Is RED LIGHT really less disturbing at night for a chicken?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by jmc, Oct 24, 2008.

  1. jmc

    jmc Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 22, 2008
    South Central MA
    I have read on this forum--I think--that RED light used as a possible heat source in coop in winter would be less disturbing to chickens than a white light. Reason: because RED light is less perceived by chickens than white light. Ergo.......

    But I've never asked my chickens lol

    BTW, I am NOT providing light to make the birds lay alot all winter. IMO, they should get a break, esp. in this rugged season of winter.

    Thoughts from the panel??
  2. snowydiamonds

    snowydiamonds Chillin' With My Peeps

    Its what saved my RIR flock from pecking on each other and also from eating their eggs last winter, while keeping their water from freezing.
  3. Akane

    Akane Overrun With Chickens

    Jun 15, 2008
    Without getting too into the science behind a normal sleep cycle red light does not trigger that part of the brain that signals to us it's daytime and that keeps us awake. I believe it is the same for chickens so it would not keep them awake at night or cause them to lay.
  4. dlhunicorn

    dlhunicorn Human Encyclopedia

    Jan 11, 2007
    Hi is Dottie?
    There are several well researched studies re light and chickens ... I will go look them up and post shortly , however I wanted to post first:
    Please be aware of the possibility of PTFE toxicity from any heat source (this includes some light bulbs) you use in your enclosure/coops: Animals.htm
    "PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) toxicity - a potential cause of sudden death in pet birds and poultry
    Emily Martin DVM MSc, Animal Health Laboratory -Guelph.
    "You might consider PTFE toxicity the next time a case of acute death in birds is presented with no obvious cause.

    PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) is a synthetic polymer (CF2CF2) with anti-stick (lubricant) properties (1) that is used as a coating for non-stick cookware, domestic boilers, irons, ironing board covers, solid fuel burners, and heat lamps (2).

    Household cookware is the most common PTFE exposure for pet birds; problems arise when pans boil dry or unfilled saucepans are heated. Frying temperatures normally range between 100-200°C (3). At 280°C, cooking oils and butter will flame and foods will smoke and burn (1). Above 280°C, a polymer undergoes chemical decomposition (pyrolysis) (2). PTFE, as well as butter or corn oil, can produce pyrolysis products that can cause death in birds (3). When PTFE undergoes pyrolysis, both gaseous and particulate materials are given off, including fluorinated compounds, that are toxic to animals and humans with birds being most susceptible (1, 3, 4). In humans, exposure to fumes can lead to a transient, febrile, flu-like syndrome called polymer-fume fever (1).

    Budgerigars are the most sensitive of the species studied (1, 3). Extreme levels can cause acute death of all birds exposed, while low levels can cause intermittent deaths over a period of time (weeks to months) (2). Signs can start with eye-blinking followed by panting, gasping, anxiety and cage-wire biting (range of responses to respiratory difficulties), then progress to incoordination (rocking and bobbing movements) and inability to stand (likely due to hypoxia), and possibly end in terminal convulsions in cases of extreme exposures (1).

    Post-mortem findings are nonspecific and can be easily missed on gross or histological examination (2). The lung is the primary target organ, with pulmonary congestion, edema and hemorrhage being the only consistent findings (1, 4). The blood may be dark, likely due to hypoxemia (1). Histological changes vary with the severity of exposure, and include mucus secretion, cilial damage, bronchial and tracheal epithelial necrosis, bronchial hemorrhage, and extensive air capillary destruction (4).

    There is also a report of suspected PTFE toxicity in broiler chickens housed in a research facility that had recently installed lights coated with PTFE (5). These should be not be used for lighting of aviaries, pigeon lofts, poultry facilities, etc.

    There are no specific diagnostic tests for PTFE. When a bird is presented with a history of acute death, a necropsy and histology should be performed to rule out other possible causes. If there are few gross or histological lesions evident, case history is important. Careful questioning of the owner may reveal a history of a cooking accident, a change of light bulbs, etc. that may lead to a suspicion of PTFE toxicity.

