How Long Can Chickens Go Without Water or Food?

All living things on this planet we call Earth require adequate nutrition to stay alive. Without food and water, even the greatest of creatures perish. The same is true for the humble chicken. But how long can chickens go without water or food? What determines how fast their condition worsens? Let’s find out.

Why is Water Essential to Chickens?

chicken watering

Chickens need water to survive. Furthermore, chickens need water to help their bodies digest their food. The food stored in the crop must remain moist. Otherwise, if it dries, the food will not progress down the digestive tract, and the bird will die.

Here is a fun fact: Eggs are about 70% water. A dehydrated hen may stop laying eggs for up to 14 days.

Water-stress is a real issue, as it can even cause chickens to prematurely molt their feathers.

How Long Can Chickens Go Without Water?

In the best conditions, meaning a spring day with zero humidity and heat, a chicken will be able to last for about two days or 48 hours without access to water. However, the environment, as well as the health of the chicken, ultimately determines how long they will live. In places or during a season when the temperature is scorching, chickens could perish in as little as 8 hours without water.

Generally, newly hatched will last the longest without water, because the albumin that sustained them in the egg provides up to 72 hours of nutrition. That said, baby chicks that are only a few days old may begin ill after going more than 6 hours without water.

How Long Can Chickens Go Without Water in the Winter?

Baby chicken drinking water

Of course, chickens also need water during the winter, even when there is snow on the ground. Due to the cooler temperatures, chickens will need to drink less, but that does not mean they should go without water.

Healthy adult chickens can go up to 72 hours without water in the winter. In desperate times, chickens may turn to eating snow. It’s not the best idea, considering how the snow could cool them down too much.

For baby chicks, the outlook is still the same. They can survive around 6 hours without fresh water. After that, they will become dehydrated, and their bodies will start to shut down.

Do Chickens Need Water at Night?

Like humans, chickens are diurnal, meaning that they are awake when the sun is up and they snuggle into bed when it sets. Since they get comfortable on their roosts overnight, there is a low chance that they are going to wake for a midnight snack and drink. So no, chickens generally do not need water at night. You do not have to worry about keeping them hydrated while they are in the coop.

If anything, it may be better to leave food and water out of the coop overnight. There is always a chance that the food and water will be messed in or knocked over, which can introduce other problems that affect the health of your birds.

How Much Water Do Chickens Need?

When inside the coop, chickens tend to drink about 180-250 ml of water daily. Outside, chickens need more than double. Each chicken should have access to about 500 ml of water to stay properly hydrated throughout the day.

Broilers and chickens produced for meat will have a faster growth rate and may end up consuming more water. Some breeds of broilers need about 1 liter of water a day.

beautiful rooster near the pudlle

How Long Can Chickens Go Without Food?

Chickens are known for being extremely self-sufficient. These are birds who evolved from jungle fowl, after all. They are used to finding things to eat that may go unnoticed to the human eye. However, on the off chance that there is literally nothing for them to eat, chickens will suffer after 4-5 days of no food.

Left alone and without nourishment, chickens will turn to their own eggs for sustenance. That usually happens around day 3 or 4 of starvation. Once the eggs are eaten, the chickens turn on one another. Yes, chickens will resort to cannibalism for survival.

Free-ranging chickens will survive indefinitely, while those who are used to being fed in a more confined area will not survive as long.

How Much Food Do Chickens Need Per Day?

Ever notice how chickens tend to be constantly scratching and pecking at the ground? It is because chickens have a fast metabolism. A large portion of their energy is used to digest their food overnight, while the other calories are divvied up between foraging and producing eggs. Thus, chickens tend to eat a surprising amount of food throughout the day.

Adults chickens need about a quarter of a pound of food per day to survive. There are some factors that may alter that amount.

Can Chickens Survive Without Feed?

feeding chicken from hands

You already know that chickens last only 2 days without water. They cannot survive without it. But what about food? Do they need feed to survive, or can they forage and thrive? The good news is that, when given a significant amount of land to roam and scour for food, they will be able to survive well enough. Seeds, grass, fruits, and insects all provide a decent amount of nutrition.

However, foraging is not always the most efficient way for chickens to eat. In fact, they may not survive long.

Foraging does not guarantee nutrition. Should chickens not receive the nutrition they need, their bodies will not be able to support them. Chicken feed is produced to maximize their nutrient intake, ensuring that their bodies have plenty of vitamins and nutrients to keep them healthy. Furthermore, a variety of vitamins and minerals are required for egg production.

Can Chickens Survive With Only Water and Grass?

No, chickens cannot be given water and grass and survive. Grass does not have the nutrients required for the birds to live. Like humans and many other living things, chickens need a balanced diet that meets certain requirements for protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Grass lacks protein, as well as calcium, which chickens need to make eggs.

Furthermore, grass lacks amino acids. Chickens cannot make them like some animals can, and so they have to eat their amino acids.

In short, while it is fine to give your chickens time to roam around the lawn, the grass they eat will never be enough for them. While your chickens may last longer than 4 days without food at all, grass cannot sustain them. Be sure to provide your flock with high-quality feed.

How to Ensure Your Chickens Have Food and Water Every Day

Now that you know that chickens can survive without water for 2 days and 4-5 days without food, you may be wondering, “What happens when I go on vacation?” One of the best things you could do for your flock if you plan on leaving them without someone to check is to invest in an automatic water and food system. However, leaving your chickens unattended for any length of time is not recommended. Not only will their habitat become overrun with filth, it may also attract dangerous predators.

If you do not want to purchase an automatic dispenser for food and water, be sure to meet your flock’s needs throughout the day. Fill up the water bowl in the morning then rinse it out and refill whenever the water gets grimy. Feed your chickens high-quality pellets each day then supplement with treats, like fruits and vegetables.

Also you can watch this video on how leave chickens alone while you travel:

Final Thoughts

Chickens need a constant supply of food and water in order to live their happiest, healthiest life. Newly hatched chicks can last up to 72 hours, but baby chicks may only survive for 6 hours without water. Adult chickens usually do not survive beyond 2 days without water. Food is just as vital, with most adult chickens entering starvation within 4 days. As such, you should never leave your chickens without fresh food and water for too long. If you plan on going away, make sure you have either someone to care for them or that you invest in automatic feeders to keep them nourished.

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