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Pros and Cons of Lighting Your Chicken Coop

| 12/17/2015 9:54:00 AM

Whether or not to light your coop is a topic of hot debate among chicken keepers at this time of year. Adding light will help your egg production, but there are negative repercussions to artificial lighting. Here are some of the pros and cons of lights in the coop.

Plenty of eggs


1. Egg production slows way down at this time of year because of the decreased daylight and the fact that chickens tend to go through their annual molt in the late fall. Supplemental light will counteract the lack of daylight, stimulating the hen's pituitary gland which is what signals her ovaries to release her egg. Hens need about fourteen hours of light a day to produce eggs, and in many areas of the country the sun is only giving about eight hours of light in these winter months. Since most chickens trace their heritage back to equatorial regions, their systems just aren't adapted to continuing egg production in winter light. A lamp on the timer in the early mornings and evenings will help to keep your ladies in the regular flow of things, and keep your basket full of eggs.

2. Sometimes, especially in extreme climates, a coop light can be used to help keep your chickens stay a little bit warmer during the winter months. Heat lamps are used to keep baby chicks warm when they first arrive to you from a hatchery, and they can be used to keep hens warm in winter as well. Chickens are very hardy, and covered in fluffy feathers, so the temperatures have to be very low to require such supplemental heat. Some chicken experts recommend a temperature around 40 degrees as ideal for hens.

3. Many chicken experts have found that red lights are the best way to light a chicken coop. The idea is that the subtle light of a red bulb helps to keep your girls calm. Keep in mind that hens do not perceive red light as daylight, so adding such a bulb to your hen house will not work for increased egg production. Because it's not perceived as daylight, chickens can be exposed to red light 24/7 with no ill effects. Theories abound that red lighting prevents chickens from being able to differentiate combs and wattles, which helps to prevent hen-pecking and cannibalism. While these are unproven, the potential benefits may outweigh the possible negative effects, especially since red will not have the other effects of chickens that white lights have.

4. One good reason to keep your coop lit on a timer or with an easy to access switch is your ability to see your chores as you're taking care of the hens. If you have a day job or just need to get the chicken chores out of the way in the morning, you'll want some additional light to make sure you've found all the eggs, provided enough feed and water, and to see for an accurate head count. You don't need to keep it on longer than you're going about your business, so the effects on the hens in minimal.

2/22/2020 8:12:17 PM

Your chickens didn't lay at all throughout the entire summer? Are they over about 6-7 months old. I believe they are based on your question. Most chickens are good without heat well below freezing as long as they have a space to roost out of three wind and wet. Of course ventilation is important. Adding supplement light at any time is fine as long as they have 8-10 hours of dark for sleeping. If you have mopey birds that are mature and not laying at all in the summer I am thinking you have something else going on.

12/15/2019 12:40:36 PM

Hi! I like your article; it is short, sweet & to the point. I have a question: if my girls didn't lay all summer because a couple weed-trees popped up to the south of their pens, is it safe to put in some supplemental lighting? We live in FL, so there is some daylight (8 hrs at Yule). We only get about 14 hrs at midsummer unlike most of the US. I was thinking a couple hours in the evening might be nice for them. They have electricity already for the occasional heat lamp when the temp dips below freezing. BTW, I found that my European girls did fine in the cold, but the girls from S. American (Americana hybrids) do poorly below 45°. They moped, complained & got sick their 2nd winter when the temps dipped. Of course, the coops are 3/4 open, with hardware cloth for 2 walls & a window in the door & on the west side. The north side is solid, roof is 2 translucent panels & 1 transparent panel to allow light in. We tack up plastic sheeting if the weather gets Arctic. I hope this give you a picture of what I'm working with, so you can answer my question. 😊Thanks!

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