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Winter egg laying and artificial lighting.

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hello all, winter is upon us again. We're in a mini blizzard here today in NW MN. the girls are not happy about it to say the least especially since Sunday it was 65 and sunny.

Last winter I used artificial lighting to enhance egg production. The results were very good and I sustained near full production however I have now learned some side effects not thought of before doing it.

I guess the reason I'm writing this is to inform others like me whom are newer to chickens and want to do things based on information we hear about. When I decided to use artificial lighting I primarily looked looked at the positive egg production and researched very little about any possible downside.

The conclusion I have reached is that I will not use artificial lighting. In my opinion unless your a commercial egg producer and are continually turning over flock artificial lighting should not be used. Here is why. Although I was pretty proud and excited about my winter production at the time I found out this summer how not giving my girls the natural break that winter gives them, how it effects them. My moulting routine was drastically altered and my summer production was also. I can't help but believe that altering the chickens natural cycles is bad for them. My normally happy egg layers were Blaise'e more often then not this summer. The 2 year olds are just now starting to get back to their normal laying habits. Last years pullets faired a little better and bounced back quicker but the 3 year olds really seemed to be effected most negatively. The 3yo's virtually stopped laying.

In order to keep production where I want it this winter I used the old school natural method. I added 20 more layers to my flock. If they only lay 2-3 per wk because of their natural cycle during short days then so be it. Under my flock plan I need about 15 eggs a day to keep everyone I supply fresh eggs with happy. It's a little more work have the larger flock over the winter but in comparison to how the existing girls reacted this summer to last winters artificial light plan it's well worth it to me.

I know for many doubling their flock size is not a viable option but in my humble opinion it's better that we as humans make the sacrifice of maybe having to buy a few eggs from the grocery store in the winter over altering our chickens natural cycles.

From my experience small flock owners are making a big mistake inducing egg laying by the use of artificial lighting. Again this is just my opinion based on my last winters experiment. Happy hens lay more eggs! Thanks
post #2 of 18

I am not going to disagree with you on this subject because I do not know.  You are in for egg production while mine are more pet than anything. The breeds I have are not egg production bred; serama and silkie.  But even at that I see no difference in my birds in any way comparing summer, spring, winter  and fall. I have been using artificial lighting for a decade.  My coop is also heated. My lighting is set for a 16 hour day. My birds are healthy, active, and alert.

 

A thought though-how about those people who live closer to the equator where day length does not vary so much.  I wish I had more knowledge on this.  It would be nice to hear from members that live in those kinds of areas and read what they write from their experience.

post #3 of 18

hi yer

        i can only say that i agree with you i am new to hen keeping i read all sorts of stuff about lights

in winter so i rigged up a timer but some thing just did not feel right so i never turned it on now i have seen what you have to say i am glad i did not thanks my girls are young three have not reached pol yet but the other four have in fact my rhode island red laid her first a few days ago and my copper black maran has laid her first two in the last three days so like you say let them get 

on with it thanks again:thumbsup

post #4 of 18

been reading posts re lighting. I bought a couple of red heat lamps to use this year because it got below 10 degrees last year and we had some frost bitten toes and combs. not to serious but enough to notice. After reading several post re lighting I am wondering if I should not use lamps at all. Location hampton roads va. temps hardly ever go below 20 degrees here. Our girls are in a chicken tractor with their roosts off the ground and 3 sides covered  in their roosting area. Any help appreciated.

post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
It may vary if your flock has been raised this way consistently. I'm guessing those around the equator just lay for fewer years or they have adapted different habits then northern hemisphere chickens. It is my understanding that chickens are hatched with a certain amount of egg cells and once exhausted they no longer lay. My girls were different ages when we added the aftifical lighting last winter ranging from late fall pullets to 3 years old. Essentially about 2/3 of the flock of 26 had gone thru at least 1 MN winter without artificial lighting. Those were the birds that were the most effected from the traditional summer production. I had 2 and 3 year old hens moulting late spring when they should be in their broodiest state while others did not moult until September. The 2 year old leghorns should have laid an egg almost everyday ( which they did in the winter with artificial lighting ) were 1-3 a week. I have 4 reds that were 3 this summer and they laid 1-2 a week all summer but laid 4-6 a week all winter.

Again I think In your situation if raised constantly with the same lighting that probably has a different result although if your birds have no natural seasonal slow downs your girls will have a shorter egg production life span as they will exaust their cells quickers.

My post was merely some food for thought for those who are thinking about using artificial lighting for the first time.
post #6 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Farmer55 View Post
 

been reading posts re lighting. I bought a couple of red heat lamps to use this year because it got below 10 degrees last year and we had some frost bitten toes and combs. not to serious but enough to notice. After reading several post re lighting I am wondering if I should not use lamps at all. Location hampton roads va. temps hardly ever go below 20 degrees here. Our girls are in a chicken tractor with their roosts off the ground and 3 sides covered  in their roosting area. Any help appreciated.

Frostbite is usually caused more by excess moisture in the air. If you're having frostbite problems in 20* temps, which really isn't very cold at all for chickens, you most likely have a ventilation problem. 

post #7 of 18
One of the myths is that day length is really important. It has a small part, mostly in the daily routine of when a hen releases a yolk to start making an egg in her internal egg making factory, but it’s not the most important thing by far. What has the most influence is the days getting longer or shorter. Whether you are close to the equator where the longest day or longest night may be 13 hours or way far away where your longest day or longest night might be 17 hours, it’s the days getting longer or shorter that triggers the molt and regulates their annual cycle.

