There’s a lot of discussion about whether or not chickens can swim. Some people claim that they can’t, and will drown in short order. Maybe you have heard just the opposite, that they are adept in the water.
Regardless of the rumor, people want to know if they should be worried about their chickens being near a pool or pond, and if they are at risk. What’s the real answer? Can chickens swim?
Yes, chickens can swim, but not very well. Chickens are only passable swimmers and can stay afloat for short periods of time, but wisely tend to avoid deep water. They do not have the same speed or grace in the water as ducks or other waterfowl. Chickens tend to paddle with their feet and use their wings to help them move through the water, but are at serious risk of drowning if waterlogged and far from shore.
Interesting, eh? But as you might imagine this is something of a nuanced topic and you should keep reading before you throw your flock a pool party.
In this article, we’ll explore all the answers to any question you ever wanted to ask about chickens swimming.
So Chickens Can Swim?
Yes, they can, but that isn’t the whole story. Chickens are awkward swimmers at best and will avoid getting in the water if they can help it.
This is because they are not completely waterproof and become waterlogged quickly, especially when panicked, making it difficult for them to get back to shore.
They also do not have webbed feet like ducks, so they can’t paddle as efficiently.
However, if they are placed in water or fall in by accident, they will instinctively start paddling with their feet and using their wings to help them stay afloat.
Chickens can float for long periods of time if necessary and will try to make it back to shore – although they may not be successful if the water is too deep or they are too far from land.
So, while chickens can swim well enough in calm water and over short distances, it’s not something they usually enjoy and they’re not very good at it.
It’s best to keep them away from large bodies of water if possible and make sure they have a way to get out if they do fall in.
Do Chickens Float?
Yes. Chickens float well enough, especially when calm. Their water-repellent feathers and light bodies mean they can sit above the water with little difficulty.
However, they can become waterlogged and start to sink if they are soaked. This is why it’s important to make sure they have a way to get out of the water quickly if they do fall in.
Don’t Chickens Get Wet?
Yes, but they retain water slowly if their feathers are in good shape. This is because their feathers have a natural waterproofing oil that helps them stay dry in the rain.
However, this oil can be washed away over time or if they are exposed to heavy precipitation (or immersion), leaving them vulnerable to getting wet, heavy, and cold.
So while you might have seen an occasional video of a chicken sitting placidly in a pool or calmly in a pond, seemingly dry, they cannot stay that way for a long time like a duck or goose.
How do Chickens Swim?
As we mentioned, chickens are not the most graceful swimmers.
They paddle with their feet and use their wings to help them move through the water and, hopefully, hop up out of the water and onto shore or anything else that they can stand on.
When they are swimming, they will do everything possible to keep their head above water so that they can breathe.
If you see a chicken swimming with its head low in the water, it is probably in distress and may drown if not helped quickly.
Can Chickens Drown?
Yes. Like all air-breathing animals, chickens will drown if submerged or if they inhale water.
This is why it’s so important to make sure they have a way to get out of any water sources that happen to be on your property.
Why Would Chickens Get in the Water in the First Place?
Chickens generally avoid deep water (anything more than “ankle deep” for them) but there are reasons why they might take to the water of their own volition.
One reason is that they are trying to cool off. Chickens can’t sweat as humans do, so they rely on other methods to regulate their body temperature.
Getting in the water may be an instinctive method of cooling off when overheating. If there is no shade available, they may try to find a place to get wet as a way to lower their body temperature.
Another reason chickens may enter the water is if they are trying to escape something. This could be a predator or simply another chicken that is relentlessly harassing them.
If they think getting in the water will help them escape, they may go for it – even if it means risking drowning.
Do Chickens Love Swimming?
As a rule, no. But, every once in a while you’ll see a chicken that seems to have a preference for swimming, as hard as it is to believe. No matter how disadvantaged they are, these oddball birds seem to like taking a dip.
Can You Put a Chicken in a Pool?
You can, but it isn’t a good idea. You know by now that chickens are not good swimmers and can easily drown, even in a pool.
They also tend to make a mess, tracking in dirt and leaving feathers (and poop) everywhere. And except in rare cases, it is bound to be stressful for the bird.
It’s best to avoid deliberately putting chickens in pools (or any other bodies of water) if possible.
However, if you simply must, take precautions to ensure their safety. Constantly supervise them, keep them close to shore, and don’t let them get waterlogged.
Should You Let Chickens Near Open Water?
This is up to you, and depends on many factors. Most chickens are smart enough to avoid entering deep water of any kind, but accidents happen, and it is not impossible for chickens to get into trouble and drown even in small bodies of water like ponds and pools.
If, for whatever reason, your chickens are near a large lake or any ocean the risk of them being carried far from shore always exists.
If you know and trust your chickens enough to stay clear of the water there is little to worry about, but the risk will always persist when they are nearby.
Baby chicks, however, should always be protected from accidentally entering any deep water source. See the next section.
Can Baby Chicks Swim?
No, baby chicks are more likely to sink than swim. Though very light, their down soaks up moisture, quickly dooming them.
In addition, their legs are not yet fully developed, making it difficult for them to paddle. If you have a pool or other body of water on your property, make sure it is fenced off or otherwise inaccessible to chicks.
What Should You Do if Your Chicken Winds Up in the Water?
If you see a chicken in any body of water it cannot stand up in, your first instinct should be to help. Don’t panic, just assess the situation and do the following.
The best way to get a chicken out of the water is simply by scooping it up in your arms and carrying it out of the water to safety.
If you cannot reach it, try to use a net or other long pole to fish it toward shore or give it purchase to get out of the water.
In the event your chicken is too far to reach in any way, you may decide to jump in after it.
Standard Disclaimer: Only attempt this if you do not place yourself in danger and are a strong swimmer.
Reach the chicken and support its body so that its head is above water and it can breathe easily. Chickens are very light, so this should be easy.
Once you have gotten the chicken out of the water, check for any injuries; they might hurt themselves in their panic.
If necessary, give it time to rest and warm up by itself before returning it to the flock as it will be quite stressed from the ordeal. If the bird is not breathing, you might be able to perform avian CPR to save it.
If you have any doubt about your chicken’s well-being post swim, contact your vet for guidance.
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.