First and foremost, chickens are diurnal creatures, which means they’re active during the day and rest at night. But, if you look at humans, there’s a high chance of walking up in the middle of the night to have a glass of cold water. Since chickens are more like humans, you’re likely to ask yourself whether the same happens to them. So, do chickens need water at night?
Although this question has created a heated debate among chicken enthusiasts, leaving an adequate supply of food and water for your flock at night is a matter of preference. Some keepers argue that leaving food and water in the coop only adds to the mess making the coop exceedingly messy by morning.
Others say that their coops are too small to house a feeder and a waterer. Others are practical and argue that chickens sleep at night and are unlikely to leave their perches until it’s morning. That said, this guide will answer the question of whether chickens need water at night as well as discuss other things you might need to learn about feeding your chickens.
Reasons for Not Needing Chickens’ Food and Water at Night
Now, there are many reasons why your flock will need adequate water. First, water helps to regulate body temperature during hot seasons. Secondly, water aids in the digestion of food help transport essential nutrients, and aids in lubricating the joints and essential organs.
But, despite its roles, is it really necessary to supply your chickens with food and water at night? To be honest, it’s not. First, chickens are diurnal animals as we mentioned earlier. This means that they instinctively wake up at dawn and remain active throughout the day until its sunset. As the darkness creeps in, they naturally go back to their coops to sleep.
This means that chickens work under a regulated schedule. Once they’re inside the coop, your chickens will automatically sleep until morning. In fact, chickens are so intelligent that they even adjust their sleeping cycle to suit the long nights and short days of winter and short nights and long days of summer.
But other than being diurnal, chickens are creatures that are blinded by darkness. So, at night, they will have poor visibility which will make it impossible to see where they’re going. Since they also know their position in the food chain, chickens will feel increasingly vulnerable when walking at the night and will hence prefer to remain on the roosting perches until morning.
Why Should You Offer Food and Water to Chickens at Night
Although your chickens don’t need food and water at night, there are exceptions to this rule. Now, here are some of the few circumstances that might force you to bend the rules.
If you’re a late sleeper who wakes up so late in the morning, then it makes sense to leave some chicken feed and drinking water inside the coop. This way, your chickens will have something to feed on when they wake up at dawn. This also applies to emergency cases where you have to leave your property to attend to something important.
But, there’s a downside to this approach. First, you can’t leave food and water inside a small coop. Secondly, food and water inside the feeders and waterers can get contaminated with bedding or poop. Lastly, chicken feed inside the coop can attract rodents and pests.
Do you have baby chicks around? Well, this is another reason why you might have to offer food and water to your chickens at night. Baby chicks are like human infants. Once they hatch, their days and nights tend to get mixed up.
Therefore, you have to supply them with starter feed and clean water throughout to facilitate their growth. The same happens if you have a sick chicken that needs a thorough checkup and attention.
Lastly, there’s the issue of broody hens. If your hen is broody, it’s likely to get quite stubborn as it’s unlikely to get up to eat, drink or clean itself as other chickens do. Instead, she will make short trips in and out of the nesting box to feed, drink water, and poop.
Since this can happen both at night and during the day, it’s important to provide them with adequate nourishment to keep them happy and full.
When Do Chickens Actually Drink Water?
Now that chickens don’t feed or drink at night, when is the best time for them to drink water? This is just another pressing question you might ask if you’re a beginner to all things chickens. Now, chickens usually drink water first thing in the morning. So, once they’re released out of the coop at dawn, they usually head straight to the waterers to drink water.
This is usually common during summer seasons when the nights are extremely hot. Remember, water is essential to chickens as it helps them to regulate body temperature.
How Long Can a Chicken Go Without Water?
If you have chickens around, then you might have noticed that they drink water too often. Actually, chickens require adequate water to aid in their body functioning. Remember, chickens don’t have teeth as most animals do. They also don’t sweat as we do.
Therefore, their systems require a lot of cool water to keep up with the daily demands. For instance, a chicken needs water to moisten its crop to ease digestion. It also needs water to regulate body temperature as it doesn’t sweat.
So, when you combine some of these factors, you’ll realize that chickens require drinking water throughout the day.
However, there are times when water might be unavailable thus forcing you to wonder how long they can survive without it. In most cases, 24 hours without water will be considered safe. However, this should not be the case during hot summer seasons as your chickens might struggle to regulate body temperature.
As a result, your chicken might show signs of fatigue and might even seize laying eggs if it’s stressed. Thankfully, the situation here is just minor. The worst case occurs when your chicken fails to drink water after 48 hours. Here, your chickens might become dehydrated and ill.
