As a backyard chicken farmer, you may seem more concerned about the weather conditions than your actual chickens.
This is because chickens are naturally very resistant to harsh weather conditions, being able to tolerate extremely low temperatures, wind, rain, and even warmer temperatures.
Even so, it seems like chickens have a mind of their own when it comes to rain. They are seemingly happy to continue foraging and free-ranging. So why won’t they get out of the rain? Is it actually OK?
Here we go through everything you need to know about chickens and rain. But, if your chickens won’t get out of the rain and you’re starting to get concerned, here are a few ways you can encourage them to take shelter too.
Why Won’t My Chickens Get Out Of The Rain?
Chickens are either surprisingly smart or surprisingly dense, and I swap my opinion on a daily basis while watching these things…
When it comes to rain, it’s easy to think that your chickens simply don’t know any better, and just continue their daily foraging and free-ranging routines. But, it’s actually much more than this.
For starters, chickens are reasonably water-resistant. Although their feathers aren’t waterproof, like with other waterfowl such as ducks or geese, they are water-resistant and repel water away from the chicken’s bodies.
This gives chickens plenty of extra time to spend out in the rain before they start actually getting wet. Besides, even if your chickens get wet, so long as it’s not freezing cold outside, they will more than likely be absolutely OK. Chickens know this too, so when they get too wet, they will retreat undercover to dry themselves before heading back out.
So, as long as it’s not below freezing, your chickens will be absolutely OK in the rain. However, it’s still important that we provide our chickens with the space, resources, and shelter to help them be more able to regulate their own temperature and seek shelter when they need it.
Do Chickens Like Rain?
One explanation as to why chickens won’t get out of the rain, even when it’s pouring down, is because they actually like it.
Just like us, some chickens enjoy the rain, while others don’t. It boils down to tolerance, preference, breed, and the outside temperature.
As to why some chickens like the rain, well it could come down to a few things:
- It feels nice on their feathers. As we know, chickens are very responsive to touch. Just like humans can like the feeling of the rain on their skin, chickens can like the feel of rain on their feathers.
- Rain means more bugs! Wet and humid conditions attract many more insects around, and worms will come to the surface of the soil or grass, which is why you might see your chicken eating dirt! Over time, your chickens may learn this and so want to make the most of the rainy conditions.
Again, this doesn’t mean all chickens like rain, and you’ll naturally see some of your flock take shelter more quickly than others. You may even see just one or two of your birds refusing to take cover. As nerve-wracking as it can be for us chicken owners, they are more than likely OK, so long as it’s not freezing cold outside.
Ducks seemingly like the rain even more than chickens too!
Is Rain Dangerous To Chickens?
It depends. A light drizzle or shower won’t cause harm to your chickens because their feathers do a great job of repelling water to keep their skin nice and dry.
But, if it’s raining cats and dogs, you may start to get a bit more concerned. Luckily, your chicken’s instincts will help you know when the rain is simply too much. If your chickens are actively looking for shelter, or seem to be getting scared themselves, then it may be time for you to help direct them toward their coop.
Even if the rain is severe and your chickens have been caught in it for hours, they will more than likely be fine, as a wet chicken by itself won’t cause illness or harm.
However, what you need to be careful of is if your chickens do get wet and it’s freezing cold outside or particularly windy. Rain can be dangerous to chickens when paired with cold winter weather as it can lead to chicken frostbite.
If you do see the signs your chickens are too cold and they’ve become wet, then you should take action to help dry them out and ensure their coop is well insulated.
But, if it’s nice and warm outside and your chickens have been caught in a rain shower, they will be completely OK and will seek shelter themselves if they feel like it.
Just be aware that baby chicks don’t have the same means to regulate their temperature and become dry. For this reason, you should do everything in your power to stop baby chicks from getting wet!
Don’t let your chicken feed get wet too! Wet chicken feed can cause harmful bacteria to grow, and the excess moisture will spoil the feed too!
Can Chickens Get Sick From The Rain?
Chickens will not get sick from the rain directly, even if the water infiltrates through their feathers and makes them wet.
The real risk of your chickens getting sick from the rain comes from the cold weather that can often come with it.
Usually, your chicken’s feathers create an insulation bubble for your chickens, protecting them from the cold weather conditions. But, unfortunately, if your chicken gets wet this insulation no longer works, and your chickens can’t properly regulate their body temperatures which can lead to frostbite or other illness.
How To Get Your Chickens Out Of the Rain
If the rain checks out as safe, then you’re absolutely fine to let the chickens roam freely. The ones that aren’t quite fond of the rain will find shelter on their own and the ones that like it will stay out.
But, if you live in a particularly cold climate or if it’s a rather cold day, then you may want to get your chickens out of the rain. Usually, your chickens will know when to find shelter themselves, but it’s always better to be on the safe side.
Here are the best ways to get your chickens out of the rain and keep them safe:
- Direct your chickens to safety. Simply round them up and direct them into their coop. Some may need more encouragement than others!
- Make sure the poultry feed is protected from the rain. If the feed gets wet, layer pellets will turn to mush, and the seed mixes may clog up the feeder.
- Make sure your coop is absolutely waterproof and is well insulated. There should be ventilation, but the wind shouldn’t flow through the coop.
- The grounds of the coop should always be dry. I mean you can’t stop 100% of the water, but if you use dirt or grass in their run, you may want to check it’s not too muddy. If the inside of your coop gets wet it may accumulate more grime, dirt, and bacteria. Gravel is good to use for a chicken run as a lower layer natural filtration layer.
- Use bedding in the coop/nesting boxes that absorbs moisture, this will help dry your chickens out if they have become wet. Use nesting hay or safe wood shavings (not cedar for example), or even pine needles are good for chickens.
The Benefits Of Rain For Backyard Chickens
On the bright side, some good comes from letting your chicken free-range during a summer drizzle or shower.
Rainy days mean more bugs appearing on the soil’s surface. Worms, for example, will be most convenient to pick on and eat on rainy days. But as well as worms, you’ll also find other flying bugs that seem to hover around too. Your chickens will make short work of them if they find them in the grass!
In addition, rain, no matter how little there is of it, will keep away most predators, especially the winged ones, like hawks. This is because it’s in the predator’s instincts to remain sheltered too, particularly if they aren’t as waterproof, like foxes.
Simply put, a rainy day, as long as it’s not too cold, is a blessing in disguise for chicken. They get to eat plenty and not worry about being eaten!
To Sum Up
So if your chickens won’t get out of the rain but it’s warm outside, then they’re likely just enjoying themselves, finding extra insects and bugs to eat, and minding their own business.
You shouldn’t be worried. Rain by itself hardly poses a threat to their bodily temperatures, and if they get a little wet they will simply dry themselves off.
However, if it’s cold outside or you’re experiencing torrential rain, then you can take a few steps to encourage your chickens to take shelter, dry off, and stay indoors!