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Feed and Water and Supplemental Coop Lighting

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hello BYC Community! This is my first winter with chickens, and I have decided to use supplemental lighting.  I also have been keeping feed and water only in the run. I shut them in at dark and let them out at dawn, pretty standard. The light in the coop is coming on about 5:30 a.m. right now, and I am increasing the light by setting the timer earlier every few days.  However, in order to get them enough light to maintain a rate of lay (15 hours/day, right?), I would be turning on the coop light at 2:00 a.m.! Is that okay? Does that wake them up? What wattage bulb do you use? Would dimmer be less disturbing? And here is my biggest question: if I turn the light on so early, will they be wanting to eat and drink? Is it wrong to light them as though it's morning but they can't get to food and water? Our run is predator proof, so in nicer weather, I will leave the pop door open the whole time and not worry about it. I've read a lot on here about supplemental light vs. natural light, food and water in the run vs. food and water in the coop, etc., but I don't really have the room in the coop for food or water, and I can't find a post where anyone addresses the food water issue re: supplemental lighting. Does anyone leave their pop door open even in winter temps? If my coop were bigger, maybe I could, but I think they might get a draft on the roosts from it.  I have plenty of ventilation otherwise, so that is not a worry of mine.  Thank you.

post #2 of 13

I can't help you much with the supplemental light questions because I don't do it.  Some folks set theirs to go on at sunset, extending the "daylight" by a few hours at night with the lights going back on a couple of hours before sunrise, giving them the 14 or so hours they need to keep laying without turning the lights on at 2:00am, especially those who have roosters.  Who wants that at 2:00am?  


I keep food and water in the run, and I leave the pop door open 24/7.  As long as your run is predator proof, I see no harm in leaving yours open either.  They won't starve or thirst to death in the amount of time between when your lights go on and the sun comes up.  I know a few people who toss a little scratch in the coop at night when the chickens are already roosting and they find it and dig around when they wake up, entertaining themselves, turning over the litter, and getting a bite to take the edge off before they go out for the morning.


Just a few thoughts.....don't know if any of them will help you but you never know.

post #3 of 13

Fourteen hours is optimal for egg production, but I've discovered it's unnecessary because twelve will get the job done.


I'm with Blooie. I no longer supplement light mostly because I want my hens to get their rest and I also believe they benefit from a few months vacation from egg laying. And, I hated the mess they made during those two hours of nocturnal partying before dawn.


There's no shame in using supplemental light if you need an uninterrupted supply of eggs, though.

post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Yes, I've read about splitting the light between am and pm, and I did at first, but what I found was that it can be disorienting to them to be plunged into darkness without warning when the pm light goes off. They also didn't seem to go to bed at dark, either. I had to chase them in!

I don't really want to use supplemental light. I mean, we aren't aiming for peak production anything. smile.png but my properly timed spring batch of straight run chicks yielded only 3 hens, so i had to get more in late july, and so they are just reaching point of lay now that the days are too short to induce laying! So I compromised with myself that I will supplement this year, but not next.

I wasn't sure if adding scratch in the coop would cause them to fight over it in the mornings? I have an integrated flock that has done very well so far, and I didn't want to make it too hard on them. But i think I'll try it and keep the light at 12-13 hours since some have had luck with 12. smile.png

So if the pop door is at the height of the top of the litter, and the roosts are a few feet away 2.5 feet above litter level, you think I could leave the pop door open all night, even in winter? Our temps get down to -5 F sometimes.
post #5 of 13

I'm in Northern Wyoming.   When it's -5 we put on our light jackets.  ;)  Last year we were in the upper 60s and low 70s all though October.  The first week in November that dropped to -17 in 26 hours.  Pop door open, chickens fine!  I know some disagree but I think the fresh air coming in from down low helps with the air circulation in the coop.  But my roosts are a lot higher than yours.  I still think try it and on those subzero nights you can still close it if you want.  


Pullets often lay through the winter because it's their first year, regardless of supplemental light.  Mine sure are.

post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks! Maybe I will try it. I really feel the run is safe, but I'm still afraid when they are not locked up tight. smile.png and my 3 pullets did stop laying! I was kind of surprised it happened so fast. What kind are yours? These three are black jersey giants and a buff brahma. Not the best layers, I hear. smile.png
post #7 of 13

I have Easter Eggers, Buff Brahmas, Light Brahmas, 2 Cuckoo Marans, Red Sex Links, and a Buff Orpington.  All of the Brahmas, 3 of the Red Sex Links, and 4 of the Easter Eggers are pullets this year and so far they are all laying, although not prolifically.

post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
I left it open last night, and everyone is fine! Thanks for the help, everyone!
post #9 of 13

Unless you also have light in the run, I doubt your chickens are going to go out & get food anyway.  I like that my chickens can eat & drink a few more hours, by turning on the light at 3 a.m.  This gives them more food for egg laying & more food to keep warm. I don't think turning the light on would have the same benefits if they can't eat & drink.  JMHO

post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
Aha, good point. Never thought about it, but of course more laying means they will need more feed and water. Hmm. No, no light in the run, and I do see signs that they are just as active in there as when I shut the pop door. I was thinking of putting our Christmas lights up around the run after the holiday. Maybe I will then. smile.png

I did see that one of my 40 ish week old pullets seems to be molting. A spot on her neck is bare of feathers, but I see new feathers coming in. And I've never seen one pecked to blood drawn, so i know that spot wasn't injured or anything. Does that sound like a molt to you all? Will she be warm enough if she is molting in winter? Obviously I need to read up on molting now. smile.png
Edited by KCAmelia - 12/7/15 at 2:43pm
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