Can Chickens Swim? The Answer May Surprise You!

can chickens swim
Can chickens swim?

Yes, chickens can indeed swim if they need to. They generally do not swim by choice but if they are in a situation where they need to, they can. 

Chicken feathers are not waterproof like those of a duck so eventually the chicken will get too wet and heavy in the water and could potentially drown. They can also suffer hypothermia when they get wet to the skin as well.

We have researched different considerations and aspects of whether chickens can swim and the precautions that should be taken so read on to find out more.

What this article covers

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Why are chickens poor swimmers?

Because chickens do not have waterproofing, their feathers can quickly become saturated and heavy.

If a chicken continues to swim with saturated feathers, it will struggle with the additional weight and keeping afloat – it would be like a human trying to swim with a big wet coat on.

Hypothermia is also a big risk for a saturated chicken. If the chicken is unable to get dry quick enough there is a chance of hypothermia setting in and this can still occur even on a warm day.

Chicken feet are also not designed for swimming. This study described the difference in hindlimb morphology between chickens and ducks and the impact on foot position in swimming.

Chickens also do not have fully webbed feet like ducks and therefore do not have the same level of paddling ability that ducks have. 

Another important factor in swimming is the ability to right themselves in the water, chickens do not have this and if they capsize, they will likely drown.

Chicken feet are not designed for paddling in water

Can baby chickens swim?

No, baby chickens definitely cannot swim.

If baby chickens fall into water there is not only a risk of drowning but also hypothermia due to the baby chickens lack of feathers and susceptibility to freeze at a much quicker rate than chickens would. 

This is why it’s important to carefully monitor baby chickens as even their own drinking water or a small puddle can put their life in danger. Make sure their water is accessible but free of risk for falling in

If you find that a baby chicken has fallen into water, ensure you warm them up with a cozy towel, heat lamp or this specialized heat mat designed for baby chicks but also suitable for adult chickens too.

Baby chicks need to be warmed up when they have gotten wet

Should chickens go in swimming pools?

It’s not recommended for chickens to go in swimming pools

Swimming pools should be kept free of animals to keep them as clean and hygienic as possible. 

Is it OK for chickens to get wet?

It’s not a good idea for chickens to get wet. Rainfall on chicken feathers is nothing to be concerned about, however when chickens get wet to the skin that’s when they can suffer from severe cold related illness like hypothermia. This is true especially for chickens like Silkies, who have feathers that are fluffier than other breeds.

Most chickens will retreat inside during rain if they can. Chickens much prefer to be dry but will cope in wet weather if they have to.

If a chicken has gotten saturated to the skin then they should be dried off to prevent any issues

Chickens and baby chickens should be thoroughly dried off if they get wet to the skin

Can chickens float?

Yes chickens will float in water however they are unable to float for very long. They will generally only float as a survival mechanism long enough to have a chance of getting out of the water.  Chickens should never be left unattended in water they could potentially drown in.

Can chickens drown?

Yes, chickens can drown. As mentioned earlier, chickens should never be left unattended near water they can potentially drown in.

Ensure they have a water container to drink from that they cannot accidentally drown in.

You could place some bricks or other objects in their water dish as a ladder to help them get out if they accidentally fall in.

We like the hanging water containers for our chickens where there is zero risk of accidental drowning. We love this heavy duty galvanised steel hanging waterer for our chickens. Its off the ground and there is absolutely no risk at all of drowning.

So, in conclusion – can chickens swim?

As discussed, yes chickens can swim. But only for very short periods of time and only for survival to get themselves out of water. 

Chickens are not natural swimmers and do not naturally seek to swim. 

With this in mind, never force your chickens to swim and if they are in water ensure they are supervised to prevent accidental drowning. 

Ensure any water sources are shallow enough to prevent accidental drowning

Chicken Care Shopping List

Are you looking for a shopping list of everything you need when caring for your precious flock? We have put together an easy reference of items for your convenience. 

References

Hindlimb morphology study between chickens and ducks – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26576729/