    Suggestions for prevention include housing pet birds away from kitchens and/or in well-ventilated areas. Otherwise, monitor birds while cooking and if there has been a cooking accident, immediately remove birds from the vicinity of the kitchen into a well-ventilated area.


    1. Wells RE, Slocombe RF, Trapp AL. Acute toxicosis of budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) caused by pyrolysis products from heated polytetrafluoroethylene: Clinical study. Am J Vet Res 1982; 43: 1238-1242.
    2. Forbes NA, Jones D. PTFE toxicity in birds. Vet Rec 1997; 140: 512.
    3. Griffith FD, Stephens SS, Tayfun FO. Exposure of Japanese quail and parakeets to the pyrolysis products of fry pans coated with Teflon and common cooking oils. Am Ind Hyg Assoc J 1973; 34: 176-178.
    4. Wells RE, Slocombe RF. Acute toxicosis of budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) caused by pyrolysis products from heated polytetrafluoroethylene: Microscopic study. Am J Vet Res 1982; 43: 1243-1248.
    5. Boucher M, Bermudez AJ. Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) gas intoxication in broiler chickens. Proc 49th N Central Avian Dis Conf 1998: 85-86.

    more on ref [5] Boucher, M., Ehmler, TJ and Bermudez, AJ. 2000. Polytetrafluoroethylene gas intoxication in broiler chickens. Avian Dis 44(2): 449-53. :
    (396° Temperature of PTFE-coated light bulbs
    under which Missouri birds died )
    Fifty-two percent of the chicks in a poultry research facility died within 72 hours after replacement of 48 heat lamp bulbs with PTFE- coated ones. Microscopic lung changes were consistent with PTFE poisoning. ...)
    (several sources listed)
    "Those who care for birds need to know about Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) poisoning — the most commonly reported inhalant toxicity in avians. (LaBonde) Fatalities in birds have cleaning ovens, coated cookware, coated baking sheets, newly developed coated light bulbs, coated heat lamps, etc. ..."
    "The San Antonio Zoo in Texas lost 21 birds in an outdoor aviary awhile back. Their death was caused when the birds gathered by lights that the zoo had installed so that the birds could warm themselves in an outdoor aviary. The bulbs had been coated with PTFE.

    a report about Teflon[​IMG] coated heat lamps allegedly causing raptor deaths. Unfortunately, no reference to the original source is given --
    "Another relatively new product is a make of heat lamp, which is designed and markets which is painted on the exterior with Teflon[​IMG], In the case involving the heat lamps, the lamps were being used to prevent chilling of raptors that were being kept in otherwise unheated buildings over night. The lamps appeared to function safely for one year, after which time, with continued use at their normal working temperatures, several poisonings occurred. In all 8 birds died over a period of three months. All birds died or were affected by fumes over night. The lamps were the proven source of the fumes. Histopathalogical findings were consistent with Teflon[​IMG] toxicosis." (source:"
    have since found the source of that reference I believe:
    Forbes, NA. and 0. Jones. PTFE toxicity in birds (letter). Vet Record, vol. 140, #19, May 10, 1997, p.512. - Diana)
    "Ontario Region
    Suspected Teflon Toxicosis in Songbirds

    In August of 1996, the Ontario regional office of the CCWHC was contacted by the City of Scarborough Department of Public Health with a request for help in responding to a perceived problem of emissions from an industrial operation in which cookware is coated with teflon (polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE). Residents of an adjacent neighbourhood were concerned about affects on air quality and health, and cited as evidence an unusual number of birds found dead in backyards located close to the plant. A number of birds found dead in this neighbourhood from July to October were retrieved and submitted to the CCWHC for necropsy. These included house sparrows, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, starlings and mourning doves. All birds had been frozen prior to submission. Some weeks later, a second submission, consisting entirely of house sparrows, the carcasses of which had been opened and placed in formalin on site, was received. In all instances, freezing artifact or autolysis limited pathological interpretations. However, a consistent pattern of pulmonary congestion, edema and occasional hemorrhage was present in these birds, in the absence of lesions of trauma or infectious disease. These lesions were consistent with death due to inhalation of PTFE fumes. It was not possible to be more definitive.

