Backyard chicken raising is an incredibly enjoyable hobby. However, it can also form a great side hustle or alternative source of income. To get the most out of your flock, nourishment is at the center of it all.
You must be able to provide the birds with sufficient quantities of feed for a balanced diet. The nourishment should also include an adequate amount of water since dehydration is a danger to all living organisms.
Chickens spend most of the day scratching and feeding. When dusk falls, they retire to their coop to spend the night. The question many novice backyard chicken farmers ask is, Do chickens need food and water in their coop at night?
Well, chickens do not typically need water and food at night. This is because these birds are diurnal creatures, which means they are only active during the day and sleep all through the night. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.
Before we proceed to understand why it may actually be necessary to provide food and water to chickens at night, learn more about how to construct the coop so that it is insulated and comfortable for the flock.
The Diurnal Nature of Chicken
Like humans, chickens are diurnal organisms that are active during the day and retire at night to sleep. They will instinctively enter the coop with the fall of the night and sleep throughout the night unless provoked by noise or any interruption.
Similarly, they instinctively wake up with the sunrise. This is a complex system that is controlled by hormones and neurotransmitters in the brains of the birds. Diseases that disrupt those brain processes may render the birds unable to sense the changes in the environment that control the daily cycle.
Chickens can go as far as regulating their schedules depending on the length of daylight, as in areas where winter brings longer nights and shorter daylights. Our feathered friends will basically sleep through the night uninterrupted. In this case, they do not need food and water at night.
Furthermore, chickens have very poor vision at night, whether you provide them with light or not. This is because their retinas contain very few rods and large amounts of constriction. Rods are responsible for night vision, while cones facilitate daytime vision. The poor vision makes it difficult for the birds to see the food and water in the coop.
Some people may think adding a fluorescent light to the coop can solve the problem and allow your chicken to feed all day and night. This cannot help and would actually make things worse in the coop. Chickens are motion- and light-sensitive, and therefore any flicker of the light source can irritate them.
Do chickens Need Food and Water at Night?
At times, chickens need food and water at night, like any other living creature. While their activity levels may decrease at night, they still require nourishment and hydration to sustain their bodily functions. It is a common misconception that chickens don’t require food and water at night, but this is inaccurate.
Chickens have a natural instinct to roost or perch at night, usually on elevated surfaces such as tree branches or inside a coop. This behavior helps keep them safe from predators. However, even when they are resting, chickens still need access to food and water.
In fact, providing chickens with continuous access to clean water and a balanced diet is crucial for their overall health and well-being. Water is essential for proper digestion, nutrient absorption, and body temperature regulation.
Similarly, a nutritious diet containing the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals helps maintain their energy levels, supports growth, and keeps their immune system functioning optimally.
Therefore, it is important to ensure that chickens have access to fresh water and appropriate feed both during the day and at night to meet their nutritional requirements.
Special Cases Where Night Feeding and Watering Are Indicated
There are special occasions where you will have to offer feed and water to your birds. This is especially important when the nights are longer than the days. We define them as cases where the nutritional demands of the birds warrant longer periods of feeding. Here are the indications:
Chicks, just like human babies, have small intestines, an immature digestive system, and a less than efficient conversion rate. Therefore, they need to eat little but frequently. Besides, their diurnal cycle is not yet established.
Therefore, they will wake up in the dead of night, searching for food and water. A good idea would be to separate the chicks from the adults to allow you to feed them around the clock for faster growth and development.
Brooding is the process where hens, under the influence of certain hormones, are stimulated to sit on eggs for about 21 days to hatch them. During this time, the hens spend the majority of their time during the day sitting on the eggs while the rest are feeding.
The hens are overly defensive and will act violently against any intruders. These factors lead to increased physiological demand, which is directly proportional to nutritional demand. So, it would be ideal to provide them with additional servings even at night.
Providing the broody hen with enough reserves of feed and water will ensure they do not take frequent breaks. For the brooding process to be perfect, the hen has to sit on the eggs for as long as possible each day for three weeks.
This is not for the chickens’ benefit but for your caregiver. If you always wake up late, then it would be a good idea to put up enough food and water in the coop to provide the birds with a morning snack before they can leave the coop.
Chickens generally wake up at dawn, when sunlight starts to show. The birds will start foraging for food as soon as they wake up. They will be seriously noisy if they do not find food. You better provide them with food and water because you will not handle the noise.
You must wake up at dawn to let the chickens out of the coop. You will not like this if you are a late sleeper. The solution is to provide them with a head-start menu. This will keep them busy and fed until you are ready to let them out.
This might be extremely dangerous, especially if rodents and predators can access the feed and water. Such feeds can become moldy and poisonous to the chicken. So, it is better to keep them sealed through the night.
Do Chickens Need Food and Water in Their Coop at Night? The answer is yes and no. There are special situations where it will be necessary to provide your chickens with food and water at night.
Young chicks and broody hens have higher nutritional demands, and the daily cycle does not work in them, so it would be better to provide them with enough feed throughout the day and night to ensure they are healthy.
However, adult chickens will maximize feeding during the day and sleep peacefully throughout the night.