If you are going to add lights you need to look at the length of day when you start them and look at the length of day when you stop them. If you stop the lights in the spring before you have matched daylight, you can trigger a molt by artificially making the days shorter, even if without the lights they are getting longer.

Usedhobarts, I think that is what happened to you. By stopping the lights you caused an out of season molt and they’ve been confused ever since. Without artificial lights they should molt this fall/winter and get straightened out.

After her second adult molt and every adult molt after that a flock’s overall production normally drops noticeably. A range normally given is between 15% and 20% each molt. Note that I said flock, not individual hen. Each hen is an individual and may or may not follow this trend, but if you have enough chickens for the averages to mean anything you’ll notice this happening.

A hen is hatched with a specific number of ova that can develop into yolks and start eggs. According to a poultry science reproductive expert, it is possible but highly unlikely a hen can use up all her ova. It is also possible due to some medical condition her ova just don’t work right to form eggs. In the profession those are known as slick hens. But for a backyard flock hen to become slick is pretty rare. Even the really good layers don’t lay that much.

Farmer55, any time the temperature is below freezing, frostbite is possible, but plenty of people take chickens through temperatures as low as minus 40 without frostbite issues. If yours are getting frostbite at +10 you have something that can be corrected. With your roost area open on one side you are getting plenty of ventilation. Lack of ventilation (which raises moisture) is a normal cause of frostbite but I don’t see that being your problem. What are you using for roosts? If it’s wood you should be OK, but if it is metal or something that conducts heat really well that could be freezing their toes. With one side open, I suspect they had a cold wind hitting them that was the cause. I’d try blocking the wind from that side also. Try to avoid creating a wind tunnel where the wind channels through.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

Reply

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

Reply
post #8 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by usedhobarts View Post

It may vary if your flock has been raised this way consistently. I'm guessing those around the equator just lay for fewer years Possibly. or they have adapted different habits then northern hemisphere chickens. It is my understanding that chickens are hatched with a certain amount of egg cells Yes. and once exhausted they no longer lay Yes.. My girls were different ages when we added the aftifical lighting last winter ranging from late fall pullets to 3 years old. Essentially about 2/3 of the flock of 26 had gone thru at least 1 MN winter without artificial lighting. Those were the birds that were the most effected from the traditional summer production. I had 2 and 3 year old hens moulting late spring when they should be in their broodiest state while others did not moult until September. The 2 year old leghorns should have laid an egg almost everyday ( which they did in the winter with artificial lighting ) were 1-3 a week. I have 4 reds that were 3 this summer and they laid 1-2 a week all summer but laid 4-6 a week all winter.

Again I think In your situation if raised constantly with the same lighting that probably has a different result although if your birds have no natural seasonal slow downs your girls will have a shorter egg production life span as they will exaust their cells quickers.

My post was merely some food for thought for those who are thinking about using artificial lighting for the first time.  I can not disagree that artificial lighting would shorten the amount of years a hen would lay.

In thinking more about this my hens do have slow downs. They go broody often and I am not quick to break the habit. As I have posted on other threads, one of my "pets" is well over eight years old and still laying eggs. Going broody makes this possible.  And for my wife and me, getting a couple eggs a day and having healthy pets, even if broody, is all that matters.

post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
I agree with junebugga 100%. Most frostbite scenarios are a result of ventilation issues and moisture. My hens pull out the bikinis when it warms up to 20 here in the winter. Chickens get frostbite fairly easily. If they're getting it in a coop you have moisture problem. Most breeds of chickens are not hindered by the cold, even extreme colds like we have here. I don't heat my coop. My chickens thrive and have no frostbite issues. My coop is properly vented thru the roof and is draft free. A couple of things that can cause access moisture buildup is enclosing the windows and chicken wired areas with poly. Some areas covered with poly is fine but not all. Chickens themselves produce moisture thru body heat and their poo. Too many chickens for a coop size is not good. The 4 sq ft rule does not account for the height of coop. Using this rule a 10' x 10' coop can hold 25 chickens. I agree with this if its a walkin. If it's a hutch style of tractor that is low profile 25 chickens will create an extremely high humidity environment which will most likely result in frostbittens birds even at temps in the 20's. Personally I'm not a fan of heat sources in a coupe. Unless your chickens live in a controled environment 24/7 throughout the winter having heat lamps can cause many more problems then they would ever benefit the birds. I have a wifi lacrosse weather remote in my coop so I can always monitor the temp and humidity from the comfort of my living room. You know how people from Arizona always say " yea, but it's a dry heat" , well if chickens could talk the would tell you they're fine with cold as long it's a dry cold. In a low profile tractor I would suggest doubling that 4sq ft rule per bird in the winter. Avoid poly as much as you can and keep the tractor well vented but draft free.
post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hi, I definately agree the light experiment had a significant effect however the transition on to the lights and off were timed with the natural day light to never let the chickens think it was dark for more than 9 hours a day. I completely agree with your scenario and how it could cause the molt changes but in my case that never happened where there was a sudden change. In the cold winter the low voltage hybrid florescent bulb even mimicked sunrise by taking anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to reach full lumination. To me it seems it effected the birds more from the variance from prior laying seasons. I'm basing this on the pullets who seemed to have very little impact to the 3 year olds who changed drastically.
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