    Following an evaluation of the available evidence, including stack emissions, wind direction, weather conditions, and circumstantial evidence such as the death of these birds, the company, Scarborough Department of Public Health, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, and the residents negotiated a course of action aimed at reducing emissions and their potential effects on the neighbourhood.

    PTFE toxicosis is often suspected in sudden deaths of caged birds, particularly where the circumstantial evidence includes a possible source of combustion products. However, a definitive diagnosis is rarely reached because of the relatively non-specific nature of the gross and light microscopic lesions. In experimental exposures of budgerigars to the products of PTFE combustion. (American Journal of Veterinary Research, 1982, 43: 1238-1242, 1243-1248), there was extensive pulmonary congestion and hemorrhage. Microscopically, there was necrosis and hemorrhage in the lung, as well as changes in the airways. PTFE combustion products are very toxic to rodents, causing pulmonary edema and hemorrhage. In humans, exposure to PTFE fumes can result in an illness known as polymer fume fever. (Fundamental and Applied Toxicology, 1991, 17: 254-269). (D. Campbell and I. Barker, Ontario region - CCWHC). "
    EWG finds heated Teflon pans can turn toxic faster than DuPont claims
    By Jane Houlihan, Vice President for Research; Kris Thayer, PhD, Senior Scientist; Jennifer Klein, EWG Chemist , May 2003

    "....In two to five minutes on a conventional stovetop, cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces can exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases linked to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pet bird deaths and an unknown number of human illnesses each year, according to tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG).

    In new tests conducted by a university food safety professor, a generic non-stick frying pan preheated on a conventional, electric stovetop burner reached 736°F in three minutes and 20 seconds, with temperatures still rising when the tests were terminated. A Teflon pan reached 721°F in just five minutes under the same test conditions (See Figure 1), as measured by a commercially available infrared thermometer. DuPont studies show that the Teflon offgases toxic particulates at 464°F. At 680°F Teflon pans release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens, two global pollutants, and MFA, a chemical lethal to humans at low doses. At temperatures that DuPont scientists claim are reached on stovetop drip pans (1000°F), non-stick coatings break down to a chemical warfare agent known as PFIB, and a chemical analog of the WWII nerve gas phosgene.

    For the past fifty years DuPont has claimed that their Teflon coatings do not emit hazardous chemicals through normal use. In a recent press release, DuPont wrote that "significant decomposition of the coating will occur only when temperatures exceed about 660 degrees F (340 degrees C). These temperatures alone are well above the normal cooking range."

    These new tests show that cookware exceeds these temperatures and turns toxic through the common act of preheating a pan, on a burner set on high.

    In cases of "Teflon toxicosis," as the bird poisonings are called, the lungs of exposed birds hemorrhage and fill with fluid, leading to suffocation. DuPont acknowledges that the fumes can also sicken people, a condition called "polymer fume fever." DuPont has never studied the incidence of the fever among users of the billions of non-stick pots and pans sold around the world. Neither has the company studied the long-term effects from the sickness, or the extent to which Teflon exposures lead to human illnesses believed erroneously to be the common flu.

    The government has not assessed the safety of non-stick cookware. According to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety scientist: "You won't find a regulation anywhere on the books that specifically addresses cookwares," although the FDA approved Teflon for contact with food in 1960 based on a food frying study that found higher levels of Teflon chemicals in hamburger cooked on heat-aged and old pans. At the time, FDA judged these levels to be of little health significance.

    Of the 6.9 million bird-owning households in the US that claim an estimated 19 million pet birds, many don't know know that Teflon poses an acute hazard to birds. Most non-stick cookware carries no warning label. DuPont publicly acknowledges that Teflon can kill birds, but the company-produced public service brochure on bird safety discusses the hazards of ceiling fans, mirrors, toilets, and cats before mentioning the dangers of Teflon fumes....."

