Can chickens drown in the rain? If you’ve heard the old saying that chickens can drown in the rain, don't worry - it’s not true!
The reason this is often said is actually because of a myth surrounding turkeys. It was believed - at some time - that turkeys were so stupid (not my words) that they would look up while it’s raining and drown.
Sounds pretty crazy when you read it out loud, doesn’t it?
But like a lot of old sayings and folklore, it’s just one of those sayings that is never going to go away.
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Is It Even Possible for Chickens to Drown in Rain?
It’s not possible for a chicken to simply drown by standing outside while it’s raining, or even looking up at the sky.
Part of the reason why the myth surrounds turkeys is that turkeys have a genetic condition called tetanic torticollar spasms.
This condition causes them to exhibit some odd behaviors. Such as staring up into the sky for minutes at a time.
While this wouldn’t cause them to drown, it’s not a condition chickens have anyway.
If we really wanted to take a stretch here, you could find a scenario where there was so much rainfall that a chicken caught somewhere where the water level was rising…
But even then, a chicken is likely to scramble to safety
Put it this way; I’ve never heard of a chicken drowning, rain or no rain. I can’t find anyone else who has either.
Can Chickens Swim?
The interesting thing about chickens is that they are not great at swimming. They’re just not designed to swim like ducks and some other birds are.
They do not have webbed feet. Neither do their feathers have the same oils as ducks to keep their feathers waterproof.
I have seen some videos of chickens having a little paddle (see below). But they didn’t look comfortable!
Should Chickens Be Out in the Rain? Is It Dangerous?
Now you know that there is no direct risk from your chickens being out in the rain, is it a good idea to let them be out if it’s raining?
For light showers, it’s fine. I let mine roam free-range, and unless it starts to rain heavily I don’t call them in.
They actually seem to enjoy being out in the rain, and I’ve seen a lot of backyard chicken owners say the same.
Plus, a little rain brings out all kinds of bugs and insects and gives them some new things to scratch for and gobble up.
You do have to remember that their plumage is not designed to allow rain to roll off like ducks though. If your chickens get soaked through, you’re going to have to help dry them.
There is also a risk of hypothermia as being wet through will lower their core body temperature.
My advice - don’t let your chickens get drenched, even if they look like they’re having fun!
Can Baby Chickens Drown in the Rain?
There is no more risk to baby chickens drowning in the same way as it’s believed adult chickens can.
They will not look up when it’s raining and are just as capable of tilting their heads to let the rain runoff.
Baby chickens are at greater risk of hypothermia than adult chickens though. Chicks need to be kept at warmer temperatures, especially before they develop their adult feathers.
I wouldn’t let baby chickens be out in the rain at all. Keep them warm, dry, and sheltered from the elements.
Whether you were wondering if there was any truth in the rumors, or if it’s safe to let your flock out in the rain.
You now know that there is little to no risk from your chickens being out in the rain.
Chickens are (a little) smarter than people give them credit for, especially those who do not raise these wonderful creatures.
More often than not, they will find shelter themselves if it’s raining hard. That might be after they’re soggy though!
The only real risk, as I explained, is hypothermia. A soggy chicken plus cold conditions is not a good combination, as I’m sure you can imagine.
Most chickens like being out in light rain, so let them enjoy it. In a downpour, round them into their coop and keep them nice and warm and dry.
Image credits - Photos by Tianhao Zhang and Magdalena Otterstedt on Unsplash