Chickens can and do swim if they have to but generally choose not to. A chickens' feathers are not waterproof like those of a duck and a chickens will gradually soak up water and sink.
The bird in the picture above seems to be enjoying a soak in warm water.
That said I have seen one of my birds wade into the pond and swim across it so they can and do swim and they have a fair turn of speed in the water. This chickens was in the water for less than 5 seconds and knew the pond well.
Below: These three young hens seem to be enjoying the water but they are the exception rather than the rule.
They can swim back to a bank in a survival situation but they're not designed for it, and few seem to enjoy it.
Please do not throw chickens into water to see if they can swim, it is cruel.
Water is not the chickens natural habitat:
The thing is that just because chickens can swim they are not built for swimming like waterfowl.
Chickens lack the webbed feet and waterproof feathers of ducks and geese for example. Waterfowl always float the right way up as well.
I would like to make one point about all the videos of swimming chickens I have seen on the internet - NONE of the chickens went into the water of their own accord, they were all put there by their keepers.
Chickens as a rule never choose to swim although there is always the exception to the rule.
Can chickens drown?
Yes chickens can drown and quite easily sometimes. I have seen it happen myself where one of my birds drowned in a water butt in my garden.
The secret to preventing chickens from drowning is to make sure the water they drink from is not too deep or in steep sided containers.
To stop your chickens drowning make sure they can get out of any water on your land. Use a few bricks or stones or a plank of wood to make a ladder out of the water.
Can baby chickens swim?
No. The fluff soaks up water immediately and the chicks panic. Baby chicks also chill very quickly.
I have seen baby chicks drown in half an inch of water and even if they are fully feathered the feathers are not ready for the outdoors or water.
Do chickens like water?
Only for drinking.
I have plenty of chickens that will stand in water in the heat of summer to cool down but I have never had one that has chosen to swim.
Is it bad for chickens to get wet?
As a rule it is a bad idea to get your chickens wet. A little surface water on the top of their feathers is nothing to worry about but a chicken that is wet to the skin is likely to suffer and get cold and possibly ill as well.
My chickens go inside during rain if they have the choice. Chickens prefer they dry but will go out in the wet if they have to.
Chickens that have got wet to the skin will probably need to be dried off to prevent problems.
Can chickens drown in a pool?
My chickens like my wildlife pond but it has shallow sloping edges and is a useful source of water and bugs. I have seen the odd birds swim across it and they often stand waist deep in it in summer to cool off.
They seem to know instinctively not to get their wings wet.
Chickens may like swimming pools as a water source but could easily drown in one if it is not covered. I could easily imagine a chicken trying to drink and falling in to one so if you have deep pools in your garden it may be a good idea to keep them covered if you have chickens.
I have seen quite a few videos on YouTube of chickens swimming in pools. Bear in mind these are hot places with warm water. Mine often stand in water in summer heat so there could well be some enjoyment here.
I would caution against forcing your chickens to swim. They may also follow you places and get into trouble.
I have seem a mother hen that had raised a clutch of duckling go into bling panic when her brood took to the water for the first time.
If you want to try swimming your chicken I suggest you use a kids inflatable pool to start with and fill it half full of water. Start with enough water to come half way up the chicken and see how they get on.
Can chickens float?
Chickens will float as long as their feathers trap air. The problem is that feathers will gradually soak up water and the chicken will eventually sink.
Below: A chicken floating in water.
In my experience a chicken will float for five to ten minutes before it sinks. This amount of time depends on how much it is struggling and thrashing to get out. A panicking chicken could become waterlogged in as little as 60 seconds under the right conditions.
Do some breeds swim better than others?
Some breeds of chicken do swim better than others.
Silkie chickens can't swim at all. Their unique fluffy feather get wet instantly and the sink very quickly. A Silkie finding itself in water will need to get out in a few seconds or it will likely drown.