Water For Baby Chicks

Baby chicks must have access to clean, fresh water at all times. During the first few days after they hatch, a one-quart waterer will furnish enough water for up to 25 chicks raised in a brooder. An inexpensive watering option is a screw-on plastic base that fits a one-quart narrow mouth jar.

Your baby chicks need access to clean, fresh water at all times. We recommend using a one-quart waterer, which is sufficient for small batches of chicks during the first few days after they hatch. If a standard waterer is too large for your brooder space, use a screw-on plastic base that fits a one-quart narrow mouth jar.

Baby chicks must have access to clean, fresh water at all times. A special screw-on plastic base that fits a one-quart narrow mouth jar is easy to use, inexpensive and convenient.

Baby chicks must have access to clean, fresh water at all times. This watering system works best if you have more than one chick and uses a screw-in plastic base that fits a one-quart narrow mouth jar. The jar has a rubber gasket just below the rim of the lid. The water will stay clean and safe for your chicks’ consumption.

Getting your chicks on a steady water source right away makes it easier for them to drink and keep their beaks clean. Start off with a one-quart waterer filled with clean water or a screw-on plastic base that fits a one-quart narrow mouth jar. You can also use a small crock bowl for water if you are using paper towels as your brooder flooring, but you may need to change the paper towels more frequently if it is used for both food and water.”

Chicks need clean water at all times. Make sure that a waterer is always filled with fresh, clean water. Make sure to change the water every day, or more often if necessary. It can get messy taking care of your chicks, but don’t be scared of it!

Homemade Baby Chick Waterer

Newly hatched chicks are not entirely helpless, but like any other babies, they must have access to clean water and be kept well fed. Gail Damerow shares some expert tips to ensure you’re ready for your new arrivals.

Buff Orpington chick. Photo © gina pina, via Wikimedia Commons.

Newly hatched chicks are not entirely helpless, but until they grow a full complement of feathers, you’ll need to keep them warm, dry, and safe. Like any other babies, they must also be kept clean and well fed. Here are a few dos and don’ts for making sure you’re meeting your new arrivals’ food and water needs.

DO make sure chicks must have access to fresh, clean water at all times. A waterer should be the correct size for your flock’s size and age — chicks should neither use up the available water quickly nor be able to tip over the fount. The basin should be high enough to keep the water level between a chick’s eye and the height of its back. This way, a chick drinks more and spills less. Chicks shouldn’t be able to roost over or step in the water. The easiest way to provide water to newly hatched chicks is to use a 1-quart (1 L) canning jar fitted with a metal or plastic watering base, available from most feed stores and poultry-supply catalogs.

DON’T be tempted to cut corners and provide water in an open dish or saucer. Chicks will walk in it, tracking litter and droppings that spread disease. They’ll tend to get wet and chilled, and the stress will open the way to disease. Some chicks may drown. Damp conditions in a brooder — whether caused by spilled water or a leaky waterer — are to be avoided.

To minimize stress, chicks should drink soon after they hatch and eat within five hours. Photo © Gail Damerow, excerpted from Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, 4th Edition.

DO clean waterers daily. Use warm water and vinegar or other poultry-approved sanitizer. When choosing a waterer for your chicks, make sure to select one with a drinker that is easy to clean. A fount that’s hard to clean won’t be sanitized as often as it should be.

DON’T make chicks travel far for their water. Initially place drinkers no more than 24 inches (60 cm) from the chicks’ heat source. Later, as you move the chicks to expanded housing, make sure they never have to travel more than 10 feet (3m) to get a drink. When upgrading to a larger waterer, DO leave old waterers in place for a few days — at least until the chicks get used to drinking from the new source.

DO make sure chicks are drinking before they start eating. They seem to experience less of a problem with sticky bottoms if they a good dose of water before they get a belly full of feed, especially when the feed is commercially formulated chick starter.

DON’T feed layer ration to chicks, not even as an emergency measure if you run out of starter. The high calcium content of layer ration can seriously damage a chick’s kidneys. If you run out of starter, or you forget to pick some up and you have chicks to feed, you can make an emergency starter ration by cracking scratch grains in the blender or, if you have no scratch, by running a little uncooked oatmeal through the blender and mixing it 50/50 with cornmeal. Don’t use this mixture any longer than necessary, though — grains are high in calories and low in the protein, vitamins, and minerals a chick needs for good growth and health.

The end cut from a tissue box makes a handy first feeder to encourage baby chicks to peck for food. Photo © Gail Damerow, excerpted from Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, 4th Edition.

