Do Chickens Need Food and Water At Night?


Raising chickens is a very rewarding responsibility that is becoming more and more popular these days, and it is important to provide your flock with adequate nourishment to keep them happy and safe. Food and water are two of the most important needs of chickens, but do chickens need food and water at night?

Chickens do not typically need food and water at night, as they are diurnal creatures, meaning they are awake during the day and sleep through the night. However, there are some instances like having chicks or brooding hens where you should make food and water available to your chickens overnight. 

So, why don’t chickens need food and water at night? And when might they? Read on to answer these questions and to find out how much food and water your chickens need during the day.

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Why Don’t Chickens Need Food And Water At Night?

Chickens are diurnal animals like humans. They will instinctively wake up at sunrise, remain active throughout the day, and sleep when the sun goes down. Chickens will even regulate their schedules to sleep longer hours when there is less daylight, like in areas of the world where winter brings shorter days and longer nights. 

Unless they run into an issue in the coop, such as predators or pests, chickens will sleep throughout the night. Since they are sleeping, it is not necessary to provide food and water overnight.

Another reason chickens do not need food and water at night is that they are essentially blind at night. Due to having very few rods in their retinas, chickens see very poorly at night and would likely be unable to find feeders and waterer. 

While some owners may feel that they could solve this problem by adding fluorescent lighting to a coop, this would actually cause even more issues. Chickens have very good motion-sensing ability, to the point where the flickering of fluorescent bulbs that is undetectable to humans would likely irritate the birds. 

Except for a few exceptions, it is usually not necessary to make accommodations for night feeding and watering for chickens.

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When to Offer Food and Water To Chickens At Night

There are some times when it may be best, for both the chicken and the owner, for chickens to have access to food and water at night. 

Baby Chicks

Just like human babies, newborn chicks often start life with their nights and days mixed up. It may take a while for them to develop their daily routine, so they will likely get up during the night searching for food or water. Many people who raise chickens keep their new chicks separate from their mature flock at first, so you can easily provide food and water around the clock for your new clutch of chicks.

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Broody Hens

Broody hens are hens who have been stimulated by hormones to sit on and hatch eggs. They are very defensive and will stay camped out on a nest to incubate eggs, a process that lasts about 21 days. Since they are so determined to protect and hatch the eggs, their normal routine sometimes is disrupted, and they may not eat and drink like they normally do during the day. 

If your broody hen is not getting the normal amount of food and water during the day, it would be a good idea to keep these necessities available overnight while she is egg sitting. This will ensure that she can take short breaks throughout the day and night for sustenance while keeping her eggs warm. 

Late Sleepers

One last reason to keep water and food available around the clock is one that benefits the owner. Once chickens wake up for the day, usually around dawn, they like to graze on food and water. If you are a late sleeper and do not want to get up early to let your chickens out of the coop, then you can leave some food and water inside to hold them over until you let them out. 

However, this will only work if you keep the feed inside of the coop. If you do not have room inside your coop for food, you should not leave open food troughs outside overnight.

Chicken feed can become dangerous if it becomes moldy as it can be poisonous to your chickens. It may also attract rodents or other pests. It would be best to cover or seal your food containers overnight if they are left outside. 

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How Much Food and Water Do Chickens Need?

Since it is not required to provide food and water overnight in most cases, it is important to make sure that your chickens have access to the needed amount of nourishment throughout the day.

Water For Chickens

There are many factors that go into how much water a chicken will drink in a given day: the size of the bird, outside temperature, whether the bird is laying or not, how much the bird is eating, etc. As a rough guideline, however, large adult chickens will drink about a pin(473ml) of water a day. 

Since this is only a guideline, and there is no harm in chickens drinking more water, many chicken owners prefer to keep a constant source of water, checking and refilling waterers as needed. Water should be clean and free of debris, as well as fresh. It is a good idea to change their water every 24 hours, at the minimum. 

Besides being necessary for their health and survival, water also impacts a chicken’s ability to lay eggs. In fact, if a chicken does not have access to water for even a few hours, they can stop laying for several days. Unless there is some underlying cause, such as sickness, chickens will drink all the water they need throughout the day.

Food for Chickens

Chickens can eat a variety of different types of food: layer feed, grit, oyster shell, fruits and veggies, weeds, and more. On average, a chicken will eat ¼ pound of food per day. However, like with water, this number is dependent on several factors, such as size, outside temperature, and breed of chicken. Some chickens, like Ameraucanas, Buckeyes, and Leghorns, are good foragers and may not need to be fed as much food per day

If you are a novice chicken owner, it is a good idea to begin by giving a larger amount of feed to make sure the chickens have enough to eat. You can then observe how much feed is left over at the end of the day and make adjustments as needed. Chickens will eat enough throughout the day to get the required calories and nutrition so that they can sleep soundly through the night. 

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Do Chickens Need Food and Water At Night Conclusion

While it will do no harm to have food and water available at night, this is not usually necessary for chickens. In some cases, such as for baby chicks or brooding hens, it may be beneficial to have a feeder and waterer accessible overnight. You may also choose this route if you are a late riser, and have room to keep feeders in the coop, so that you do not have to wake up at dawn to let your chickens out.

Make sure that you provide sufficient feed and water throughout the day, and your chickens’ natural instincts will do the rest.

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