There is a gland behind chickens eyes called a pituitary gland. When stimulated by light this produces a hormone that is carried via the bloodstream to the ovary which sets egg production in motion.
This makes it possible to give artificial light to laying birds to ‘trick’ their bodies into continuing to lay in the shorter daylight months of Fall and Winter.
Research shows that chickens lay best when they receive about 15 hours of light daily. In the northern United States, natural daylight drops to under nine hours at the end of December. To optimize egg production, supplemental (or artificial) lighting in the coop is a must for the next three to four months until the days get longer.
Extra few hours of light can be added to the morning by using a light and timer. Adding light in the mornings ensures that birds aren’t suddenly caught out in the dark when the lights switch off not having gone through the natural roosting process. The key point to remember is that once the hens are in lay, their daylight hours should not be decreased.
For example, pullets that come into lay when there are 15 hours of daylight should have this ‘top up’ lighting added to their mornings to keep their daylight hours constant.
You need to ensure the timer remains set correctly after a power cut to prevent your pullets going into moult.
A digital timer with a back-up battery is a good investment.
Hint: Beware of dirty bulbs. They can decrease light output by as much as 15 to 20 percent, so clean bulbs once a week.
* Keep a supply of fresh water; heated waterers save time and labor and assure the birds will always be able to drink
* Make sure a high quality layer ration is always available. Your chickens need to eat to enough to stay warm and maintain egg production.
* Check that the coop is free from drafts, but don’t compromise ventilation as excessive moisture in the coop can lead to health problems.
* Put a little extra scratch grain down for your chickens morning and afternoon. The treat will keep winter birds busy pecking and scratching for hours and will help prevent boredom and give them some extra energy for warmth.
* With the chickens spending more time in the coop, bedding will become damp and soiled. Remove and replace as needed. Clean dry bedding will help the chickens stay warm and keep odors down.
* Let the chickens out into their run as chickens enjoy going outside, even if it’s cold.
Common sense care and a little extra light your chickens will keep up their winter egg production.
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