Every animal needs to maintain their hygiene, but each animal seems to do it in its own way. If you’re a backyard chicken owner you’ll know by now that the way they wash is by making themselves a dust bath.
But, is this really sufficient to clean themselves?
Here’s if chickens actually need water baths, what they can be used for, and if your chooks actually like water baths!
Do Chickens Need Water Baths?
You might be familiar with a typical birdbath, usually a podium with a small pool of water at the top. Sparrows and other small birds will often fly onto these bird baths and flap their wings in them to clean them. Chickens however do not bath like this and prefer to use dry dirt or sand to wash themselves.
So, chickens do not need water baths for their normal hygiene. But, this doesn’t mean water baths can’t be used to help your chickens with things other than hygiene.
For example, on those particularly hot summer days where you can see the signs your chickens are too hot, a cool water bath can be used to put them at ease and bring their body temperatures back down.
In another instance, water baths can also be useful for hens that are egg bound, that is when a laying hen is struggling to pass an egg. By using warm water it helps relax the muscles of the hen and can provide relief and help the egg to pass.
So, although chickens don’t need water baths, they can still be very helpful to your chickens in situations that call for them.
When Do Chickens Need Water Baths
So although you don’t need to wash chickens in water to bath them, as they will generally clean themselves pretty well, there are a few instances where giving your chickens a water bath will actually help them.
To Cool Them Down
Chickens aren’t built for hot weather. Although they do have some ways they can try to cool themselves down, in the grand scheme of things they have limited heat regulation. Chickens have no sweat glands to cool the surface of their skin.
They cool down by simple evaporative cooling techniques, such as losing heat through their comb, wattles, droppings, and legs.
In those dastardly hot days, if you notice your chickens are dangerously overheating, you can prepare a cool, but not cold, bath for them. Simply fill up a bucket or something similar to about halfway, enough to just reach the body of your chicken, and hold it in the water for a minute.
Be sure not to make the water too cold, or submerge your chicken too deep as the sudden change in temperature can shock them.
To Help An Egg Bound Hen
If you’ve ever had an egg-bound hen, you’ll know just how sorry you can feel for them. As they have an egg stuck in their body, their bellies often swell, they can become tired and inactive, and appear like they are in pain.
The best thing to do is consult with a vet, as they can recommend the best actions for your chicken.
Although water baths can be used to provide relief for your egg-bound hen, as it relaxes the muscles and can sometimes help the egg to pass, it does come with its risks. Things can easily become complicated so again, talk to your local vet first.
For Cleaning Up Their Rear-Ends!
As a fellow chicken owner, I’m sure you’ve seen when a chicken’s bottom is catching a few too many droppings. It’s essential that you help your chicken clean this up, as if left unattended you put the chicken at risk of developing issues such as flystrike, or other nasty disease or infection.
Simply running a warm bath and sponge their vent and tail feathers will get rid of any droppings caught up. Your chicken will thank you for this later.
Is It Okay For Chickens To Get Wet
It’s perfectly OK for chickens to get wet, so long as it’s not freezing cold outside, otherwise they are at risk of chicken frostbite. This is why some chickens like the rain, and will not make any effort on their part to get undercover. Some people even offer kiddie pools for their chickens, although my chickens didn’t use it except for drinking out of!
So, if you are giving your chicken a water bath, don’t stress about them getting wet. So long as it’s not freezing cold they will dry out and be completely fine, both physically and mentally.
But, Do Chickens Like Water Baths?
Just like with humans, chickens have very varied personalities. Some skittish and anxious chickens will put up a big fuss when it comes to water baths. Other, more timid or curious chickens won’t mind at all.
One of my silkie chickens seems to actually like it, and makes no effort whatsoever to get out of the water!
So, you can rest assured that if you have to bathe your chickens in water, they will tolerate it, or some may even enjoy it!
Why Do Chickens Prefer Dust Bathing
Chickens will dig themselves little holes in dirt or sand, proceed to lie down in them and kick the dust all over themselves, in glorious fashion. They even dust bath from as young as a few days old!
But how does this process work?
Dust baths are what chickens opt for to clean themselves. They do so by finding the warmest, driest loose patch of dirt, and start digging themselves in while making happy noises.
It might look alarming to first-time observers, but there’s a good reason these clever creatures have adopted this kind of cleaning.
Dust clogs the breathing pores of parasites, such as lice, mites, and fleas, and suffocates them. Dust also absorbs all the excess oils on their skin.
Chickens sometimes preen themselves to make sure they’re entirely clean. After they’re done, they stand-up and violently shake the dust and dirt out of their feathers.
This kind of bath has its advantages: it’s non-polluting, water-saving, and efficient. And so, it’s essential for your chickens’ long-term health to provide them with a dust-bathing area near your coop or in your backyard.
To sum it all up, chickens don’t need water baths, and won’t bathe themselves in water by choice. They prefer to take a dust bath in order to maintain their normal hygiene.
But, there are instances where a water bath can help your chickens, whether it’s for cleaning their vents thoroughly or to cool them down on a blisteringly hot day.
If you do bathe your chickens in water, chances are they will happily tolerate it. They’ll quickly dry out and return to their normal selves in no time!
2 thoughts on “Do Chickens Need Water Baths? (No, Except When…)”
Hi Blake. It’s been a pleasure reading your articles in your website. My chickens certainly will benefit
Thank you Pip! I hope your backyard farm is as entertaining as mine!