How Do Chickens Drink Water?
Starting with food, chickens use their tongues to push wet food to the back of their mouths to swallow. However, the same doesn’t apply when it comes to drinking water. Instead, chickens dip their beaks inside the waterers to suck the water. From there, they close their beaks and tilt their heads up to swallow the water.
Now, just like humans, chickens have nasal passages on the roof of their mouths called choana. So, to avoid accidents, the choana closes when a chicken tilts its head to swallow water.
What Happens When Chickens Don’t Get Enough Water?
A lot is likely to happen when your chickens don’t get enough water. But, before we get to that, you need to note that sometimes you might provide your chickens with adequate water but still leave them starving. This happens when the water gets contaminated or when the water tastes bad due to dissolved minerals and medications.
So, to ensure your flock enjoys the water you provide to them, you should use large waterers, depending on the size of the flock, and they should be hung a few inches off the ground to avoid contamination.
Now, we’ve already mentioned the reasons why chickens need adequate water. In case the flock doesn’t get water for 24 to upwards of 48 hours, a lot is likely to happen.
One of them is poor egg production where the hens will either lay few eggs or seize to lay eggs altogether. Another problem is dehydration, which manifests itself in form of pale comb and wattles, lethargy, and convulsions/seizures in worst cases.
Lack of water can also trigger a molt, which means you won’t harvest any eggs for a long time. Lastly, dehydration can cause stunted growth where your chickens will grow very slowly.
How to Keep Chickens Water Clean
One reason why chickens fail to drink their water is when they notice the water is contaminated. Since water is an absolute essential, you need to keep a close eye on the waterers to ensure the water remains clean at all times. That said, here are some steps you can take to keep your waterers clean.
- The waterers should have a small space to fit the chickens’ heads. If it’s too wide, chickens can get inside and contaminate the water.
- The water should not be placed in direct sunlight to prevent algae from forming. If it is in the outside run, make sure there’s a lid.
- If algae is a problem, then you can add a tablespoon of vinegar into the water to lower the pH level and prevent the algae from forming.
How Much Water Does a Chicken Drink?
The amount of water a chicken drinks is dependent on various factors such as its size, outside temperatures, how much it’s eating, and whether it’s laying eggs or not. However, to give a rough idea, every chicken should get roughly 500ml or 17 oz of clean water every 24 hours.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Can I Feed My Chickens Inside the Coop?
The best location to put water and chicken feed is inside the coop rather than out in the run. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to feeding your chickens inside the coop. Some advantages include:
- Keeping the feed dry in case it rains at night.
- Your flock will still access food and water when you wake up late.
- Rodents and birds will be kept off from feeding on your chickens’ food.
- The chickens will have access to food and water during extreme weather conditions.
But, despite the myriad benefits, there are some drawbacks you must be aware of when feeding your chickens inside the coop. Some of them include:
- If the coop is small, it might get squeezed.
- Getting inside a coop to feed the birds and clean it might be challenging.
- If water spills inside the coop, it can attract mold and other bacteria.
Q2. Is It Necessary to Have a Feeding Schedule For My Chickens?
No. it’s not necessary. A feeding schedule will only keep you tied up and might even waste a lot of your time. Instead, you’re supposed to feed your chickens in the morning and allow them to free range in search of pasture. However, it’s good to check the feeders to ensure there’s enough food for all birds.
Q3. Can Chickens Drink Salty Water?
Absolutely no. Chickens should not be fed with salty water at all or else they will suffer from salt intoxication. In most cases, your chickens might even choose not to drink the water leading to dehydration.
Q4. What Temperature is Best For Chickens Drinking Water?
First, the ideal body temperature of a fully feathered mature chicken is 40°C – 41.5°C (105°F – 107°F). With this statistic, the ideal water temperature, which your chicken can drink comfortably, is between 10°C – 15°C (50°F to 60°F).
So, do chickens need water and food at night? Well, that’s not necessary. Although humans need food and water for dinner, this is not a necessity for chickens. Therefore, feeding them at night will not be necessary as they can’t access the food since they get blinded by darkness.
However, there are situations where you might be forced to feed your chickens at night. This is in the case of a broody hen, a sick chicken that demands attention, or in the case of baby chicks.
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Hello, I am John Reid. I have been raising chickens for the last 15 years. I have got my experience from my father. My father is the owner of a large chicken farm. This is our family business that has been continuing for over 35 years. I am very interested in backyard chickens and I know how to take care of them. You can learn more About Us here. Happy Reading!!