How to distribute the light over winter?


11 Years
Jul 9, 2008
Western PA
My pullets (various breeds) were hatched July 5, so I expect them to start laying at some point during the winter.

They are housed in a converted stall in my barn, with a pop door and a small run, but are currently free-ranging most of the day almost every day. As we've been having fairly mild winters, I hope to let them out to range through the winter on all but the most severe days. There is plenty of overgrown pasture for them to swarm, so there should be forage until spring (unless I get my sheep earlier than expected.)

I currently have two flourescent shop light fixtures (for a total of four four-foot tubes) in their 8x10 coop. The fixtures are on a timer, and currently go on just before dusk and stay on for about two hours. I find this encourages the chooks to come inside in the evening, and gives me light for evening chores.

Two questions:

1) Should I start to gradually increase the hours of artificial light as the days shorten, in order to encourage them to start laying when their time comes? Or will they start laying regardless, and I can increase the hours of light when that happens?

2) Does it make sense to wake them up early instead of keep them up late once they start laying? I'd like to let them out to range as soon as it gets light in the morning on days when it's warm enough, but I sure don't want them making nests outside in winter. I was thinking of having the lights come on extra-early, so that they do their laying before I open the pop door. Will this work?


Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!
14 Years
Nov 9, 2007
SW Arkansas
I don't know a whole lot on the subject, since I don't add artificial light. It's my understanding that if you want to supplement their light in wintertime it's best to do it at the start of the day, not at the end.


Flock Mistress
12 Years
Apr 20, 2007
Ontario, Canada
My understanding (note that I don't use artificial light myself) is:

a) you just want to give them no less than a 13-14 hr 'day', no particular need to be gradually adjusting anything other than what mother nature adjusts as the seasons change (that is, you just keep your timer set to provide that amount of light, until the seasons naturally start producing LONGER days, at which point you breathe a sigh of relief and turn off your timers)

b) most people add the supplemental light in the morning (before sunup) to allow the coop to dim gradually in hte evening so the chickens can put themselves to bed, er, roost. Otherwise, if you go from lights on to <click!> lights out, they may be stuck in the dark and unable to get onto the roost. You can of course have a second timer with a second 'night light' to create a sort of artificial dusk period, to get around this, but that seems a lot more complicated. If you normally do chicken chores in the evening when it's dark out, though, and want the coop lights on, I can see where you might need a different system.

Good luck and have fun,


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