14 hours of light for egglaying - myth?

CarolJ

Dogwood Trace Farm
8 Years
Jun 3, 2011
2,003
144
173
Middle Tennessee
I had set the timer in my chicken house to come on each morning at 4:00 in order to give the hens enough hours of light. Yesterday morning I looked out the window and it was still pitch black outside, but I could see the light on in the chicken house and the chickens moving around. I felt kinda bad because I went back to sleep and slept another couple hours. I decided that since chickens did well without artificial life for many centuries - they didn't need it now. So I turned off the timer. This morning they woke up when the sun rose and it was daylight - and for the first time in a very long time, every single hen of laying age laid an egg today - before lunchtime, too. Coincidence?

My question: Does having the light on 14 hours a day really make that much of a difference in egg-laying?
 

Arielle

Crowing
8 Years
Feb 19, 2011
16,722
639
411
Massachusetts, USA
My timer is set for 3:15 as Whitey takes to his perch long before sundown and most of his girls follow suit.

Oddly, with no change in lighting, the girls are producing more eggs after slacking for about 6 weeks. THey are all young girls coming up on 11 months old. Only my 2 yr old is molting so I forgive her lack of producing besides she needs to beef up and get ready for giving a huge extra large egg everyday.

ANyway, I wanted to know if increasing egg prodution was normal too as we are just passed the shortest day of the year.
 

berniezahm

Songster
11 Years
Oct 24, 2008
209
4
111
On page 192 of Storey's Guide to RAISING CHICKENS, New Edition. It says under Augmenting Daylight: "Start augmenting natural light when day length decreases to approach 15 hours, which in most parts of the United States occurs in September. Continue the lighting program throughout the winter and into spring, until natural daylight is back up to 15 hours per day."
I had my egg production drop off this fall to 3 eggs a day from 35 or so laying hens, and it took me till early December to realise why. I reset the light timers in my coops to give 16 hours of light per day. It has taken three weeks for my girls production to crawl back up to get 14 or so eggs per day, the last three days.
I don't believe it is a myth, but that is just my opinion. Not that I want to treat my girls like battery hens, but it is my understanding the lights never go off in the big egg farm barns, they are way to big to be called coops.
I use a compact fluorescent bulb equal in light production to a 100 watt incandescant bulb. The winter of 2010 - 2011, I had my timers set properly and my egg production did not decrease all winter long.
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silkiechicken

Staff PhD
Premium Feather Member
12 Years
13 Years
Jan 25, 2007
21,494
1,047
393
Everett WA/Corvallis OR
If your birds are older than a year old, lighting will keep them laying. Young birds if already laying will often just keep laying through winter. The effects of light are not instantaneous, as it'll take some time to stimulate the eggs developing in the ovary, and removal of light will take some time to show it's effects as mature eggs will continue to mature and be laid out first.
 

pgpoultry

Songster
10 Years
Oct 16, 2009
2,290
47
191
Wales
Having kept chickens for years I'd say myth.Either that or my chickens just haven't read the books.

I had 9 pullets start to lay between September and November.....7 stopped in December and two have started up again in the last few days(Maybe they missed the chapter which said pullets should lay continuously in their first year). Two pullets did what they are supposed to do.

Conversely, three mature hens (aged 2-4) have continued to lay at least 5 days out of 7.

I do not provide any artificial light and currently darkness falls shortly after 4:00pm and it is not light until after 8:00a.m (So only 8 hours of daylight).

Maybe I just have odd birds.
 

Mattemma

Crowing
10 Years
Aug 12, 2009
5,314
94
291
I did not get eggs for over 2 months. After buying poop covered eggs for way more than I sell my own I said the heck with it I will put in a light. I did that 2 weeks ago,and I am now getting 4-5 eggs a day from my 6 hens. I put my light on anywhere from 4-6am and off depending on when I turn it on. I think the light helped.

The first 2 winters I got a few eggs and never put in a light. I missed the eggs so the light will stay for me,but I don't follow a strict 14 hours on.
 

Fred's Hens

Crowing
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Myth? Hardly. Confusion? Quite likely. Chickens are photo reactive and yes, light therapy is well known in the poultry sciences and especially in the industry. That said, what I react to in a head shaking way is the oft repeated "chicken MUST have 14 or 16 hours of light in order to lay". That is the statement that fails to account for equatorial chickens which never receive 14 hours of sunlight. Nearer the equator, the sun rises and sets with little variance. A chicken in Hawaii never sees 14 hours of sunlight, for example, yet lays well, thank-you.

In our experience, first year pullets will lay well on as little as 11-12 hours of combined lighting. In our experience, older hens can be pushed into increased laying, but we prefer not to over-ride nature and the older hen's need for rest, moulting and rejuvenation. If you must have eggs in winter, keeping a good ratio of first year pullets in the mix is well advised.
 

CarolJ

Dogwood Trace Farm
8 Years
Jun 3, 2011
2,003
144
173
Middle Tennessee
Fred's Hens :

In our experience, first year pullets will lay well on as little as 11-12 hours of combined lighting. In our experience, older hens can be pushed into increased laying, but we prefer not to over-ride nature and the older hen's need for rest, moulting and rejuvenation. If you must have eggs in winter, keeping a good ratio of first year pullets in the mix is well advised.

I'm new to raising chickens - so I don't have the experience to back it up. But this makes sense to me. I don't want to use artificial means (i.e. extra lighting) to keep my chickens laying during the winter. Even if that means I have to buy eggs occasionally - something I haven't done in many months.
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Thanks for the replies. I really like that I got such differing replies. It helps me understand that beyond providing food, water, adequate space and protection, whatever else one does for chickens is mostly a matter of personal preference. I prefer to keep things as natural as possible - so I'll not set the light timer for 4:00 a.m. anymore.​
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,845
21,972
907
Southeast Louisiana
Fred's Hens :

Myth? Hardly. Confusion? Quite likely. Chickens are photo reactive and yes, light therapy is well known in the poultry sciences and especially in the industry. That said, what I react to in a head shaking way is the oft repeated "chicken MUST have 14 or 16 hours of light in order to lay". That is the statement that fails to account for equatorial chickens which never receive 14 hours of sunlight. Nearer the equator, the sun rises and sets with little variance. A chicken in Hawaii never sees 14 hours of sunlight, for example, yet lays well, thank-you.

In our experience, first year pullets will lay well on as little as 11-12 hours of combined lighting. In our experience, older hens can be pushed into increased laying, but we prefer not to over-ride nature and the older hen's need for rest, moulting and rejuvenation. If you must have eggs in winter, keeping a good ratio of first year pullets in the mix is well advised.

I fully agree with this. The 14 hours is something commercial egg producers use when they control all conditions related to their chickens. If they live far enough away from the equator that they can have more than 14 hours of light and sunlight can get into the hen house, they may have to use longer sessions of light. The 14 hours is not just about them laying eggs, though that is a big part of it. The feeding regimen is also factored in.

The length of daylight is not the factor. It is the change in the length of daylight that counts. When days start getting longer, hen's crank up the laying since Spring is coming and the weather will be better for hatching and raising chicks. When days get shorter, the coming weather is not going to be great for raising chicks, so they quit laying and use what protein they can find to molt and grow new feathers. If daylight hours increase from 11 hours to 12 hours, they are probably going to lay real well. If daylight hours decrease from 17 hours to 15 hours, they are likely to start the molt.

They are no longer feral animals but have been domesticated. Some breeds have been developed to lay better in the cold weather or with shorter hours of daylight. The base instinct is still with them, but you can always find exceptions.​
 

MANNA-PRO

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