Chickens do not like water baths, no. Chickens clean themselves by taking a dust bath - that’s right, they roll around in the dirt to get clean not by using water.
It can actually be very dangerous for a chicken if they get soaking wet.
Chickens’ feathers are not coated with preen oil like ducks' feathers are. So, water doesn’t not run off their feathers, their plumage can get waterlogged and lower their body temperature.
Here’s a closer look at how chickens keep themselves clean, and why they don’t need to take water baths:
Do Chickens Like to Get Wet?
Generally speaking, chickens do not like to get wet at all.
They’ll scratch around and be outside if it’s raining a little, but will usually take shelter in heavy storms.
This is due to the type of feathers chickens have. Their feathers do not wick away moisture, quite the opposite, in fact.
If a chicken gets too wet its feathers get damp and they’ll find it difficult to dry off without the help of some warm shelter.
This can result in lowering their body temperature and increases the risk of becoming ill.
Whether or not your chickens will go out in the rain depends on the breed, and mostly their individual character.
Either way, as backyard chicken parents it’s up to us to help out if our chickens are soaked through, and make sure they stay nice and warm.
Related - Should you give your chickens rainwater?
Do Chickens Like Wade in Water?
Generally speaking, chickens do like to wade in water. I say ‘generally’ because there is always an exception to the rule out there somewhere!
The key thing to be aware of, however, is that chickens are not good at swimming. Some chickens can float or tread briefly, but most will drown.
Therefore, you really don’t want to let chickens wade or go into water without supervising them.
Most chickens will not show any interest in entering water deeper than a rain puddle anyway. Chickens are pretty good at sensing danger, and tend to be aware of the fact that they can’t swim!
Is It Okay to Give Chickens Baths?
You should never need to give a chicken a bath - at least not using water.
Chickens keep themselves clean by taking dust baths, which as the name suggests, involves rolling around in the dirt.
Dust baths, also called sand bathing or dusting, is common to most birds and some small rodents and other animals.
It’s effective because as a chicken rolls around in the dirt, that dust works its way into its feathers and helps remove debris, excess oils, lice, and other unwanted stuff.
The bottom line is that chickens have survived for thousands of years perfectly fine by cleaning themselves with dust baths, you shouldn’t try to change this.
How to Bathe a Chicken (With a Dust Bath)
Given the space to roam and some loose dirt, chickens will make their own dust baths.
Sometimes, we do have to help out a little though. Plus, it doesn’t harm to provide a much better dust bath if you want your chickens to look their best.
Joking aside, providing a good dust bath also helps reduce the risk of lice and other parasites growing in numbers in a chickens’ plumage and harming their health.
To create a dust bath, all you have to do is:
Step 1 - Dig a shallow hole in the ground wide enough for a chicken to spread its wings, and only about 15 cm deep.
Step 2 - Add some fine dirt to the hole. If you can add some sand, that's better than just dirt. Or, if you want to provide a strong lice and mite repellent substance, I recommend adding some Diatomaceous Earth.
Step 3 - Consider adding some fragrant herbs. There are various herbs that provide awesome natural pest repelling properties, such as mint, lavender, and rosemary.
Finally, I feel it’s important to point out that you don’t have to actually bathe your chickens.
As long as they have access to a dust bath, they’ll use it. Trying to encourage them isn’t likely to do much, just let nature take its course.
Do Chickens Like Bird Baths?
This isn’t as crazy of a question as it may seem, and I’ve certainly heard it asked a number of times.
I know some people who wonder if a birdbath will be suitable for their chickens as it’s not deep enough for them to drown.
If you have a birdbath in your yard, you won’t have to fence it off from your chickens. I can’t imagine they’ll bathe in it though, I think they’re more likely to drink from a birdbath.
Chicken hygiene and how they bathe is something that comes as a surprise to almost everyone who hasn’t raised chickens, as it is a little unusual.
Chickens do not like water baths, nor do they need to bathe in water.
Chickens need loose dirt to roll around in. They clean their feathers using coarse dirt by rolling around and rubbing it into their plumage.
If you can provide a substance like sand or even better, Diatomaceous Earth, this is all they need to keep themselves clean.