How much light?


In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 28, 2014
So we have a light on in our coop so that the hens will keep laying in the winter. I've read about a lot of people who have timed lights, but we just leave ours on all the time. Will it still work?
It is stressful to the hens to have lights on 24/7, they really do need some dark time for sleeping. I don't use lights so I can't comment on how many hours to leave them on, I believe it's 14 or 15 hours of light a day but don't quote me on that!
There are a lot of opinions on supplementing light to keep the chickens laying during time period where there is less than 12-14 hours of available daylight.

My coop gets 16 hours of light 351 days per year.
I turn lights off for 14 days to have birds go into a controlled moult late September .

Having had to install electricity for the thermostatically controlled water heater, I took advantage and installed a lighting system.

My system has two timers. The first is set to turn the lights on at 5:30am, off at 9pm.

Power goes on, passes through a photocell, then to a 300 lumen LED bulb, 4.8 watts, in the coop, and 2 4.8 watt LEDs for the outside run.

I light the run because I found the birds huddled outside the coop door in the dark one 5:30am morning...
They have access to the run 24/7, as it is as secure as the coop.

The lights are on only when it is dark enough outside to be necessary.
The time on very closely mimics my Summer Solstice in NJ.

The second timer is set to go on at 8:30pm, off at 9:30pm, a diffused 200 lumen LED 4 watt bulb.
This low light allows the birds to settle in before all lights out and 8 hours of darkness.

This system costs less than $5 per year to operate..
I don't have electricity in my coop, but I have heard that it's 12-14 hours of light for maximum laying.
I don't have electricity in my coop, but I have heard that it's 12-14 hours of light for maximum laying.

I believe that is true for birds that do not have access to natural daylight, commercial birds in an enclosed structure without windows, for maximum production.

I have a backyard flock, that has access to a very secure outdoor run 24/7.

Birds that see the sun, and are exposed to shortened days, could trigger a molt.

Not necessarily bad, but prefer to have them all molt at the same time, so I could modify their diets accordingly.

I feel this is important for their good health.

It is very important to have an 8 hour resting period, again, for their good health.

My lighting schedule and system, very closely mimics my longest daylight day, Summer Solstice June 21st, where there is over 15 hours of daylight, not including twilight.

These are my opinions, based on my research on science proven facts, not other hobbyist opinions.

Hope this helps
I emailed Dr Bramwell, one of the top poultry reproduction specialists in the country, about if it Iis possible for a hen to run out of ova. Here is his response. It’s possible but unlikely.

Yes, a young Pullet chick hatches with a determinant number of follicles on her left ovary that are possible to be developed to become one of the yolk or ova in an egg. Only the left ovary develops in most avian species so anything on the right ovary never develops and is of no use. So can a hen theoretically 'run out of' potential follicles? Yes she can and this does occur on occasion. It happens often in parrots that may live 70, 80 or even up to 100 years of age. These hens that run out of follicles are referred to as 'slick hens' as the ovaries are often checked by veterinarians and confirmed that they are indeed 'slick' hens with 'slick ovaries' that have no more follicles to develop.

So does this happen often in chickens? Not really that often because most of our domestic chickens do not live long enough to run out of follicles, they 'run out of gas' in other ways much sooner. This could be some other disease or infection or condition related to extended periods of laying that might either cause death or an inability to produce and develop proper shells on an egg.

So in short, yes it's possible but unlikely for a chicken to become 'slick' and run out of follicles.

Keith Bramwell
Dept of Poultry Science
University of Arkansas

I highly recommend you follow that link in Aart’s post. It’s full of good information. One important thing, it’s not a magic number of daylight or dark hours. It’s nights getting longer. Unless your chickens are kept out of the sun completely you need to time that to your longest days or pretty close to it. Chickens near the equator never see 14 hours of daylight yet they go through the same cycles.

I agree with Cafarmgirl it is very stressful to have lights on continuously. If you check the Egg Quality Handbook, several egg defects can be caused by improper lighting. This improper lighting is often leaving the lights on continuously.

Egg Quality Handbook
That's what my research has led me to believe. That chickens slow down laying because of increasing age and declining condition. Not because you "wore them out" with supplemental winter lighting. Yet people will cling to this belief because it suits their intuition.
Furthermore I doubt that giving hens "time off to rest" in the winter is of any benefit to them. But I have yet to see any authoritative information on this. Perhaps only the hens themselves have the answer.
There is literature out there that shows hens need some time off. Aart’s article mentions it. It’s not tied to an annual schedule though that makes it easier for some of us.

Commercial operations track egg quantity and quality. After a certain time they either molt the flock or replace them because the profitability goes away after them laying a certain length of continuous time. That affects both numbers and quality of eggs. You can find productivity curves that show when a flock needs to molt or be replaced depending on tracked productivity.

I think breed or at least heredity has something to do with it too but that’s my opinion. I don’t have any research to back that up. Practically all the research I’ve seen has been on the commercial hybrids not our backyard chickens.

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