We are all familiar with the notorious Rooster crow; the natural morning alarm clock that signifies the start of each new day. But what does this mean for your standard flock of hens? What time do chickens naturally wake up, with or without a rooster present, and what does a keeper need to consider regarding their morning routine? I spent some time researching the traits and tendencies of these birds to find out!
So, what time do chickens wake up? Chickens typically wake up with the sun’s rise, which can range between 4 and 7 am, depending on the season and your location. As soon as hens wake up, they begin their day alternating between laying eggs and eating breakfast.
Chickens generally wake up very early in the morning. This is something that existing keepers are all too familiar with.
But there is actually a physiological reason for this.
Chickens are very sensitive to light; especially their brains!
In fact, these birds can even absorb light when their eyes are closed.
It comes as no surprise to see chickens described as “masterpiece of biological design”, as ScienceDaily puts it.
So, you can bet that when the sun starts to come up – your chickens will know about it!
And light is just so important to chickens.
It is crucial for regulating their internal clocks, and is essential for healthy egg production.
Hens actually require a minimum of 14 hours of daylight in order to lay their eggs.
It is for this very reason why egg production naturally falls in the winter. Unless of course, you use artificial lighting to impersonate and enhance any remaining daylight.
Let us now take a closer look at why chickens wake up so early, along with answering other important questions, such as; when they should be let out and what they typically do at this time of day.
Why Do Chickens Wake Up So Early?
Chickens wake up so early due to the rise of the sun and the presence of daylight. Once it hits the coop, you can be sure that your chickens will know it’s the morning.
This is because chickens have an intricate and complex biology, especially in regards to their eyes and how they are able to acquire and use light.
Chickens actually have sophisticated rods and cones in their retinas, helping them both to detect the intensity of light and see in many colors.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis even found that they have ‘self-organizing mosaics’ within the eyes, in their studies on chickens.
It is for this reason that chickens actually possess better eyesight than humans.
In fact, roosters are known for being able to see the sunrise an hour before we humans can. This is when you will hear them crow.
And getting up early is essential for chickens.
They simply need to get sufficient light in order to produce their eggs.
It is for this reason that artificial lights can be put on as early as 2:30 am in the darkest winter days in order for chickens to keep up production.
And then there is the safety that light brings.
Despite their impressive eyesight, chickens are unable to see in the dark. This makes them especially vulnerable after dusk and why they naturally will wander back to the coop before sunset.
Heading back home and finding shelter is a must.
Under the night sky, chickens will sleep on their roost until the next morning, unlikely to move eat or drink during this time.
It is the daylight, which affords chickens the ability to see. It is when these birds can get the resources they need – mainly, food and water.
Going a night without food also means they will wake up hungry and requiring food.
One thing to note is that chickens low in the pecking order may not be as bright and bubbly, and may even lad behind somewhat in the morning. This is normal.
But, this can also indicate a potential injury and illness in a bird, so it’s important to monitor your flock and keep an eye on them. It may require veterinary care.
Equally, if there is any disorder or bullying in the coop, such as feather pecking and fighting, you may notice fatigued, lackluster chickens in the morning.
Its essential that you do all you can to prevent this behaviour and do all you can to support your vulnerable birds; helping them to integrate with the rest of the flock.
You want your chickens to be contented with life and active early in the mornings – this is a good sign. If somethings not right, you need to take proactive steps to resolve it.
Even if the thought of a longer lie in is of appeal to you!
What Time Do You Let Chickens Out In The Morning?
You should let your chickens out of their coop at sunrise, or shortly thereafter. This can range from 4-7 am, depending on the season and your location.
Nonetheless, it is important to let your chickens out consistently and at around the same time each morning.
This will naturally change throughout the seasons, although will happen gradually and slowly.
Depending on your circumstances, keeping to this schedule may be more challenging.
It may not even be possible for you to open and close the coop door at the same time each morning.
It could be that you lead a busy professional life. It could be that you struggle to get up in the monring.
Either way, you can consider adding an automated door opener for the coop. This is an excellent, easy to install, and best-selling option on Amazon.
You can set the automated door opener to open at the same time each morning and close at the same time each night; they’re great for helping to keep your flock safe and secure.
One particular benefit of them is the timer, which allows them to align with the light of the season. As season change and light
An automated door opener is not a requirement of good husbandry, but it can make life easier for any chicken keeper.
Besides, it does take the chances of human error away.
It’s always possible to forget to open the coop’s door in the morning and close it at night; leaving your birds open and vulnerable to predators.
We all lead busy lives and it is easy done.
Nevertheless, doing this just once can be game over for your flock.
An automated door does the remembering for you.
It’s also nice not to have a few minutes in bed while the door opens automatically to let your hens out.
What Do Chickens Do In The Morning?
Chickens like to be busy in the morning and a very routine-oriented. They generally alternate between eating breakfast and egg-laying, but the earlier hens start laying their eggs, the better.