Soon after they hatch, chicks start looking for things to peck on the ground. If they don’t see anything else on the ground, they’ll peck their own feet.

DO sprinkle a little starter ration on a paper towel or paper plate to help them find feed. As soon as most chicks are pecking freely, remove the feed-covered paper before it starts to hold moisture that attracts mold. For the remainder of the first week, put the starter in a shallow lid or tray, such as a shoebox lid. When the chicks start scratching out the feed, switch to a regular chick feeder.

DO choose a feeder that works for your space. A good feeder prevents chicks from roosting over or scratching in feed and has a lip to prevent billing out (wasting feed by scratching it out with their beaks). If your space is limited, use a feeder that has a small footprint. One such style is a base, similar to a drinker base, that screws onto a feed-filled quart (1 L) jar, and has little openings through which the chicks can peck. If the brooder is roomy enough, a hanging feeder is ideal because it holds a lot of feed, so chicks are less likely to run out during the day; it minimizes feed wastage because chicks can’t scratch in it and are less likely to bill out feed if the feeder is maintained at the proper height (the same height as the birds’ backs).; and it is easy to raise on the hanger to the proper height as the chicks grow.

A chick feeder that screws onto a quart (about a liter) jar has a small footprint, making it ideal where brooder space is limited. Photo © Gail Damerow, excerpted from Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, 4th Edition.

DON’T leave feeders empty for too long, and be careful not to let uneaten feed accumulate. Fill feeders in the morning, and let the chicks empty them before filling them again. Leaving feeders empty for long periods of time invites picking, but letting stale or dirty feed accumulate is unhealthful, so strike a healthy balance. Clean and scrub feeders at least once a week.

DO think about good gut health! Old-time poultry keepers spiked their chicks’ water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar per gallon (3.75 L). Chickens like it, and the poultry keepers saw positive effects. Could they have known that the beneficial bacteria and yeasts naturally colonizing a chick’s intestines prefer acidic conditions? I doubt it. The science of probiotics is all pretty new. But we know now some reasons why it was/is beneficial. Encouraging the growth of beneficial gut flora fends off harmful organisms through a process called competitive exclusion. Chicks raised in an incubator acquire beneficial gut flora more slowly than chicks raised under a hen. To enhance their immunity, probiotics are available that are either dissolved in water or sprinkled on feed to give the chicks an early dose of the same gut flora that will eventually colonize their intestines. A hand substitute is live-culture yogurt, but a little goes a long way — giving chicks too much yogurt will cause diarrhea.

How Much Water Do Baby Chicks Drink

So you’ve got your brooder set up, there’s a reliable heat source and your day old chicks are almost ready to venture into the big, wide world.

But wait – what do we need to have available for them to eat and drink?

Baby chickens can survive without food or water for up to 72 hours after hatching – the yolk, which they absorb in the hours before hatch, provides all the nutrition they need.

But after that (actually, I tend to move them out as soon as they’ve fluffed up, and certainly no longer than 48 hours) they will need both.

Be sure you have supplies well in advance. Don’t wait until your chicks are in the brooder – plan ahead!

In this article, we’ll look at what chicks from one day old need to drink, the importance of keeping it clean, and how it’s best to provide it in order to keep your chicks safe.

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Water first.

Baby chicks need to drink water. Simple.  

Without it, they will dehydrate and die very, very quickly. All you need to do is make sure it’s kept plentiful, clean and fresh. 

But that can be easier said than done. Chicks tend to kick their bedding and food all over the place – including into their water. And they can perch on the edge of water containers and poop into it.

All of which can make the water dirty. And the last thing you need is chicks picking up bacteria from their water supply.

There are two basic options available: a ground waterer and a hanging bottle system.  

Personally, I use the hanging system, but let’s look at the pros and cons of each, starting with the basic ground waterer.  

Ground waterers.

The inexpensive option is to put some fresh water in a bowl and leave the chicks to it.

The problem with that is that chicks are naturally inquisitive. And inquisitive chicks can easily fall into bowls of water, and drown.

So if that’s your only option, put something in the bowl to prevent that happening. Some clean pebbles are a good idea – the kind you’d use for a terrarium, for example. Do not buy dyed stone – they dye will leach into the water. This kind of natural, polished stone is fine.

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Mason jar design.

The mason jar waterer is my choice for a ground based product. It’s not cheap (at least in Europe), but it will last much longer than the plastic style.

And OK, I admit it – I just like the way it looks. 

