How Long Can Chickens Go Without Food

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You may be asking whether it’s acceptable to leave your flock unsupervised if you’re going away for the weekend. Taking good care of hens is a full-time job, but you may be thinking if it’s okay to leave your chickens unattended if you’re going away for the weekend, without much of anything in the way of food or water. You might feel nervous or anxious, afraid that you could do them great harm but also not sure of how you will get them fed in your absence.

Chickens are tough creatures who, depending on their age and whether they are free-range or kept in a coop with a run, may survive for a long time without your care, so how long can chickens go without food?

Generally speaking, healthy adult chickens can survive without any food for around four days on average, this should be regarded as the absolute limit. Free-range chickens with land to forage can survive much longer. If you want your flock to be healthy and produce the most eggs, they should be fed continuously.

Although it’s not ideal to leave your chicken alone without food, you can do so without causing it great harm. However, it is important that your chicken has proper access to water at all times.

How Long Can Chickens Go Without Food

Chickens are natural foragers and have spent centuries searching for food and surviving on very little. One of the best aspects of a chicken is that it doesn’t need a whole lot to survive and even thrive. Still, you don’t want to give your chicken little to no food just because it doesn’t naturally need a lot.

Typically, a chicken can survive for quite a while without food for about four days at a maximum. This number changes depending on the age and health of the chicken. It also depends on how much water a chicken has access to.

I wrote another article on how long can chickens go without water answering a related question, check that out too for more information.

Additionally, the sort of weather that a chicken is experiencing will have a hand in how long it can go without needing food.

If you are going away for a period of time and are worried about your chicken’s health then perhaps invest in a feeder that can store plenty of feed. This feeder holds 40lb of feed (Amazon link) and works by realizing the feed with the chicken’s weight, so something as light as a rat won’t be able to activate the feed release system.

How Long Can Hatchling Chickens Go Without Food

A hatchling can go for about 72 hours without food. This is pushing it to the limit though and it isn’t ideal. Ideally, you should allow access to the food around the clock so that the hatchling and its family can enjoy the nutrients and vitamins from the food whenever they see fit.

chicks eating

As the chicken gets older, its need for food will vary. For example, a baby chick can only survive for about six hours without food. When a chicken reaches a mature, adult age, it is capable of going several days without food. A cooped adult chicken, for instance, can survive about 36 to 48 hours without food in mild weather. However, in hot weather, a chicken will have a much harder time without food and it is recommended that it only goes about 8 hours without something to eat.

Meanwhile, free-range adult chickens can really survive on their own without food indefinitely, as long as they have easy access to water. Water is an essential part of a chicken’s life and it keeps them healthy, hydrated, and also allows them to digest whatever they are eating, whether it be a big or small meal.

A question I get asked a lot is do chickens eat grass, it’s quite an interesting question that I covered extensively in that article.

Chickens, like the great majority of animals, need water to live. Chickens can’t digest their meal if they don’t have access to water. They have a crop towards the top of their digestive tract, an organ that moistens their food and allows it to be digested. A chicken will starve to death if its crop dries up.

Chickens, you may be surprised to learn, also need grit to aid in their digestion. I fully covered that topic in do chickens need oyster shells and grit, check it out to learn more.

Why Is My Chicken Not Eating

When a chicken is not eating there may be several reasons – namely stress, illness, injury, infection, infestation or digestive problems

These reasons may make your chicken not interested in eating its food. It is important that if your chicken stops eating, you determine what is bothering them.

Signs that your chicken might be sick will include:

  • Sneezing,
  • Swelling of the face and combs,
  • Bad smell,
  • Watery or bubbly eyes,
  • Shaking the head.

Any pale color is also a bad sign and an indication that your chicken is ill.

If the injury is what’s keeping your chicken from eating, you will take note that the chicken is standing is still or on one leg and doesn’t move often.

An injured chicken will also have a hunched look with fluffed-up feathers too. They will tend to stay away from the rest of the chicken group as well. These are all indications of what is bothering your chicken and what needs to be addressed before they will eat heartily again.

How Long Does It Take For a Chicken to Starve to Death

A chicken will start to experience serious problems if it goes more than four to five days without any sort of food. A free-range chicken can go longer than that but a regular, adult cooped chicken cannot.

This will be even more troublesome if the coop has no water for them to drink. If a chicken’s crop dries out, there is a chance that it will starve to death if something isn’t done in short order. A week without food for a regular, cooped chicken is a likely death sentence.

Can Chicken Survive Without Feed

Chickens used to exist on their own before being domesticated, foraging for food and obtaining their own water. If you let them out and allow your backyard flocks to fend for themselves while you go on vacation, they’ll probably be okay.

Truly depriving hens of food is difficult since they constantly manage to find something to eat, such as black flies, frogs, mice, or earthworms.

If you have the ability, you should leave feed and water available and easily accessible to your chickens if you are going on vacation or leaving your home for a few days. However, if you cannot do that you can still rest assured that they will be fine for a few days on their own even without little to no food. Water is very essential, however. Therefore, it is very smart to leave a lot of water ready for your chickens so they can drink as much as they need in your absence.

Sum Up

If you want to know how long can chickens go without food then you must realize that there are many variables to this; such as the chicken’s condition, living environment, breed, and age.

A Chicken will last about 4 days without any food before it starts to succumb to death. If you have free-range chickens with a vast space to forage for food then they can live much longer naturally with you providing a food source.

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