How Much Light Do Chickens Need To Keep Laying?
Why do hens need light to yield eggs? How much light do chickens need to keep laying? Should I leave the light on 24/7? Do artificial lights have any negative effects on chickens?
Light is intrinsically linked to egg production in chickens. In fact, no light pretty much equals no eggs. Let’s elaborate on the subject…
No Light, No Eggs?
The effect of light on egg production – Why do chickens need light to lay eggs?
Chickens need light to lay because their reproductive cycle is triggered by the natural photoperiod, or light-dark cycle.
Chickens have a pineal gland, which is found in the brain and is activated by light. Daylight stimulates the gland into secreting the hormones melatonin and serotonin, which in turn guide the hens’ circadian rhythms.
This relationship between egg laying and light is illustrated by the fact that hens do not reach reproductive maturity until day length has reached 12 hours.
This is also why hens lay the most during spring and summer months (when days are longer), and why they slow down throughout fall and winter (when days are shorter).
For further information, check out this study on the effect of light intensity on egg production.
How many hours of light do chickens need to lay eggs?
Hens need at least 12 hours of daylight per day to lay eggs, whereas 14 to 16 hours of sunlight per day will keep them performing at their full potential.
Check out this article to discover the 10 Best Laying Chickens!
Do chickens need darkness?
Can you live without sleep? We bet you can’t… and if you can’t, your chickens can’t either.
So, if you’ve ever asked yourself, “do chickens need light at night?”, the answer is no.
If you leave a light on for 24 hours straight in your chicken coop, your flock will recognize it as sunlight and not get the restful sleep they need.
Such a dramatic shift to a chicken’s natural biorhythms can lead to stress, which in turn can result in behavioral changes, hen-pecking, and even cannibalism.
In fact, your chickens require 6 to 8 hours of sleep every day in order to maintain their immune system.
So just as much as they need light to lay eggs, your chickens absolutely need darkness to sleep and recharge.
To light, or not to light: that is the question...
While some praise their bulbs for giving them access to an egg supply year-round, others respect their flock’s natural cycles and eat eggs as they would any other seasonal food.
A few reasons why many homesteaders reject the use of artificial lighting include:
- Pushing hens to lay using artificial lights may lead to conditions such as ovarian cancer, lash eggs, or vent prolapse.
- If done incorrectly or inconsistently, one can cause stress to their flock, thus compromising their health.
- Light bulbs present a fire hazard for coops, as they are filled with shavings or straw.
Light for laying hens – What kind of light bulb for egg production is recommended?
There are two main light bulb options: incandescent and fluorescent.
Many opt for incandescent bulbs, as they are easily maintained in dusty environments, and their intensity can be easily regulated with a dimmer switch.
Although fluorescent lights are less expensive to operate, they’re trickier to maintain in dusty environments, and the entire fixture has to be changed to adjust its intensity.
If you do go for a fluorescent bulb, however, be sure to purchase a “warm” wavelength bulb – which appears yellow, orange or reddish in color – since these will stimulate chickens’ reproductive cycles.
You’ll also want to opt for low wattage light bulbs. Usually, 24 to 40 watt bulbs will suffice.
Keep in mind that, despite being more expensive, LED lights are also a suitable alternative.
Their durability and non-toxic, glassless design make them ideal for use in a coop. In this case, LED light for chickens EleLight Solar Bulb is our top suggestion!
Note: please stay away from Teflon coated bulbs, as they emit toxic fumes that are damaging your birds’ health.
Take a look at how SSL Family Farm manages its winter lighting for chickens, by watching their video below:
You now know how to keep your chickens laying in winter, but do you know how to keep them warm? Check out our article, How Cold is Too Cold For Chickens?, to find out!
A few handy tips: The dos and don’ts
Timing averts turmoil
Apply lighting during morning hours, as sudden darkness can cause chickens to panic and amass in a corner, thereby causing them to suffocate.
Chickens will be able to roost naturally with the setting of the sun, if light is used during morning hours.
Uniformity and consistency
Ensure there are no areas in the coop that are shaded from the light.
Be consistent with when you turn the lights on and off each day, or invest in a reliable chicken coop light timer.
Don’t forget that your aim is to mimic the sun as well as you can.
Raise pullets “au naturel”
Do not use artificial lights with young pullets, an excess of light too soon can stimulate the young birds to sexually develop before their bodies can handle egg laying.
Wait until they reach 20 weeks of age to use artificial lighting.
Slowly, but surely
Avoid sudden switches by increasing supplemental lighting over a period of time, raising in increments of 30 to 60 minutes each week.
Verdict – Do you really need chicken coop lighting for egg production?
Light is an indispensable factor for chickens to lay eggs, but using supplemental light is a personal decision.
While some chicken keepers prefer eggs as a seasonal food, others choose a bulb to get a constant egg supply throughout the winter.
The choice is yours! Just remember that 12 - 16 hours of light per day is the ideal.
Let us know about your decision, questions, thoughts, and ideas in the comment section below. And please remember to share this article with all your fowl fan friends!