The quick answer to how much light do chickens need to lay eggs is 14hrs of light per day.
But egg production in chickens is a tricky thing. Lighting plays a big part in how many eggs you get (as well as several other factors) that could cause your hen to stop laying.
One week you are up to your ears in eggs. You are making meals out of them, giving cartons of eggs away to family.
There is nothing more frustrating than having a flock of hens and getting no eggs from them.
While this may seem controversial to some of whether or not you should be adding artificial light to your coop in the winter months or leave the hens to rest. It is very inefficient to be paying the same amount for feed and getting nothing for the cost.
Lighting is one of the most important things in egg production in chickens. When it comes to keeping your chickens laying throughout the year it does not take a whole lot to get them how many hours of light your chickens need to keep laying eggs.
How Does Lighting Affect Egg Production In Chickens
I don’t want to get all nerdy on you but there are many studies that have proven that, in almost every case, when enough hours per day are added there is a significant increase in egg production. This is also true for my own backyard flock.
Hens are given the signal to produce eggs by their endocrine system. As the daylight hours shorten in winter months, changes in these hormones shut down her reproductive cycle which ie shuts down egg production. Adding additional light kicks the endocrine system into action, causing them to produce more eggs.
Giving hens 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 the chickens to continue to lay. And while that is a good logical theory. That has not proven to be true in my experience. However, when they don’t have to spend energy fighting the cold temperature it gives them less they need to spend energy on HELPING them to produce better.
Ultimately the increased light exposure is what gets you eggs in winter.
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Here Is My Aditional Theory Of Lighting And Why They Stop Laying Eggs
Chickens (or any animal for that matter) produce eggs when there is a better chance their offspring will survive. Think about it. They don’t have a calendar to know what month and date it is. So nature gives them the clues they need by way of cold weather and low light to say “hey, bad time to have babies”.
In the wintertime, there is less food available. Making it a bad time to raise chicks. Even if you provide the chicken feed daily, this will not change the natural instinct.
How To Keep Track Of The Natural Daylight Hours
So we know that chickens need a minimum of 14 extra hours of daily light to keep laying. So how do you find out when the light gets below that 14 hrs and how to you know how many hours to add to your chicken coop?
Here is a really cool website that gives you all kinds of info about the daylight hours. Check it out here.
That little bar can be drug across the chart to the current date. See how much info is given below the bar? I think it’s pretty cool!
But all you really need to look at to tell how many daylight hours your chickens need to lay eggs is column two at the bottom where it says total.
For October 6th in Ohio, we will be at eleven and a half hours of daylight. Then above that, it shows the times for sunrise and sunset.
So you know you need to add a minimum of 2.5 hours to the coop to get 14 hrs of active light.
In column two row two where it says daylight. That tells you the sunrise and sunset times. So you can know what time to set your supplemental lighting to come on for each day.
How To Set Up The Artificial Lighting In The Coop
There is no need to leave a light on 24hrs a day. That will be a waste of energy and light bulbs.
What I like to do is do the math from the day that we get the lowest amount of daylight which is about 9hrs of light. Put the lamp on a timer to be on for that extra 5-6 hours to hit that 14-16 hours of light.
Then just leave it like that until we finally hit 14hrs again and turn the lamp off.
It just makes it less complicated than having to go out and adjust the light every few weeks to make sure you are still getting eggs.
I also set the timer to turn the light on in the morning hours so that the chickens are already roosting. Instead of blasting them in the face with a bight light while they are trying to get up on the roosting polls.
Lightbulbs Can Be Fire Hazards
Note: When putting light into your coop keep in mind that lights can also be potential fire hazards depending on the bulb you use. This is one of the main reasons I do not recommend using a heating lamp bulb. The little corkscrew LED bulbs are the best choice.
The only time I will use a heat lamp bulb in the coop is when the temperatures get to 10 degrees or less and high wind chill when the chickens have a good chance of getting frostbite on their combs.
Chickens spend more time in the coop in the really cold weather because it, of course, is warmer but that also causes them to get nosy and check things out so if your light is too low or within reach, they will peck at it and possibly knock it down.
Supplies To Add Light To Your Coop To Keep Your Chickens Laying Eggs
Coop Light Essentials
Energy Saving Light Bulb Pack
You want an energy-saving light bulb mainly because they help keep the electric bill at a minimum. A regular poultry heat light bulb will add about $10 to $15 to your electric bill) – Get them on Amazon
Energy-saving light bulb (mainly because I want to keep the electric bill at a minimum. A regular poultry heat light bulb will add about $10 to $15 to your electric bill)
Long outdoor extension cord. – Get this 100 ft one on amazon.
Screw in hooks to keep the power cords out of reach. – The them here on amazon.
Find a secure place out of reach from the chickens to hang the light. The higher you can hang it the better. If you hang it too low the chickens can hit it on accident and knock it to the ground and possibly start a fire. I don’t want to scare you but just be aware.
Use zip strips to secure the cored along the edge of the coop instead of letting the power cords just hang loose.
Set up the timer inside the coop to keep it out of the weather.
Other Issues That Slow Egg Production In Chickens
There are several things that can cause hens to stop laying or for you to not be getting the eggs even if your girls are producing.
- A change in feed or one that just does not agree with them and they won’t produce as much.
- They are laying eggs in a new location you have not found or you have a creeper in your coop taking the eggs for a midnight snack.
- Some sort of illness.
- Molting. You can add a high protein cat food to the feed you give the chickens to speed up the feather growth.
- Or you have an egg thief. Wild animals like skunks and possums will steal eggs. If you have a dog they might be taking them too.
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 (on average 4-6 months old) to the time she begins to slow down will be around her 2.5 to 3-year mark. But I have had hens that continue to lay pretty regularly all the way to 5 years old.
A hen that is not laying eggs eats just as much as one that is laying. If a hen dies of natural causes it can live up to 8+ years. Feeding her for 5+ years after she is not producing anymore is a really long time to keep feeding something for nothing.
Read the post on how to tell if your hen is laying.
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 does not make financial sense to feed a chicken that is not producing.
If you are not a fan of “doing the deed” yourself you can find a butcher that will often do it for you for $3-5 it makes life a whole lot easier and there is no cleanup. They just come to you ready to go in the freezer. Depending on the butcher you might have to wrap them in paper or plastic.
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. But keep in mind that you could be buying eggs from the store for six months out of the year.
There is not a right way and a wrong way, just weigh your options and decide what works for your flock.
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Here are a few other questions people had about how many hours of light chickens need to lay eggs.
Do chickens need direct sunlight to lay eggs? – The short answer is no. But really you are tricking their mind to think there are more hours. It’s not like a plant where they are getting energy from the light. They get the majority of their energy from food.
Do chickens need a light in their coop at night? – If you are not trying to increase the frequency of laying then no. Chickens go into the coop at dusk and don’t tend to come out well after dawn.
What kind of light do chickens need to lay eggs? – It doesn’t have to be a high bright light. A small fluorescent bulb will do the trick.
Can you use a regular light bulb in a heat lamp for chickens? – Yes, heat lamp bulbs are made with the standard light bulb socket size.
Whatever you decide to do it is completely up to you as the chicken keeper to decide what to do with your backyard chickens. Some people think you should let them rest and others don’t have any issues with it.
You do what works for you and your backyard farm and let that be good enough. Cool.