Can someone set me straight here....


7 Years
Mar 7, 2012
Western New York
So I get an BYC email the other day about winterizing the coop. It mentions to add a light (I forget what wattage) to mimic "daylight" in order to prevent forcing the hens into a molt.

Then I read that having a light on will not allow the chickens to rest over the winter and will cause them to have a shorter life.

So which one is it???

Light the coop to prevent molting? Leave the coop dark so they live longer?

If lighting the coop is a good idea (since forcing a molt right before winter seems like a bad idea here in WNY), what wattage light bulb do I use?
IMO: Chickens have been chickens for thousands of years without a light bulb.
I, personally, would allow them to molt naturally (even if it is winter) and allow them to rest naturally.
I have several hens now that are molting (they're pretty bad looking).
If a chicken gets cold, it'll seek out shelter inside the coop.
Leave 'em be and they'll live longer!

Sounds like you know what to do.
Yes, chickens have been chickens for a long time, but now they are domesticated birds that have been bred for a very long time to be what humans want them to be, so that argument is the same as saying that dogs have been wolves for thousands of years. You could also say that chickens have been dinosaurs for thousands of years. Neither one makes much sense. The reason that some breeds stop laying in the winter is that winter is a terrible time to hatch eggs. Many breeds of chickens were bred to lay all through the winter, so this doesn't matter one way or the other. I don't think that needing a rest comes into it.

You won't prevent a moult by putting in a light bulb. The hens will moult any way. And if they were going to do it, they would have already done so in Wisconsin. Hens don't moult in the winter for obvious reasons. Most birds will be growing their feathers in now after a moult, not losing feathers.

What you will do is mimic a few extra hours of daylight and get more eggs. This is a huge controversy, so all I can do is tell you my feelings on it. Some people believe that if you light the coop during the winter, your chickens will stop laying or become "spent" sooner. I'm not sure if that's true or not. I light my coop in the winter because I want the eggs, and they are chickens, and I am taking care of them in return for eggs. I don't think it's doing them any harm. One 60 watt bulb on a timer so that it comes on at dusk and goes off a few hours later will do it. They don't need light all night, and in fact it can cause pecking if they don't get some darkness.

I keep most of my layers for only three years, so them being spent sooner doesn't bother me. And the hens I keep longer are because they have some trait I want for breeding, so them having fewer eggs later in life doesn't really bother me either. They're not going to drop down dead because they had a light on in the winter, they're not going to get sick, they just will lay more eggs now and maybe fewer eggs when they're older.

In the end, it's a personal decision.
I wait until after december then add a few hours of light in the morning, coming on around 4am. It is better to add light in the morning, allowing the birds to find their perches and settle in for the night as the light gradually fades.
Hey, I saw that I messed up above. You want the light to come on in the morning before dawn, not the evening before dusk! As to how early, you want about 14 total hours of daylight.
I use light in both the morning and evening to get to 13 or 14 hrs. I have had no problem with them "finding" their perch in the evening. They are all sitting happily on the perches before the sun goes down. There have been a few times that I've had a few moving around in the coup at dark but I am sure they are on the perches well before the light goes out. Even so, I've added a very dim LED nightlight on a second timer that goes out 1/2 hr later then the 9 watt CFL. The hens seem happy with this arrangement. BTW, I just went out and saw all three of my Black Copper Marans on nests laying today. I am so excited. I let the hens rest for a few months before adding my lights about two 1/2 weeks ago and I was only getting 1 or two eggs a day out of 8 hens. I also have 7 pullets that were not laying yet at 28 weeks. I got my first pullet egg 3 days ago and a second yesterday. Two others were exploring the nest boxes yesterday. I am guessing I will get 5 or 6 eggs today and should be getting 10 to 12+ in another week. To me this is a win/win. The hens got a two month rest to molt, etc. and I will get decent egg production over the winter!

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