The first thing chickens do at sunrise is stretch out their legs and wings before hopping off the roost and out of the coop door for breakfast (assuming it is open of course!)
Some hens will naturally sleep in a bit later, and that’s okay. They’ll come out when they are ready.
After consuming their breakfast (a high-quality and nutrient-dense poultry feed), hens will look to pop onto their favorite nest box.
These should be filled with sufficient comfortable bedding and placed away from the feeder in a private spot.
Once settled, they will lay their eggs.
As the morning goes on, more hens begin to wake up and leave the coop; taking turns on the nest boxes provided. (with 1 nest box for every three hens being recommended at the very least).
When things quieten down, its time for you (as the chicken keeper) to collect the eggs.
Uncollected eggs entice predators or unwanted visitors, like rodents to the coop, so it is important to collect them in a timely manner each morning.
Once their eggs are laid, it’s time for your hens to free-range or be given access to their run.
Here they can forage for several hours, and remain active.
The happiest chickens are free-ranging, where they will get a lot of extra nutrition from the grass and certain plants, and they will also get some extra protein from eating bugs, grubs, insects, and slugs.
Chickens are also very social, so free-ranging allows them to be in a safe setting to interact with other birds.
After all the morning fun, chickens love a good dust bath – it keeps their feathers clean and lice free.
On sunny days, chickens will also enjoy sunbathing; the warmth feels good on their feathers.
And then, it’s back to foraging and they usually do so as a group – there is safety in numbers after all.
Morning into the early afternoon involves lots of running around the yard, and if they are lucky, access to a treat or two of fresh fruit and veg. So long as it does not exceed, or displace, their main poultry feed.
Are Chickens Noisy In The Morning?
Chickens are generally quite noisy in the morning, regardless of whether you own a rooster or not.
While roosters are loud and will crow, hens will need communicate among themselves and this can sometimes be heard.
Some keepers even report that their hens are especially noisy; but a lot will depend on how ‘light-proof’ the coop is, what it is constructed of, and where it is placed in relation to the house.
Nevertheless, it is important to consider that chickens are all uniquie individuals.
Some will be naturally more vocal than others; you’ll have some birds in your flock whom are more introverted and some that are more extroverted and likely to make noise.
Below are the four main reasons why chickens can make noise at the start of each new day:
- Your chickens just woke up and want to confirm the safety of other birds in the flock,
- Your chickens want to be let out of the coop,
- Your chickens are hungry and thirsty,
- Your chickens have just laid their eggs and are singing their egg-laying song.
Ultimately, chickens are always going to make a certain amount of noise.
If they are in anticipation of good things, such as a treat or to see their keeper, then expect them to become more noisy too!
Roosters will crow and be loud regardless – and you can expect this at dawn each day – their internal clock anticipates sunrise and there is little if anything you can do to stop them if you do decide to keep one.
Hens on the other hand, are light-driven, as we have already established.
So, once light hits the coop they’ll start to awaken and make their morning announcements.
The ‘egg song’ is a well-known phenomenon within the hen-keeping community. It’s usually a good sign that your birds are laying their daily egg.
But as mentioned previously, total noise levels will depend on each bird in the flock. Its almost impossible to know at the outset when first keeping them.
And unfortunately, if one particular bird is noisy, the others are likely to chime in.
And it can range too; sometimes they can sing the egg-song at 4 am in the morning, and on other days, you’ll hear nothing!
Thankfully, some noise can be reduced by feeding your birds food and water first thing in the morning.
If you have nearby neighbors and your hens are making quite a noise, you can always try to appease them now and again with a few fresh eggs.
A chicken keeper’s life is undoubtedly a busy one; these birds will keep you on your feet from the time they arise until they return to their coop at bedtime.
And these birds love consistency. In fact, their entire body clock is aligned with that of the sun.
The moment the light hits the coop your hens will rise; and its all due to their biology and the fact that their brains are so light-sensitive.
Besides, hens instinctively know they need light to be healthy and produce quality eggs. And they need quite a lot of it – with 14 hours per day being a minimum.
Wherever you are in the world, and the season you find yourself in, you should expect your chickens to let you know when it is the start of a new day.
From there, you can expect your days to be routine-filled but never dull. These birds are certainly entertaining to watch and care for, plus it’s interesting to observe how your flock operates in their social hierarchy and community.
Chickens are generally quite sociable and active. They enjoy being up early to eat, lay their eggs, and chat with their friends, they like to do things in groups.
You may find that you have one or two individuals that appear quiet, disinterested, and aloof. If this is the case you should monitor your flock and those specific birds closely; finding out whether it is a sign of bullying, a medical condition or a personality trait.
Lastly, if you are busy, you may want to consider getting an automated door opener for the coop. It’s not laziness, it’s sensible.
Forgetting to open and close the coop’s door is an easy mistake to make, albeit a potentially very costly mistake that no keeper wants to experience.
There is no harm in doing all that you can to make chicken keeping more convenient for yourself, and as long as your birds are safe and well-fed, that’s all that matters.