Little Giant Glass Jar Chick Waterer Mason Jar Baby Chick Waterer, 1 Quart (Item No. MJ9826)


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Pros :

  • Easy to set up
  • Easy to clean
  • Heavier than the plastic watering systems, so not as easy to tip over
  • No chance of chemicals leaching into the water if using Apple Cider Vinegar (see below), as with some poorer quality plastic systems.

Cons :

The problem with any kind of ground drinking system is that baby chickens kick. A lot. They kick shavings, they kick food, they kick anything that gets underneath their feet.

It’s in their nature. They’re just experimenting with foraging.

So it’s quite difficult to keep the water clean. You’ll find yourself clearing out the dish several times a day. If you don’t, the danger is that the water will become infected – and so will the chicks.

There is also a small risk of tiny chicks drowning even in this dish. Again, it’s easily avoided by adding a few pebbles.

The best way to avoid all the problems with ground waterers, though, is simple – use a hanging system.

How to avoid dirty water: hanging waterers.

I used to use a bottle waterer which hangs from the side of the brooder.  

It’s made from ‘Brooder Bottle Caps’ from ‘The Chicken Fountain’. It’s a simple nipple attachment, screwed into an everyday soda bottle.The chicks tap the nipple and, as if by magic, water drips out!

It works a treat – my littlies always get the hang of drinking from it immediately they’re introduced into the brooder at just a few hours old, and can’t wait to use it ever after.

Four chicks drinking from the bottle waterer.These chicks are just a few hours old and already expert at using the brooder bottle cap system.

Sadly, these are no longer available to buy, and the ones I had somehow got lost.

So I had to find an alternative – and did. It’s this one (make sure to click on the $20.99 model, which includes the water bottle and base, otherwise trying to find the right size can be difficult).

Your Happy Chicks 1 Qt. Hanging Harness (Adjustable, Glass or Plastic Jars)


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  • Easy to set up
  • Inexpensive
  • Chicks learn how to drink from it immediately
  • Keeps water completely clean.


  • No current system is as handy as the original “brooder bottle waterer”, but other than that there aren’t really any drawbacks to speak of. You just need to make sure the bottle part is centered so it doesn’t hang to the side.
  • Chicks can get a bit messy and slop drips onto the shavings in the brooder. To avoid this, I simply place a piece of absorbent matting underneath.

 I also have the feeder version of this waterer which I love just as much – they are exactly the right size for a brooder box. Again, make sure you choose the one which includes the feeder bottle as well as the harness which is $20.99 – for some reason I can’t link to it direct.

Your Happy Chicks 1 Qt. Hanging Harness (Plastic Only)


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Making sure your chicks know how to drink.

As soon as you take a chick out of the incubator, dip her beak into the water if you’re using a ground system, or tap her beak against the waterer if using a hanging system.

You only need to do this once – chicks are very quick learners.  

Just keep an eye on them for a day or two to make sure that everyone is getting their fair share. It’s very important that they all keep hydrated, otherwise you’re likely to  get issues like pasty butt, which can be fatal.

Four baby chicks drink from two bottle waterers.Make sure chicks have enough water – use two containers if necessary.

Can baby chicks drink Apple Cider Vinegar?

I have an entire article about apple cider vinegar, the claims made for it, the research findings which evidence exactly what it is and is not useful for, and how to offer it to your flock.

See it at this link.

  • The short answer is ‘yes’. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is good for the digestive system of even very young chickens.  
  • Some people believe it helps avoid pasty butt; however there’s no evidence of that. 
  • Make sure you buy the organic, unpasteurised ACV which contains the ‘mother’ – this is critical. The ordinary vinegar you buy from supermarkets won’t work. 
  • Braggs’ is one of the very best.

Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar With the Mother– USDA Certified Organic – Raw, Unfiltered All Natural Ingredients, 1 Gallon


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  • For baby chicks the dilution should be much weaker than for adults. Research suggests to use 5 ml per litre of water (a teaspoon to about 4 cups).
  • Bear in mind that with any form of metal waterer, the acid in the vinegar will corrode the metal which will leach into the water. If you’re going to use ACV, stick with plastic or glass waterers.
  • Where to get ACV from? You’ll find it in pet shops but generally speaking it’s less expensive to buy online.

Other ways to keep chicks healthy.

It can seem like a minefield when you first raise chicks: what’s good to feed them at what age, what’s not good, what treats are healthy for them …

If those things are a concern for you, these articles will help.Click on any of the buttons for more information.

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