Light Management for Home Laying Flocks

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closeup of a hen

Caring for a small chicken flock can be a very rewarding experience and now that daylight hours are falling some small flock owners are wondering whether to light their chickens or not.

First, let’s discuss why we provide extra light in the first place. Hens lay eggs with increased day length and 14 to 16 hours is optimal for egg production. As our daylight decreases in the fall we reach a point where supplemental lighting has to be supplied to keep hens laying consistently through the winter.

You don’t need any special equipment to light your hens, a regular full-spectrum incandescent or LED light bulb and a timer to turn it on and off will be fine. Set your timer to come on in the early morning before sunrise. I prefer morning lighting over the evening because the gradually decreasing light at sunset lets your hens know it’s time to move into the coop and roost for the night. If you set your timer for the evening then the transition from light to complete darkness is sudden and makes it difficult for your animals to get on their roost for the night.

Keep in mind that egg production puts a lot of stress on a hen’s body and winter is a good time for your hens to take a rest from laying, so my suggestion would be if you decide you would like to push your hen’s egg production into the winter provide supplemental light until January 1st. At that time you can stop using lights and let your chickens rest until spring.

If you are new to keeping chickens let me say that supplemental lighting during fall and winter is not necessary but it’s a tool you can use to keep your hen’s egg production up during this time. Many chicken owners prefer to let their chicken’s egg production naturally follow the seasons and deal with the egg shortage for a few weeks. Whichever method you choose making a plan for managing your birds this winter will be a good step toward having healthy productive hens in the spring.