Hen House – Controlled Lighting

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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10 responses to “Hen House – Controlled Lighting

  1. Interesting and informative post! We love working with our chickens and enjoy the benefits of raising chickens….always a fresh supply of delicious eggs!


  2. Do ducks (ours are Muskovys) respond to light also? We use heat lamps in the barn in winter, not for light, but to take the chill off the coldest of nights in winter. -Oscar

    Liked by 1 person

    • The short answer is yes.
      Natural light needs to be supplemented with artificial light in the morning and evening so laying ducks have 17 total hours of light a day.
      ** Here is a link to a good read about duck egg production.

      Happy Gardening

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the link. I checked this out. I think ducks, like chickens, can be grouped into layers and meat poultry.

        Our variety are meat ducks (which is our aim). We notice that they lay in the Spring, are vary broody, and once their clutch hatches spend the summer rearing thier ducklings. They do not resume laying until the next Spring, regardless of the length of day.

        As to the clean water, no mater how much put out, they prefer to drink out of their duck ponds (yuck). And, if I clean this they stick their beaks up at it until they have soiled it thoroughly. I still put out clean water in separate buckets each day.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I agree, water fowl are locked into seasonal laying patterns. I have never had much luck extending their laying season much past spring months.
          Happy Gardening

          Liked by 1 person

          • Currently, our ducklings have taken well to foraging for grubs in the fields. They are quite good at keeping the fly population in check.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Unlike a cow / horse barn, chicken coops and duck pens seldom have a fly problem.
              Happy Gardening

              Liked by 1 person

              • Reading in some of our regular farming/gardening magazines (Mother Earth News, Acres…), I find a number of articles advocating rotating poultry into fields were livestock have been. A primary aim is to allow the flock to clear the manure of larva. Free protien for the birds. Breaks up the cow-paddies. Reduces fly hatches. Do ranchers out your way employ these methods?

                Liked by 1 person

                • That’s a good plan if you can manage it. But no one I know of does that.
                  More often than not, here farmers will move 30 – 40 head of cows onto a pasture, often planted pasture like wheat or hay grazer leaving then 1 or 2 weeks then moving then sometime as far as 50 miles onto a fresh pasture. After a pasture recovers cows will be rotated back for another week or so. Pasture feeding is supplemented with dry hay and range feeder cubes for a balanced diet.
                  Happy Gardening

                  Liked by 1 person

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