Can Chickens Swim or Float on Water?

swimming chicken

If you’re wondering whether chickens can swim or not, the answer is a bit complicated. While chickens are often grouped with other aquatic birds, they don’t have webbed feet or water-resistant feathers like ducks or swans do. Though they can technically float for a brief time, they don’t float well or naturally. Their wings are small in comparison to their large size, and they are heavy and clumsy. Thus, if a chicken stays in the water for more than 15 minutes, its feathers will be waterlogged, increasing the risk of it drowning. Roosters may have even more difficulty than hens when attempting to swim. Nonetheless, there are some instances of chickens swimming, but they’re rare. In this article, we’ll explore why chickens aren’t naturally suited for swimming, whether chicks can swim, and some safety tips for chicken water use.

Can Chickens Actually Swim?

Although some YouTube videos may suggest otherwise, chickens do not swim naturally or efficiently. Due to their lack of webbed feet and water-resistant feathers, chickens find it challenging and risky to swim. The behavior observed in those viral videos of chickens swimming is actually floating, with an occasional leg kick to stay afloat.

Their inability to swim is due to the size of their wings relative to their body size. Their wings don’t offer enough lift to hoist their heavy bodies into the air, let alone keep them afloat in water. Unlike domestic chickens, their closest wild relative, the red jungle fowl, can only fly short distances before they need to land. Additionally, modern selective breeding processes for larger, meatier birds have resulted in birds that are even heavier and, as such, less able to swim or fly.

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Do Roosters Swim?

Roosters have a denser build and larger size compared to hens, which makes it even more challenging for them to stay afloat. The reason behind this is their relative buoyancy in water, which can be dangerous if they lack the strength to keep themselves aloft or swim properly.

Can Chicks Swim?

Chicks, unlike adult chickens, do not have any form of water-resistant material on their bodies. They are born with down feathers, which serve only as insulators, making chicks fragile in water. Thus, chicks cannot float or swim, and they pose a significant risk of drowning if left unsupervised in water.

Keeping Chickens Safe in Water

The best way to maintain chicken safety is to keep them on dry land. Ponds and pools should always be fenced off and inaccessible to chickens. Baby chicks, in particular, require shallow water dishes, possibly with rocks or steps on the water’s edge to avoid drowning. Adult chickens and roosters can use shallow troughs as water dishes safely. While chickens can be trained to use deeper water troughs, it’s best to limit water exposure to minimize the risk of drowning.

Can Chickens Take a Bath?

Chickens take dust baths to keep themselves clean rather than swimming for hygiene purposes. They roll around in dirt and dust to dislodge excess oil and parasites from their feathers, which helps them to stay clean and healthy to some extent.

Are Chicken Feathers Waterproof?

Feathers have some water-resistant qualities, but they are not waterproof. The feathers of adult chickens come in two layers: the decorative outer feathers, which protect the birds’ skin from various hazards, and the layer of insulating down feathers underneath. Chickens and other birds produce oil in their uropygial gland, which secretes oil to help condition the feathers and prevent water build-up. Despite this coating, chickens can still become waterlogged in as little as 15 minutes.

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Can Chickens Float on Water?

While adult chickens possess some buoyancy, they cannot swim naturally or efficiently. They can float for a while, but remaining in the water for long periods can cause their feathers to become waterlogged, which increases the risk of drowning. However, some chickens may enjoy floating and kicking their legs occasionally when given appropriate supervision.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, chickens are not naturally suited for swimming due to their size, wing structure, and lack of webbed feet or water-resistant feathers. They can float for short periods, but they’re unlikely to enter deep water without a compelling reason, and it’s risky for them to do so. To keep your chickens safe around water, provide shallow water with easy access or none at all, and supervise them while they interact with water sources.


Barragan et al. “Gallus Gallus Domesticus.” Charles Darwin Foundation, 2022. Eda, M. “Origin of the domestic chicken from modern biological and zooarchaeological approaches.” Oxford Academic Animal Frontiers, 2021. Geggel, L. “Forget About the Road. Why Are Chickens So Bad at Flying?” Live Science, 2016. Tokita et al. “Developmental mechanisms underlying webbed foot morphological diversity in waterbirds.” Nature, 2020. Srinivasan et al. “Quantification of feather structure, wettability and resistance to liquid penetration.” The Royal Society Publishing, 2014. Curtis, R. “Clearing Up Misconceptions About Feather Waterproofing.” International Bird Rescue, 2021.

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