    sorry if some find this post so long but when I researched this further (as I had been planning to for some time now and finally did after warning in Poulet du Cajans post on bathing silkies about the danger of overheating in hairdyers where sometimes the heating elements are coated in teflon) and felt the results needed posting to allay any doubts over this danger.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2008
  5. dlhunicorn

    dlhunicorn Human Encyclopedia

    Jan 11, 2007
    There are varying programs regarding light management (dependent on breed and your chosen style of management) here are a few I hope will be helpful to you :
    (excerpt below)
    "...The colour of lamps is often given as a temperature in degrees Kelvin (oK). Kelvin has the same range and magnitude as Celsius, but doesn’t start with 0 at the temperature of melting ice, but at the absolute zero, which is -273oC. A high colour temperature stands for very short wave lengths (blue/green) and low temperatures represent long wave lengths (red/orange). This is a bit confusing, as a high colour temperature (blue/green) for us feels as a cold colour, where a warm colour as orange or red is measured as a low temperature. ......
    .....Birds and humans do make a difference between wavelengths. They can see especially well in bright, white light, which contains a lot of blue and green, so short wave lengths. Also humans experience bright white light as very intense. However, the reproductive system of chickens is not so much influenced by the light that they see, but by the light received in the brain. The brain of a chicken contains light-sensitive cells, and they are stimulated by the light that goes through the skull.

    But not all light goes through the skull evenly. Especially long wavelengths can penetrate into the brain. Compare it with music, where the bass (long wave lengths) can be heard easily outside a house or car. We can also see it if we have a torch shining on our hand, where the red waves will go through the skin and can be seen on the other side, colouring it red. This means that chickens use bright light (short wave length, high amount of blue/green wave length) to see, but they need red light (long wave length) for stimulation of the reproductive system.

    So if we want to stimulate eating behaviour (broilers) but also activity of breeders to find the nest and avoid floor eggs, we have to give them bright cold white light, with a high amount of blue/green. If we want to stimulate the reproductive system, we have to give them warm light, with a high amount of red/orange. If we use light in chicken houses, we must be aware of this."
    (talking with Michael Darre of the University of Connecticut and Extension Poultry Specialist for New England)
    Chickens need light to facilitate their sight; to stimulate internal cycles due to daylength changes; and to initiate hormone release – i.e., to make them lay eggs. “They’re very light sensitive,” said Darre.

    Light is described by its wavelength (the color that you see). Red light has a long wavelength and penetrates tissue (as seen when you put a flashlight in your mouth and red light shines through your cheeks). Red light also penetrates the skin and skull of a chicken, hits the pineal and pituitary glands in their brains, and stimulates chickens to lay eggs. Compact fluorescent bulbs work well for chickens and are better than incandescent bulbs, but Darre said to use 2700 K bulbs; these have a balanced light with lots of red and work well for stimulating birds. If you have an 8x10 building, one 9-watt compact fluorescent in the middle of the building is all you need. That will put more than half a foot-candle at floor level. If it’s too dark for you to read newsprint at the birds’ level, the house is too dark for the birds. If you’re shading your eyes from reflection of the light off the paper, it’s too light. Arrange light that’s comfortable for you to read by. The new LED lighting is good but expensive. Cold cathode tubes (CCTs) from FarmTech use about 1/10th the energy of an incandescent and more than half as much energy as a compact fluorescent, and they’re full spectrum, like an incandescent.

    Light is also described by its intensity, often in foot-candles. At 0.2 fc (which is too dark for humans to read a newspaper), chickens start eating. (In fact, chickens will eat in complete darkness; if they have complete darkness all day and night, every day, eventually they learn where the food and water are as them move around the coop.) At 0.3 fc, chickens start fighting. At 0.5 fc, they start producing eggs. An intensity of 0.5 to 5 or 10 fc is good for egg production, but more than 10 fc can cause behavior problems. Outside, in the daytime, the light intensity can be 1,000 to 1,500 fc. Chickens crowded in a small area under very bright light get very neurotic and start pecking one another. They’re very nervous, their eyes hurt, and they don’t know what to do, said Darre.

    Much of the industry starts its birds on 24 hours of light for the first two or three days, or at least a day; then it’s dropped to 23 hours, then maybe to 20. “My problem with that is, chickens don’t develop fear until about three days,” said Darre. “By exposing them only to light for the first three days, when they’re developing their responses to their environment, and then, on day four, finally showing them darkness, they’re going to freak out. I say let them see darkness when they hatch. Then bring them out in the light. They get used to both. So give them at least one hour of darkness in the first few days.” The birds will require another source of heat during that hour; and in a small, home flock, where the birds are used to a varied environment, getting them used to the dark in the first few days may be less important than in a more controlled, less stimulating environment, Darre added.

