Do you need a light in the coop?


15 Years
Dec 12, 2007
ID/WA border
We have just passed the equinox and are continuing the steady loss of daylight hours in the northern hemisphere. I live where there are hills both to the east and west so it isn't really 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness this week.

Last year, I posted a list of cities] with their latitudes and how many hours of sunlight they have on the winter solstice (December 21st).

The naval observatory information should be easy to access. Use Form A - U.S. Cities or Towns to select your state & type in your city.

Where I live, at nearly 48 northern latitude, daylight hours on December 21st will be a little over 8 hours. To contrast, San Diego California & Charleston South Carolina on that date will have 10 hours of sunlight.

We learn from the poultry experts that chickens lay the most eggs with 14+ hours of light. Over 17 hours of light results in no increase in their production. But, they will nearly stop laying with under 8 hours of light. (Chickens will lay a few eggs in total darkness, we are told. How they can see to eat is another question.)

There are different ideas regarding using lights in the coop. My feeling is that it is unwise to leave a chicken too long in cold and darkness regardless of what expectations we have for egg production.

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I live in Indiana and are about at 12 hours from sunrise to sunset. I just put lights in my coop and run yesterday and them turning on at 5:00 a.m., and off at 8:00 a.m. I'll see what happens.
Steve - thanks for the post!!!!! Easy to use and it really 'shed some light'...Helped me decide to add just an hour or 2 for the winter....
You are right- chicken coops should be lighted so that the birds get 14 hours of light at least, if you want good egg production. It also helps to have a dim light on when the bright lights go out. Putting lights on an inexpensive timer is the way to go. A dim light left on after the timer turns off the others will let birds find their way to a roost if they didn't anticipate lights out.

I have a compact 40 watt flourescent bulb on in my coop all the time and for 14 hours a day there is an additional 100 watt compact flourescent on. My birds spend most of the day outside in nice weather but as winter comes on they spend more time in the evening inside the coop, where they can "stay up late" to eat and socialize.

If you don't care about egg production I still think a night light is worthwhile and if your coop is dim and dreary in the winter I'd want to light it at least 8 hours a day.
Are those 40 and 100 watt equivalent florescents, Gardeninggranny? Equivalent to incandescent, that is.

I have a small coop for a small number of chickens. It is in 2 rooms - one open to the outdoors, the other fully insulated. There is only a pop door between during the winter months (additional screened window, now).

They must have an electric light in that room to see but it only takes an 11 watt compact florescent. I used a 40 watt bulb years ago before the new bulbs came out.

I like the idea of 2 bulbs but I'd have to go with a little tiny nightlight. Without one, they still seem to learn when to get up on the roosts so as not to be caught down on the floor when it is "lights out." It may be different if I had more birds and there was more jostling and activity.

Since I live in Michigan, I have both a 40 watt light on a timer in series with a photo cell. The heat lamps are on a thermostat set at 35 degrees. We often have temps -20 and below. i don't want my girls to get frostbit. The coop has 1 1/2" insulation and the deep red heat lamps will not disrupt the daylight cycle. The 40 watt bulb is on a timer with a photo-cell over-ride. If there is enough light outside the bulb does not come on. I spent a little over $600.00 building my little 4'x6' coop but I think my girls are worth it.

I read somewhere that chickens adapt to the climate change. If you use heat lamps and you lose electricity it could possibly put the chickens in shock, potentially harming them? I let mine go natural too. My climates pretty mild though.
I let my girls go with the season. I figure if that's the way they're built then that's the way they should go. They only really dropped off for 6 weeks in Jan/Feb last year. They've got plenty of windows in their coop on all sides and outdoor access at their choice during daylight hours all year round. If I was running my coop as a business I'd probably put in lights but my family/friends are willing to put up with slower egg production during less light or molting periods.
I have a 60w bulb on a timer in my coop. I have determined dates that I need to change the timer to come on earlier or later, depending on the sunrise/sunset schedule, so that I have a constant 15 hour day every day. They wake up to artificial and go to sleep to natural light. Works so far. Now if I could just keep a couple of them from going broody every few weeks. I swear my next flock is going to be all black and red stars. I want egg layers with minimal trouble.

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