artificial lighting = more egg laying = stressed hen?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by McGoo, Dec 7, 2007.

  1. McGoo

    McGoo Songster

    Is it better to leave nature alone and let the hens rest their bodies in the wintertime? Does the artificial lighting add stress to their bodies since it causes them to 'unnaturally' produce more eggs? I would like more eggs, but want healthy hens too. [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Just curious. Thanks.
  2. SeaChick

    SeaChick Songster

    Apr 25, 2007
    Southern Maine
    I am justifying adding artificial lighting to myself (because I do feel a bit guilty not allowing nature to take its course) by pretending that we live in Puerto Rico. Someplace closer to the equator, they have 13-14 hours of daylight right now. So I figure, if my chickens and I lived there, it WOULD be natural.

    Of course, the flaw in this logic is that, closer to the equator, daylight hours remain fairly constant year-round. So my pretend tropical chickens wouldn't be experiencing the extra-long SUMMER days they get in real life here. And I don't know if the southern hens are on a more drawn-out egg-laying schedule year round (ie slower in summer than our northern hens are) or not. The bottom line is: are we making them lay more per year than they would in a climate with more regular daylight hours, and therefore putting undo stress on their bodies, or not?

    Of course, the breeds I have were bred in the north, so that may factor in too.

    My bleeding-heart instinct is that it's better not to force things, but I have yet to read any scientific evidence that this is so. And, we DO add light, because we DO want the eggs!!! (I just feel a little guilty about it!)

  3. cadman68

    cadman68 Songster

    Feb 15, 2007
    Middle TN
    I'm sure there has been a study done on this subject, but i don't know that i have ever heard about it. I personally just let nature take it's course with mine. When they're not laying i buy eggs at the grocery and when they are laying i have more than i can handle [​IMG]
  4. McGoo

    McGoo Songster

    I should have added that in the wintertime they need to keep their little bodies warm too, so although it's the light that makes them lay regularly, their bodies are busy trying to stay warm and dry.

    My coop is well insulated, but not heated nor do I have a light. I've got 3 gals who continue to lay quite regularly, while some don't lay at all.

    to light or not to light that is the question. [​IMG]
  5. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    I hear that it produces more eggs in the short run, but does also studies which I have yet to find myself say that it increase the rate of cancer in birds in the long run. So if you are gong for short term production sure, but for 16 year old hens, probably not the best.
  6. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Crowing

    May 8, 2007
    I've spent hours looking and could never find anything about 14 hours of light causing cancer. I did find information on one study that artificially keeping them in darkness, I think it was less than 8 hours of light a day, helped treat existing ovarian cancer. That's not the same thing as saying lighting causes cancer. If anyone ever runs across some actual studies, I'd really like to read them.

    I provide supplemental light to our parrot, because they are healthier with a 12 hour day of good lighting, year round. That means I also make sure he is getting enough sleep on the long days of summer, too.

    For the chickens, we've given them supplemental light in the past with no problem. That doesn't mean it's the best way to do it. I like to keep up with new ways of doing things, too. It's just that sometimes, I've been doing things a particular way for a few decades and I need an actual reason to change. [​IMG]

    One of the advantages of more light in the bitter cold, is that they have more time to eat and fuel their bodies. A really long night in the bitter cold is not easy on birds, either. It's what kills a lot of the wild birds in winter, from what I've read.

    I have a lot of different feelings about winter lighting and I just keeping reading, to see what others have to say.
  7. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    Well, not that light causes cancer, but rather increases the rate because they lay more eggs and are in production more. I would think it to be like the effect of pregnancy (residual hormonal effects). I think the stats are for humans, if you have one child, you have a 40% less chance of ovarian cancer. More than that it isn't as significant. So it's not like um, the process of getting pregnant decreases cancer, but the use of the system to have a kid. I should do a literature search.

    Edit: Gotta get to doing my real work. [​IMG] But all I really found were that increased levels of hormones over a period of time can change the risk of cancer in birds. The hard part is though, all the studies I found on chickens are done on commercial white leghorn strains, which are 1) inbred and 2) are culled at about 3 years of age. There was a paper on ovarian cancer in birds raised to 5 years old, but it was focusing on the chicken as a model for human cancer rather than cancer in the bird.
  8. ksacres

    ksacres At Your Service

    Nov 16, 2007
    San Antonio TX
    We don't provide supplemental light, but we don't get any eggs right now. I look at it as a nice winter vacation for our hardworking ladies. I know if I had to pop an egg a day out of my butt, I'd be requesting some time off too.
  9. SpottedCrow

    SpottedCrow Flock Goddess

    My opinion is that adding artificial light will shorten the bird's lifespan...since my two spoiled hens are pets, I'd like to keep them around as long as I I don't use any.
  10. McGoo

    McGoo Songster

    I plan to keep my chooks, so will keep the lights off.

    I believe that the studies on ovarian cancer show that the more a woman, or a chicken for that matter, ovulate, the higher their risk of ovarian cancer.

    And there is supposedly a lower risk of ovarian cancer in women who have had a lot of pregnancies (less ovulations) and a higher risk for women who undergo fertility treatments and are given drugs to increase ovulations.

    I believe that chickens have the highest rate of ovarian cancer because they ovulate so frequently - that is if they make it past the chopping block!

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