Chickens are foragers, and they do best when they have free access to food and water throughout the day.
The amount of time a chicken can go without water depends on several environmental factors. During periods of extreme heat, a chicken may begin to suffer after just a few hours of not having any water. Temperatures above 104 degrees Fahrenheit are too high for chickens to maintain proper body temperature; without adequate shelter, they will dehydrate and die rapidly at that temperature.
Hens that go without water for more than 24 hours will stop laying eggs and may have their laying disrupted for a week or more afterward. The stress of going without water might also trigger a molt, which would put the hen off laying for a longer period. It’s always best to avoid this problem by ensuring your hens always have food and water readily available.
Do Chickens Need Water at Night?
Chicks are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day and sleep at night. Once they go to roost in the evening, they will generally settle in and sleep soundly through the night. This means that they usually won’t get up and drink in the middle of the night.
For this reason, it’s possible to keep a chicken feeder and waterer on the outside of the coop rather than inside. However, there are a few reasons that might be a bad idea:
- Excess feed can get rained on and go moldy
- Heat and sunlight can damage the waterer
- You may attract pests
Even though your chickens won’t eat or drink at night, it may be safer and more cost-effective to keep their feeders and waterers indoors.
How Much Water Do Chickens Need?
A single chicken will need about 16 ounces, or one pint, of water a day. If you have a flock of four chickens, you’ll need a half-gallon of water per day. Knowing that you can use the size of your waterer to decide how often you’ll need to refill it to keep your chickens hydrated. A standard five-gallon waterer will last four chickens 10 days if no water is lost to evaporation.
How Long Can You Leave a Chicken Alone?
Chickens are relatively self-sufficient. As long as they have access to adequate amounts of food and water and are kept in a secure area, you can leave your adult chickens alone for up to three or four days without any problem.
If you’ll be gone much longer than that, you’ll want someone to check in on your flock to refill water and food stocks and look out for any problems.
It’s a good idea to give your chickens more than one option for getting water. That way a chicken has a backup option in case a waterer malfunctions or is guarded fiercely by another hen. Chickens with access to food but no water may choke while eating due to the dryness of the food.