Are you wondering why do my chickens stand in the rain and not run for shelter? Why do they like to get wet? Will they catch a cold?
These are common concerns of a small homestead farmer or a free-range chicken farmer. Read on to learn if this is a cause for worry.
Why do my chickens stand in the rain?
I have often noticed that if it starts raining, the chickens just keep standing outside and getting wet. They make no attempt to take cover.
I learned that chickens love the rain, just like me. And I also found that the rain does them no harm. I have not seen any of my chickens ‘catch a cold’ due to getting wet.
Of course, the same cannot be said of human beings. We cannot afford to be too exposed to the elements since we have a chance of falling ill. But chickens cannot be compared to humans. They have different physical traits. If your chickens stand in the rain voluntarily while they have coops and shelters waiting for them, then you need to respect their preferences. Chances are that they know what’s good for them even more than we do.
So why do chickens stand in the rain? I would say that they simply love the rain. They are also curious about the little raindrops and the sensory experiences they evoke. Chickens may also stand in the rain if they want to cool off, especially if the rain comes after a hot day.
Chickens are descendants of the jungle fowl, which means that they would still have some of their innate wild instincts. They are not originally domesticated birds, so they can withstand exposure to harsh weather conditions to a certain level.
Most chickens have water-resistant feathers that prevent them from getting soaked. They are naturally insulated against wet weather conditions, so slight rain does not bother them too much.
Chickens may also prefer being out in the rain because they may find more worms and bugs on the ground! Rainfall tends to bring out little insects and critters from the ground.
Is it Okay for chickens to be out in the rain?
As I said earlier, if you have provided your chickens with insulated warm and dry coops that are accessible to them at all times and they still prefer to stand in the rain, then it’s most often alright. Most grown-up chickens will enjoy a slight drizzle but take shelter when it rains heavily.
Always make sure that you keep an eye out for stranded chickens when it rains heavily. Prolonged exposure to rain is never good.
While you need not worry too much about your chickens standing in the rain, you also have to make sure that their coops are dry, protected from droughts and accessible to them at all times. Make sure that the roofs are not leaking, as continuous exposure to moisture and humidity can make your chickens sick.
Sometimes, chickens can be silly and stay out in the heavy rain all the time. A slight rainfall now and then would do them no harm, but getting too drenched or sleeping outside in the rain will definitely make them ill.
If you think your chickens have spent too much time out in the rain, then watch out for signs of hypothermia. Hypothermia symptoms can be quite subtle in chickens, but they can get serious very quickly. Common symptoms include shivering or shaking in birds, blue wattle or skin and labored breathing. If you see these signs, then try to warm up your chicken as soon as possible.
Most chickens will prefer to stay out when there is a slight drizzle but will take shelter if it rains heavily. But some chickens, especially if they are too young and chickens that are not accustomed to outdoor life, may not know when to run. You might have to ‘rescue’ these chickens and keep them inside during the rain.
While chicken feathers are generally water-resistant, they are not waterproof. The water resistance trait comes from a preen gland that secretes oil over its wings, keeping them flexible and healthy. This makes them resistant to slight rain, but heavy rainfall will penetrate through their feathers and soak their skins.
Heavy rainfall affects hens more than cocks. They huddle together to keep warm, eat more food and drink less water. The cold might also affect the number of eggs they lay. Chickens will not lay if they get stressed out.
Why do my chickens stand in the rain? Summary
Chickens like to stand in the rain during light rainfall out of curiosity because they love the rain and also because the rain brings out bugs and critters from the ground. They have water-resistant feathers that protect them from getting too cold and wet. However, prolonged exposure to heavy rainfall is not good for them. While most chickens will seek shelter if it rains hard, some chickens will not know when to run. Prolonged exposure may lead to fatal diseases like hypothermia and respiratory illnesses.
*All pics are courtesy of Unsplash.com