    From day four until 13 weeks of age, chickens should get 8 to 10 hours of light so that egg production isn’t stimulated too soon. When they’re in production, bring that up to 15 1/2 to 16 hours of light per day, and maintain that throughout their production period. They’re long-day breeders. If they see decreasing light during the production period, that tends to throw off production.

    So, never increase the duration or intensity of light during the growing period, until you want chickens to start producing eggs. Many of the newer commercial breeds start laying at 18 weeks. You may want to hold off until 20 to 22 weeks, to get better egg size. Start stimulating about four to six weeks before you want the first egg.

    Also, never decrease the duration or intensity of light during the production period – unless you want to molt the birds. (Molting is decreasing the size of the ovary and reproductive tract, leading to a halt in egg laying.) To molt chickens, decrease light to about 8 hours, take their food away for a couple of days (but never take water away from them), then bring them slowly back onto their feed. You can also let them molt naturally in the fall.

    If your birds aren’t laying eggs but haven’t lost their feathers, don’t worry, cautioned Darre. The idea of a molt is to give them a rest and to get rid of excess body fat. Even wild migratory birds molt; they go into a period when they don’t eat; they start using their reserves of energy and fat, becoming trimmer, so that the body fat in their abdominal cavity is not pushing on the reproductive passage. “That’s what you’re trying to do,” said Darre. “A fat old bird will lay eggs sporadically, or she may end up being egg-bound from the pressure.”
    (One (commercial/production oriented) lighting management system with some useful information >see excerpt below)
    "...The third important factor in raising pullets is good lighting. Not following a well designed program for only a few days may cause serious harm to the flock's development.
    All lighting programs used with commercial flocks use the principles of decreasing light stimulation for growing pullets and increasing light stimulation after the pullets have reached a mature production age. Light is a very strong stimulating factor in poultry and must be carefully managed...
    ....Between three and 22 weeks of age, the birds should be put on a decreasing day length, lighting program. Determine the date when the pullets will be 22 weeks of age and find the nearest corresponding date in the table provided. Next to this date is the length of day which should be provided to the pullet at three weeks of age. This lighting duration should be shortened by 15 minutes each week until at 22 weeks the birds are receiving a natural day length for that time of year.
    .....Prolapse of the oviduct can be caused as a result of genetic traits, early maturation, or a combination of genetics and poor management. Pullets which are overfed and over stimulated with light often begin egg production before their reproductive systems have had time to completely develop......"
  6. There A Chick

    There A Chick Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 7, 2008
    Creedmoor, NC
    How are you supposed to know if your red light has the PTFE coating or do you just assume they all do.[​IMG]:|

    I, also, was going to use the red heat lamp for my water this winter. Now what should I do?
  7. Colored Egg Farmer

    Colored Egg Farmer Chicken overload

    I used red heat lamps once. They light was not enough for the chickens to be really active and the looked almost dead. I switched light bulbs to clear heat bulbs and I had a drastic change, they started eating and running all over so I'm never using red again unless I have a picking problem.
  8. fowltemptress

    fowltemptress Frugal Fan Club President

    Jan 20, 2008
    Quote:Really? The red numbers on our alarm clock drive me nuts . . . I wound up having to get a sleep mask in order to be able to handle it. Maybe I was just more bothered by the idea of the light being there, more than the light itself.
  9. HorseFeathers

    HorseFeathers Frazzled

    Apr 2, 2008
    Southern Maine
    We have a normal light that comes on in the morning (we let them go to bed naturally because when the light suddenly went off they wouldn't be able to see). We are waaaay up in the USA- Manie- so winter brings REALLY short days.
  10. LilBizzy

    LilBizzy Chicken Storyteller

    May 20, 2008
    In commercial chicken farming, the chicken catchers do their job at night and use red headlamps when they come to catch the chickens to take them to processing. I've seen this done, and the chickens stay pretty calm. So, yes, red light is not disturbing to the chickens

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