artificial light needed now?

Over Easy PA

In the Brooder
8 Years
Jul 8, 2011
My chickens are 13/14 weeks old … BSL and red SL. With the days getting shorter really fast, I'm trying to decide about using an artificial light. Two questions…

1. If I don.t use a light, how likely are my chickens to start laying this fall? Might they be delayed until springtime to start laying? Or will the definitely start this fall, but just not produce so many?

2. If I do decide to use a light to maximize laying year-round, when should I begin using the light? Is it time to start yet? I live in southeat pennsylvania if that matters.

So maybe that's mre than 2 questions! Thanks for any answers.
You will get many answers to this question. First I like to let mine start on their own because they will be more mature and have less egg prolapse trouble. If you do start lights , I would wait until at least 18 weeks. Gloria Jean
By extending your light hours to 12 hrs a day it causes the hens to produce more eggs sooner but I do not like to do that. It puts stress on the hens. The big egg producers do it but at the expense of the hens health. After 2 years they are litterally burnt out. Yes it works for eggs. But I turn all mine into pets as well and like to see healthy happy hens for many years to come. Hens will start to lay when their bodies are physically ready. For some of the sexlinks it is 18 weeks but most it will be after 20 weeks sometimes as late as 30+ weeks for the big English and hugh Brahmas. Patience is nec. Enjoy your hens peculiarities and behavior. It sill not seem as long.
Gloria Jean
Folks forget that hens are not machines. They lay due to hormones, but they will start when they start. If they start laying too soon, they are more prone to malfunctions such as egg yolk peritonitis and internal laying and prolapse. Best to let them start naturally. That is what grower feed is actually for, with its lower protein content, to slow down their sexual maturity so they don't come into lay too soon. Causes all sorts of issues later on.

After losing about 10 hens to internal laying, I choose not to ever extend natural daylight hours. I did it the first winter with chickens years ago, but not since. It may not have a huge effect, however, if there is the slightest chance it has any effect, I don't want to cause them any more trouble than they already have in producing that egg every day. Many do use artificial lighting so they make the hens lay more during winter months. Mine still lay during winter, albeit, at a slightly reduced rate, which is fine with me.
I have lighted 14 hours a day in winter for 18 years. Never had a problem. I am in SE PA and technically the days are below 14 hours of sunlight by Aug. 15th and stay that way until May 15th. I didn't turn it on Aug 15th this year, but started two weeks ago. I set my timer ahead a half hour until I get it where it will stay in the winter. My opinion is less light & less time to eat in the winter makes for cold hens & more stress. You will have to decide for yourself to light or not. I only keep my hens two years, but had a pet for almost 9 years many years ago that laid a few eggs a week until she died. JMHO
I wanted to add that in places like Alaska, they have no choice but to extend daylight by artificial means. That I completely understand. It's a personal decision otherwise. I just choose not to do so.
We don't go with 14 hours rather 12. Up north here our sunlight gets under 10 hours a day so maintaining 12 hours with a 13w cool white energy bulb made sense. Here that starts Oct. 15 to ?. Sunlight not only keeps them awake to be active and feed it also provides vitamins just like we humans need from florescents come winter months. Last year our girls didn't slow down at all and we only used the light on timer few hours morning and again few hours evening to make 12 as they spend days outside of coop.
Up here at the 45th Parallel, our days shrink to only 7 hours of sunlight, in Dec-Jan. That is 17 hours of darkness!!! So, we split the difference. I will not hyper push the hens with 14-16 hours light. I want them using the energies to stay warm. But, I do, or I must provide some additional lighting. I add it only the am. The light comes on 5 am, year around. Goes off in the mid afternoon.

Egg production drops 25-30% in the winter, to be sure, but we're OK with that. To compensate for our egg customers, I just carry extra hens through the winter. It works for us.
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