Keeping new chickens is certainly fun and games. There’s a lot to learn about caring for your birds. One common question that new keepers ask is whether or not they need to provide food and water for their flock during the night. Or, can these generally hardy birds do without it until morning? I spent some time researching to find out for good.
So, do chickens need food and water at night? Chickens do not generally need food and water at night. During the night, chickens will sleep on their roost until morning, and are unlikely to get up to eat and drink. In fact, their poor night-time vision makes it increasingly unlikely for a chicken to leave the safety of the roost to do so.
Knowing that chickens do not generally attempt to eat and drink during the night makes it all that more important that they get a sufficient amount during the day.
Besides, food and water are essential for good health in your chickens, just as they are for you and I.
That is assuming you feed them right to begin with, of course.
A balanced diet of protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, and minerals – provided via formulated feed of crumbs, mash or pellets.
From there, the occasional healthy scrap, treat, and the ability to free roam and forage off the land will do your birds well!
Let us now take a closer look at why chickens can generally go through the night without consuming food and water, how to ensure they obtain enough during the day and whether they need feeding inside or outside.
We will be finishing with that age-old question of whether you should be shutting your birds in at night.
So, sit back, relax, and continue reading to learn all that you need to know!
Chickens can generally go without food and water overnight. The only real exception is with broody hens, whom may get up to eat and drink during this time. This is however, the exception rather than the norm.
As diurnal birds, chickens are like us humans. They are active during the light of the day, and spend the dark night hours obtaining sleep and rest.
And chickens naturally know what they need to do – there is generally little need to round them up each evening!
Instead, your flock will proactively return to the coop; settle down to roost on their perches, and they will go to sleep.
The night, is also when chickens digest their food, and the crop empties in preparation for feeding the next day.
So, if you were to check up on your flock in the middle of the night, say with a torch, you’ll notice that they would all be sound asleep – they’ll be startled by your visit.
The dark makes chickens sleepy; and its one of the many reasons why this is an ideal time to do anything that requires your birds to be receptive and compliant.
The the morning, and with the rise of the sun, your birds will emerge from their house – often in order of precedence (and in line with their social hierarchy – the pecking order).
It is then during the day that your chickens will eat and drink.
In fact, when left to their own devices, chickens will spend the majority of their time looking for food.
Its their instincts.
If they are confined, and not allowed to or have limited time to free roam, they will only be able to eat your readily available and supplied feed.
Otherwise, they will also forage to their hearts content!
Without eating and drinking during the night, you may be then wondering how much they need to eat and drink during the day?
Let us now look at some recommended amounts.
How Much Food Do Chickens Need To Eat Per Day?
As a very rough guide, a chicken will eat around 125-150 grams of feed per day.
Although, this does depend on the breed of chicken, their size, and how you keep them.
Active free rangers may eat less feed, if they are obtaining more bugs and insects during their travels.
Weather is also a factor in how much a chicken will eat; with more generally being consumed during the winter when it is cold, and less in the summer when it is hot.
If you feed too little to your birds, those lowest in the pecking order may not get a chance to eat.
So, it is best to be more generous to begin with.
In an ideal world, you should look to have just a little bit more leftover food per day – to ensure your birds are eating enough but to limit waste.
Soon, you’ll be able to tell how much to feed your birds and what keeps them happy and healthy.
Its also generally advised to fill the feeder with fresh feed in the morning, and let your chickens help themselves.
How Much Do Chickens Need To Drink Per Day?
Your average laying hen will consume around 500 ml of water each and every day, but this can increase during periods of hot weather.
As such, chickens require access to fresh and clean drinking water at all times during the day.
Insufficient water intake can even result in a lack of egg laying until consumption returns to a sufficient amount.
This is why it is imperative that you provide your birds with a several drinkers, and check up on them frequently.
Even despite your best efforts to provide fresh water, your birds may even still attempt to drink from puddles or other water sources they find.
You need to be careful here as some water can carry bacteria and/or disease.
So, try to keep chickens away from any standing water and keep an eye on them!
Do You Put Food And Water In The Coop?
Whether or not you decide to keep feeders and waterers inside the coop is going to come down to both your personal preference and your set up.
