Artificial lighting and hen longevity

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by dashman1319, Dec 12, 2018.

  1. dashman1319

    dashman1319 In the Brooder

    Jul 31, 2018
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Hi all,

    Our girls have grown and matured beautifully, and from the information I've been able to learn from these forums, I feel like at least one or two of them are at egg-laying age! They've got deep red combs, they sometimes squat submissively when I reach for them, and they just look like healthy, egg-laying chickens.

    However, this has all come concurrently with the start of winter, short days, and our first snows. The poor chickens have been confined to their coop and run for three days now (I let them take some steps out into the snow; they stopped moving altogether and I had to carry them back to the coop). I've been doing research into solar powered lighting solutions to extend the laying season and see if I can convince them to hurry up and give us our first ever backyard eggs.

    However, does it stand to reason that if I encourage year-round egg laying by using artificial light sources, I will also be shortening the amount of their lifespan that chickens will be productive egg-layers? I don't know all the biology here, but chickens must be born with a certain number of egg-destined cells. If I let nature do as nature does and accept fewer eggs in the winter, will my hens ultimately lay longer? Currently, I'm leaning toward putting aside my impatience and not trying to speed things up, unless folks think it wouldn't be harmful long-term.

    Brahma Chicken5000 likes this.
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Waiting on a Fresh Garden Salad

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Higher production can be kept up if they get enough protein and other things to support the production. From my experiences higher production birds burn out earlier and die younger than slower production breeds. They are also more prone to reproductive cancers. Breeds like buff Orpingtons lay longer in their lives, but less per week.

    In a natural state the increasing daylight after the winter solstice will trigger increased production. Generally you will get your best production in early spring. If lights are being used before that I think you will just negate that natural ramping up in production and production will continue as usual.

    Hen are born with way more ovum than they will ever use, so they can't use them up. I believe they just get to old and drained to continue production. Many older hens will continue to lay a few eggs a season later into their lives. I once had an older hen start back up after I switched to a higher protein ration. So feeding seems to play into it somewhat.

    The winter solstice is almost here. You birds will be getting naturally increasing daylight. Adding lights for production is usually done back in October and November. It also needs to be done correctly will a slow increase to work correctly. I personally never done it as I get too many eggs as it is, and I welcome the break.
  3. Chick CJ

    Chick CJ Songster

    Dec 27, 2009
    Hmmm, I wonder about the idea of using artificial light this late in the season before they start to lay? Could it "start" them laying sooner? That seems to be the question here. It might be an experiment to try though, even if just for fun information. Remember, just because you start using artificial light, that doesn't mean you have to keep using it.

    I have been keeping chickens for a lot of years and have tried many different things. I mostly settled on letting nature take it's course while doing what I could to give them a fighting chance, like making sure they have a safe environment, clean water, good feed, etc. It seems to be the least stressful way for us to get fresh eggs (the reason we keep chickens) and we enjoy them as a part of our environment without feeling overwhelmed because we keep it simple.

    I hope if you try it you will share your results!
  4. Brahma Chicken5000

    Brahma Chicken5000 Araucana Addict

    Sep 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    Putting artificial light on your birds when the days aren’t long enough can cause reproductive issues as the birds’ bodies need that winter break from laying to allow their bodies to rest and rejuvenate.
    If you put artificial light on your birds year after year their life spans will be shortened as the production of eggs year round will eventually take a toll on their bodies.
    Putting artificial light on immature pullets can cause premature laying which brings its own problems with it.
    If you want eggs year round get Red Sex Links that you will need to rotate out every 2-4 years.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2018
  5. dashman1319

    dashman1319 In the Brooder

    Jul 31, 2018
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Thanks all! From the sound of it, since I want healthy birds in as natural a state as I can provide, I should just let nature do its thing and look forward to the spring.
    Brahma Chicken5000 likes this.
  6. Brahma Chicken5000

    Brahma Chicken5000 Araucana Addict

    Sep 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    When the chickens body is mature enough to lay eggs she will start laying no matter the time of year.
    My 5.5 month old Silkie mix pullet laid her first egg last week and we only get about 9.5 hours of sun a day.
  7. red horse ranch

    red horse ranch Crowing

    Jan 24, 2014
    Buffalo Wyoming
    I've always tried to give my chickens at least 12 hours of daylight thru the fall and winter. It will work on some hens but not for most of them. Right now i have around 30 hens and I'm getting 2 eggs a day, mostly from pullets. Most of the older hens are finished molting but the extra light hasn't started them laying again. But by the 1st of January the egg laying will pick up again even tho the days are still short. This will happen whether I have the light on or not.
    I don't think having supplemental light shortens the lives of the hens. I have a lot of hens between 6 and 11 years old and they will still lay a few eggs a year. I just got an egg yesterday from a 9 year old. She is in the old folk's coop with no extra light. :)
    Cindy in PA likes this.
  8. RonP

    RonP Crowing

    My coop and run receive supplemental light which mimics my summer solstice. The same as if living on or near the equator, where all life receives pretty much the same amount of sunlight 365 days per year.

    Birds, including chickens, seem to do quite well in the tropics, where food and water is plentiful throughout the year, again, much the same as my coop and run.

    I have found no evidence that chickens live shorter lives while under these conditions. I would welcome factual evidence, not opinions, to the contrary.
    aart and Acre4Me like this.
  9. Acre4Me

    Acre4Me Crowing

    Nov 12, 2017
    Western Ohio
    I was just about to point out that near the equator the birds don’t get a winter break. Temps pretty consistent 365, and light per day doesn’t vary. Pretty sure that nutrition and safety are more a factor than laying throughout the year.

    Interestingly, it is stated that adding light will keep birds laying, but needs to be 14 hours of light, but at the equator they get 12 hours, but pretty sure they are still laying at the equator.

    Birds will get a natural break when they naturally molt.

    We added light this fall and egg production picked back up. We have 12 pullets, age 42 weeks. Two have never laid a single egg, so we have 10 laying pullets and we usually get 8 eggs/day. Heritage birds across 6 breeds, so not expecting a daily egg from all of them. Happy we added light, and we can share the extra eggs with friends.
    aart likes this.
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Hmmm.... these two things don't mesh.

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