One question people who are new to keeping chickens might ask is: Can chickens stay in the coop all day?
Chickens can stay in the coop all day only from time to time. It is not recommended to keep the chickens in the coop all day, all the time. When you leave the chickens locked for the whole day, they must have access to water and food.
In this article, we’ll explore some basics of chicken care. And we’ll look into some of the circumstances when chickens might stay in the coop all day. By the end of this article, you should have a good idea of when they can stay in the coop all day and when they can’t.
Can Chickens Stay in the Coop All Day from Time to Time?
It is OK to keep the chickens in the coop for the whole day from time to time. They always need to have water and food.
What Do Chickens Need If They Are Staying in the Coop All Day?
If you do keep chickens in their coop all day, for whatever reason, you need to make sure that they have access to water and food.
Each chicken will drink around 1-2 US pints (0.5-1 liters) of water a day. So you must be certain you have provided enough for your flock. Remember, they will tend to drink more when the weather is hot.
Chickens also need food. It is essential to provide enough for all the flock for the whole day. If not enough food is available, fights are more likely to break out.
It can also be a good idea to provide entertainment for your hens if you know that they will be indoors all day. Just like us, chickens can get bored. Hang up some greens for them to peck at and some intriguing objects for them to explore. Again, keeping them entertained can help make sure scuffles don’t occur.
Do Chickens Need To Stay in the Coop All Day When You Are Away?
You do not usually have to confine chickens during the day if you are away at work or running errands. There are only a few exceptions. If you see that extreme weather is forecast, for example, you may choose to close them in. You may also choose to close them in as a temporary measure if their run has recently been breached or there are predators about. But you should make it a priority to fix things up, so it is safe for them to be out in a run again.
If you leave for a longer time, always arrange for someone to look after them for you. Never leave chickens in their coop alone for more than a day or so. And remember that even when you do leave them indoors, it is crucial to have someone check on them if possible from time to time.
If you are going to be away during the day, in most circumstances, you will be able to leave chickens in their run or free-ranging while you are out, as long as you are back to check on them and shut the coop at nightfall.
I am lucky that where I live, it is safe for my hens to free-range during the day, even when I am not home. But in other areas, free-ranging hens may be best confined to a secure run to keep them safe from predators. Take your location and its wildlife into account when making your decisions. But try to give them some secure area outdoors, rather than keeping them indoors all the time.
Can Chickens Stay in a Coop All Day All the Time?
If you are keeping chickens for the first time, it is important to think about their welfare. In my opinion, keeping chickens in the coop all day every day is not a way to go when having a homestead.
It’s still probably not as bad as chickens in factory farms, which are often kept in atrocious conditions. They never see the sun or get to engage in natural chicken behavior and scratch in the dirt. But when having our own homestead, we should take care of our chickens the best we can.
What Happens to Chickens Kept Inside All the Time?
I see what happens to chickens who are treated in this way. I re-home ex-battery hens that are discarded by factory farms. Their egg production begins to reduce somewhat (though many still lay well). And if they are not re-homed, they are usually just killed.
These poor chickens often come to us in a terrible state. Their combs are pale, they are way too thin, their feathers are patchy, and sometimes, they have almost no feathers at all! Often, they have broken beaks or are limping. While they are screened for pests and disease, they are certainly not in peak condition.
If you saw the state of these chickens, you certainly would not contemplate keeping your chickens confined indoors as they are on factory farms. You would see the cruelty inherent to keeping chickens in this way.
A domestic flock will almost always run into problems if kept all the time indoors. Chickens will tend to bicker (just as humans do) if confined together for too long. Hens may start testing the pecking order more, and less dominant ones may be hurt.
The Best Way to Keep Chickens
Chickens should ideally have 2-3ft (0.18 – 0.28 sq m) of coop space per hen. But ideally, they should also have an absolute minimum of 8-10 sq ft (0.75 – 1 sq m) per bird in an outdoors run. Ideally, the chickens should have access to a much larger area where they can free-range and forage.
Whether you decide to keep chickens confined to an outdoor run or allow them to free-range will depend on where you live, the conditions, and the predators that are encountered in the area.
My (up to 15) ex-factory chickens live in a coop at night. But each morning, the doors are opened, and they are allowed to range and forage freely around a 200 sq m (c. 2,100 sq ft) forest garden/orchard. Sometimes, they also have access to other areas of my garden.
It is amazing how quickly we see the difference in the birds. Initially so weak and ugly, they very quickly ‘remember what it is to be a chicken’ and start scratching around. Soon, their feathers regrow, their combs get redder, and they return to much better health.
What To Do After Rescuing Chickens From the Factory Farm
When our rescue chickens first arrive, they stay in the coop all day. This allows them time to acclimatize to their new surroundings and can also help in forming flock cohesion. The following day, the coop is opened, and the chickens are allowed to explore.
We personally do close up the coop every night. We have been very fortunate where we live over our five years or so of keeping chickens and have not had any predator attacks. But many are not so fortunate, and there are foxes in our area. So we close the coop up at night to keep them safe. If you have foxes in your area, too, check this article on how to fox proof your chicken coop.
Depending on the area where you live and the predators found there, you may need to be more or less vigilant in this regard.
But we do always make sure that we open the coop first thing every morning – at least most of the time.
There are the odd days, however, where we have kept the coop closed. For example, we have kept the hens in when we have extreme weather – like a massive thunderstorm. While most chickens tend to stay in the coop a lot more when the weather is very bad, we do have a few crazy girls who go out and about in all weathers and get soaked to the bone. So to keep them healthy, we have occasionally kept them enclosed all day.
The keyword here is occasionally. Chickens can cope with very cold conditions, but wet conditions can be more of a problem. But keeping chickens in a coop all day is not ideal. You should check on them if you can. Never keep them confined for more than a day. And don’t keep them enclosed more frequently.
Chickens must have a secure and comfortable coop for their safety and wellbeing. But they also need access to fresh air and open areas – just like we do. Try to let them out to enjoy natural surroundings as much as possible.