There are a lot of conflicting opinions out there when it comes to chickens and rain. Some folks say that it is 100% fine for a chicken to be out on a rainy day, whereas other owners swear they put their birds up the moment the skies start to darken.
I mean, sure, chickens aren’t ducks and they don’t like to go swimming, but aren’t they okay with a little wet, rainy weather? What’s the truth? Will chickens and chicks be okay if they get caught in the rain?
Chickens will be fine in light rain if the temperatures aren’t very low and they don’t get soaked. Conversely, chicks should never get wet because they can easily suffer from hypothermia and die.
Long story short, they should always have access to shelter in rainy weather. But, as it turns out, there isn’t really one straight, universally accepted answer when it comes to how well chickens fare in the rain.
Generally speaking, adult chickens do just fine in a light shower, but should be protected from or be allowed to protect themselves against a more substantial downpour. And, short and simple, you should never allow chicks to get wet from rain or otherwise.
There’s lots more that you’ll need to know if you want to keep your flock safe and healthy on rainy days, so keep reading.
Do Chickens Like Being in the Rain?
Yes, believe it or not, or at least some do. This depends on the breed, the intensity of the conditions and, of course, the individual chicken.
If you have a light, warm summer shower coming through, don’t be surprised if most of them are completely happy to be out there in it. They have reasons for doing so, as we will learn!
On the other hand, some birds are what you might call “rain averse” and will head for shelter at the first indicator of rain. It all just depends, and assuming that the rain isn’t too bad, the chickens are healthy, and that they have free access to shelter when they want it, there is no harm in letting them play around in the rain.
Is Rain Good for Chickens?
Yes and no. For starters, a gentle rain (when it isn’t too cold) won’t hurt chickens, and their feathers can prove remarkably water-repellent. So, it is rarely directly harmful to them unless it is very cold, very windy or if chickens cannot take shelter.
The good news is that rain tends to bring out lots of worms and bugs that your flock will be entirely eager to get after, even while it is still raining.
More than this, rain often acts as a predator suppressor, making it less likely for ground-bound killers to be out moving around and making things much harder on birds of prey.
Together, these are definitely good things that your chickens will appreciate.
Can Rain Cause Problems for Your Birds?
Yes, it can. Hard rain can cause serious problems for your chickens, as can rain during cold conditions or periods of high wind. If your birds are unable to take adequate shelter from rain, eventually they will be soaked through to the skin and that is when the problems start.
Chickens rely on their own metabolisms but also the extreme insulating value of their feathers to help them maintain an adequate body temperature. When the feathers get totally soaked, they lose much of this insulating value and, of course, cool water getting on their skin will chill them rapidly.
This means that hypothermia is definitely your number one concern, particularly during bad conditions as outlined above, but it isn’t out of the question even when it is warm if they get soaked.
Also, you cannot rule out the possibility of bacteria and other microorganisms multiplying on a chicken’s feathers when they get wet, along with a general increase in harmful bacteria in the aftermath of the rain. This increases the overall chances of infection.
It’s these risk factors that lead some people to be so vocal concerning warnings of chickens being exposed to rain.
Should You Always Put Your Chickens Up When It Rains?
No, not necessarily but this requires good judgment. For starters, your chickens must always have a sheltered place to go when the weather turns bad.
For light rain and minimal wind, a covered run will suffice. A coop that is in good repair, and that means not leaking or drafty, is always best.
As Long as Your Chickens Have Access to Shelter, You Don’t Need to Worry
Assuming the weather isn’t too harsh and it isn’t a torrential downpour, you can let your birds decide as long as they have free access to that shelter. If they want to head home, let them. If they want to stay out and cruise around in the rain for a little while, you can let them do that too.
The trick is making sure they can get in and out as required. If you don’t keep your coop door wide open, you might need to open it for them when the rain is coming or after it starts to rain.
An automated coupe door that will let them in and out automatically during the day is a great investment if you live in a rainy area and have a flock that prefers to take cover or take cover after roaming in the rain for a bit.
The good news is that these can be easily retrofitted to pretty much any kind of coup, so you won’t need to build or buy a new one for the purpose.
Never Let Young Chicks Get Wet
While adult chickens can have a little fun in the rain if they want to, the same is not true for chicks. This is for a host of reasons!
The bottom line up front is that chicks can easily die of hypothermia if they get wet, and they are far more vulnerable to getting wet than our adult birds.
This is because their feathers aren’t fully formed, and provide nowhere near the insulation that they do later on in life, and nor are they as waterproof. Chicks will soak to the skin very quickly with a lot less water than normal for an adult.
The other problem is that, because their bodies aren’t yet fully developed, their metabolisms are unable to keep them warm enough in chilly conditions. This is why chicks need to be kept so much warmer, and watched closely for chill, than they will later on in life.
Lastly, again owing to their incomplete development, their immune systems are less capable of coping with illness that will almost certainly result from getting soaked and cold. There’s no two ways about it, they are just a lot more likely to die if this happens. Chicks are fragile!
For this reason, don’t ever let your chicks go out in the rain or get wet until they’re anywhere from 18 to 24 weeks old, depending on the breed and the individual.
Take Care of Potential Issues After it Rains
Once the rain has passed, the problems don’t necessarily go away for your flock. Make it a point to eliminate any nasty mud puddles or mess that has been tracked into the coop before it gets all over your birds’ feathers.
Dirty feathers are a lot less valuable when it comes to water resistance and insulation, and muddy muck is a breeding ground for parasites and diseases.
Also, keep a close eye on their food, particularly dry chicken feed. If it gets wet, or even just a little moist, it will start to mold in the blink of an eye and that mold can make your birds dreadfully ill or even kill them outright.
Lastly, perform a head count and make sure all of your chickens are accounted for and reasonably dry. Any that are soaked should be carefully dried off and then moved to a small, warm enclosure with a heater or plenty of dry air circulation to help them dry off.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.