicken dehydration
- Signs of dehydration in chickens
- Ways to help a dehydrated chicken
What Causes Chickens to Be Dehydrated?
There are several factors that contribute to dehydration, and your chicken may be dehydrated due to a combination of issues– not just one.
Here are some of the most common issues and what to do to help out.
Not Enough Water
The most straightforward cause of dehydration in chickens is a lack of access to an adequate water supply.
I feel silly pointing this out, but it’s worth mentioning.
Chickens require a consistent and clean source of water for hydration, especially in extreme weather (hot and cold) when they are more stressed.
Insufficient water availability due to dirty or inaccessible water containers or overcrowded living conditions limiting access to water can lead to dehydration.
If you always find that your water bowls are overturned when you visit the coop, you’ll need to find a different container.
Every flock is different, and what may work well for one group may not for the next. Some chickens find great pleasure in spilling water, making their friends thirsty.
You have to be flexible and willing to work with your flock’s needs.
Unwillingness to Drink Water
Chickens may sometimes exhibit an unwillingness to drink water, which can be influenced by various factors.
Stress, environmental changes, or disruptions to their routine can result in reduced water intake.
If the water is contaminated or unpalatable, chickens may avoid drinking.
If your chickens refuse all water, no matter how it is presented, it may be time to have the water tested.
They might tell you about a serious problem!
Ensuring a calm and comfortable coop with kind coopmates and regularly providing fresh, clean water can encourage chickens to drink more.
Other Hidden Health Issues
Certain health issues can contribute to dehydration in chickens.
Diseases, infections, or parasitic infestations can lead to increased fluid loss or reduced water intake.
For example, respiratory illnesses that cause difficulty breathing may result in chickens avoiding water consumption.
Signs of a Dehydrated Chicken
Recognizing the signs of dehydration in chickens is crucial for prompt intervention.
Here are some key indicators that a chicken may be dehydrated.
One of the most reliable signs of dehydration in chickens is a decrease in skin elasticity.
When you gently pinch and pull the skin on a chicken’s neck or between the shoulder blades, it should quickly return to its original position.
Dehydrated chickens may exhibit reduced skin elasticity, and the skin may stay in a pinched position (called tenting) longer.
The bird is dehydrated if the skin doesn’t fall back into place in two seconds.
Comb and Wattles
The comb and wattles of a healthy chicken are usually vibrant and well-hydrated, with a red or pink coloration.
Dehydrated chickens may show signs of pale or discolored combs and wattles. The comb and wattles may also appear dry or shriveled in thirsty birds.
Those with tall single combs may suddenly have a new flop in the comb. However, some breeds inherently have a floppy comb, so keep that in mind during your evaluation.
Changes in behavior can also indicate dehydration. Dehydrated chickens may exhibit lethargy, depression, or a reluctance to move.
They may isolate themselves from the flock and appear less alert.
They may stay on the roost all day or sit on the ground (especially on the coop floor) for hours without moving or seeming interested in what’s happening around them.
Observing alterations in their usual behavior can indicate something is amiss with their hydration status.
Dehydrated chickens often display a decrease in activity levels.
They may become lethargic and unwilling to engage in normal chicken behaviors such as foraging, dust bathing, or scratching.
A reduction in overall liveliness and energy indicates that their dehydration is pretty severe.
Reduced Water Intake (Harder to Monitor)
Monitoring water intake can be challenging, especially with larger flocks, but a noticeable decrease in the amount of water chickens consume can be an indirect sign of dehydration.
If you observe that the water level in their containers remains relatively constant for an extended period, it may suggest reduced water intake.
How to Help a Dehydrated Chicken
Dehydrated chickens suffer from decreased blood flow, organ failure, and an overall weakened immune system.
That is why quick intervention is essential to help dehydrated chickens.
Here are a few ways to ensure your chickens start drinking water and feeling good again.
Offer a Better Water Station
Chickens are messy creatures, and they will inevitably poop in the water container.
Even though chickens generally don’t mind it, some of them will and would go on a drinking strike until you clean it.
You can mitigate this issue by cleaning their water container every day or switching to small water cups.
Some chickens will block others from drinking, too. Fix this issue by removing the bullies or adding more water stations.
Do not remove their water from them overnight, even if it is cold outside. Chickens should have access to fresh water during all hours of the day.
Find a way to keep the water thawed out, be it with a water heater, by changing the water bowls throughout the night or breaking out ice as needed.
Adjust the Diet
Changing the chickens’ diets is the best long-term solution to help dehydrated chickens and prevent any more dehydration.
Offer Fermented Feed
Fermented chicken feed is great for your flock’s health and lends you a great opportunity to sneak more water into their diets.
When you feed your chickens, don’t pour off all of the excess water from the ferment.
Leave some of it on, guaranteeing your chickens are better hydrated.
You can also offer your chicken some slightly watered-down sourdough discard; this will benefit gut health while helping rehydrate them.
Offer Fruits and Vegetables with High Water Content
Watermelons are a great example, but so are honeydew, cantaloupe, strawberries, pineapples, oranges, broccoli, bell peppers, and celery.
Sometimes, your chickens just need electrolytes. You’d be amazed how this supplement could help dehydrated chickens.
Electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, and calcium, play a crucial role in regulating hydration, muscle function, and nerve transmission in chickens.
Providing electrolytes ensures that chickens receive the necessary minerals to stay hydrated and sustain optimal health.
Chickens experiencing electrolyte deficiency may exhibit symptoms such as lethargy, reduced egg production, and altered behavior.
Dehydration, often marked by sunken eyes, pale combs, and decreased water intake, is a clear indicator of an electrolyte imbalance.
Commercial electrolyte supplements are readily available, typically containing a balanced mix of essential minerals.
These supplements can be added to the chickens’ drinking water or mixed with their feed.
Additionally, some poultry keepers opt for homemade electrolyte solutions using ingredients like salt, sugar, and baking soda.
Find the Root Cause
Sometimes, the solution isn’t as simple as getting your chicken to drink more.
Your chicken may have a severe injury, illness, or disease that makes them unable or unwilling to drink and retain their water supply.
Familiarize yourself with these five common chicken diseases, and see if they could be why your chickens aren’t thriving.
How to Help Dehydrated Chickens: Before You Go…
A swift recognition followed by proactive measures is paramount in addressing dehydration in chickens.
Regularly monitor your flock’s skin elasticity, comb color, water consumption levels, cleanliness, and your birds’ behavioral changes.
Ensure accessible water supply, especially during extremely hot and cold weather conditions.
Extreme weather, as a high or low, is when your flock is much more likely to experience dehydration, so be on high alert for that.