A pre-requisite is that you have a sufficiently large coop (in relation to the number of birds in your flock). You need enough space to be able place the feeders and waterers on the ground.
So, it may or may not be possible for every chicken keeper.
Furthermore, there is some debate among chicken keepers as to whether feeding chickens inside should even be done at all.
But thankfully, either exclusive feeding outside, or a combination of the two can work. There are many examples of keepers who successfully do so either way.
And, there are benefits of doing both and taking this approach
Benefits Of Feeding And Drinking Inside
In regard to providing food and water inside; it can keep it fresh and protected from the elements.
Depending on the season and the type of feeders you use, food can get rained upon.
Wet food will also become mouldy, quickly– which is not good for your birds to consume.
Beyond this, food outside also can attract predators (such as foxes and badgers), rodents (such as rats and mice), or even some birds (like crows).
This is obviously something that you will want to avoid at all costs.
Doing so inside is a simple way of doing this, or at least limiting the risk somewhat.
An alternative if you do have a small coop, or would like to feed your birds outside, is to place feeders and waterers in a private and shelter area; such as in a protected and secure run.
This should protect the food from being eaten by predators and keep your flock safe from them altogether.
Or, you can look to even hang food up onto the walls of the run or even the coop; which does provide the benefit of offering more floor space to your flock.
Benefits Of Feeding And Drinking Outside
At the same time, it is generally a good idea to offer food outdoors.
Chickens generally spill their food when they eat; so exclusive feeding indoors is likely to result in a messy coop that will be a challenge to clean.
It will also need cleaning more often.
Besides, a lot of food can go to waste with this approach.
Not only this, but your coop will be much more likely to smell, which again can attract unwanted visitors.
That is not to say birds will not always drop their food. Yet outside, its generally less problematic.
If feed were to drop onto the floor outside, say on the lawn, your birds are much more likely to eat it – and even get some grass, or a bug or grub, in the process.
Then there are the other benefits of keeping your flock outside.
Its good for them; both from a physical and mental perspective. It helps promote natural behaviors and the well-being of your flock.
So, providing food and water outside can serve as the ideal encouragement to get them to go out, and stay, outside.
As you can see; there are benefits both ways. A combined approach therefore works very well.
There is no reason why you cannot do both; or at least feed predominantly outside, with some food indoors. At least during certain parts of the year.
That way, your chickens will be able to consume some food when they arise and wake. Even if you are not there to let them out first thing.
Plus, it affords you some extra time before you need to let your birds out, while ensuring they still have had a chance to eat.
Do Chickens Need To Be Shut In At Night?
It is generally advised that you shut your chickens in their coop at night. This way, you are increasing your chances of protecting your flock from predators, which can be numerous at this time.
Although, it does of course depend on your set up and how predator-safe your property is.
For this reason, some keepers do decide to leave their chickens in their run.
However, if you are contemplating doing this, important considerations and precautions must be made.
For instance, the run has to be thoroughly inspected, well maintained and fully secure. You need to ensure there are no small or tiny holes, signs of weakness or damage.
Ultimately, its all about giving your birds the safety they need – not only to prevent attacks, but also to eliminate stress and ensure they get the sleep and rest they need.
So, its a matter of weighing up the risks in your area, along with your personal preferences and the security of your coup/run/property.
Nevertheless, it is always better safe than sorry.
So there we have it.
Chickens do not really need to be fed or offered water at night.
Besides, they are highly unlikely to even attempt to eat and drink during this time.
That being said, if your coop has the space to afford it, you may find some benefit in keeping some food and water in the coop.
Not for your birds consumption overnight, but for when they first wake and want to start their day (long before you arise and can let them out).
Plus, food and water inside is better protected from weather and predator’s.
But, do not forget the importance of feeding outside; not just for the health and wellbeing of your birds, but for the benefits it will yield you too.
The choice is ultimately up to you, but a combined feeding approach, of both inside and outside tends to work best.
From there, just ensure you are feeding your birds a high quality feed, access to clean and fresh water, and that they are all getting enough.
That way, they’ll all be able to go through the night, without pangs of hunger or thirst!