Lighting is one of the most important things when it comes to keeping your chickens laying throughout the year. I will get into greater detail later of why this is necessary. For now, we will just talk about how you can easily increase the number of hours your flock gets and how this can be accomplished.
How Does Lighting Effect The Hen
There are many studies that have proven that, in almost every case, when the light is added there is a significant increase in egg production.
Chickens are given the signal to produce eggs by their endocrine system. As the daylight hours shorten in winter, changes in these hormones shut down egg production. Adding additional light triggers the endocrine system into action, causing them to produce more eggs. Continuously giving chickens light in the winter fools their bodies into thinking that the days aren’t getting shorter at all. I have heard from many people who think that it is the heat that helps they chickens to continue to lay. That is a good logical theory. However, that is not in my experience proven to be necessary.
Chickens (or any animal for that matter) produce eggs at the best rate when there is a better chance their offspring will survive. The chicken is wired to think that there is less feed available in the winter time, even if you provide it daily, this will not change the natural instinct. The hen’s body automatically shuts off egg laying for the months with 14 or fewer hours of daylight.
When and How To Add The Lighting
When putting a light into your coop keep in mind that lights can also be potential fire hazards. Don’t put them where the chickens can knock them down. This may cause a fire when you are not home. That could end in the loss of your coop and even your chickens. With that said, if you are only installing a light for the winter, it can actually be a good idea to get one that also gives off heat if needed. Chickens that are in a climate that is only 15 or so degrees for a few days straight in the winter will be fine if they stay in the coop.
Items You Need
1. Energy saving curly light bulb (mainly because I want to keep the electric bill at a minimum. A regular light bulb will add about $15 to $20 to your bill)
You can either leave the light on 24/7 to provide constant warmth (for added heat you would need to get a heat lamp bulb) and light. However, that would significantly affect your electric bill.
Or you can install a timer that you plug the timer into the outlet then plug your lamp into the timer. If you choose to use a timed light, you want to ensure that your chicken gets 14 hours of total light per day. I usually set the timer to come on in the early morning.
Consider Her Laying Years
With that said, a chicken is born with all the eggs she will ever produce in her lifetime. So the faster she lays them the shorter her laying days will be. It has been my experience that if your hens lay continuously from the time she starts to lay to the time she begins to slow down will be around her 2.5 to 3-year mark.
If you are like me, this is about the time that the hens become a part of the freezer (if you know what I mean). It just does not make financial sense to feed a chicken that is not producing.
If you prefer to keep your chickens as pets adding them to the freezer may not be a way you want to go. So let the hen lay with the seasons which will increase her laying years by almost double. It’s up to you what you want to do. There is not a right way and a wrong way, just weigh your options and decide what works for your flock.