Is there a downside to putting a light in the coop for the winter months?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by cargilelove, Nov 6, 2013.

  1. cargilelove

    cargilelove Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 21, 2013
    From what I understand if I put a light on a timer and give the girls a few extra hours they will produce more eggs through the winter. I'm wondering if there is any risks? Will it mess with the girls natural instinct? Any info would be great!! Thanks!!!!
  2. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    If you have feather pickers they will tend to pick at each others' feathers more when confined and the light is on.

    But if you don't have a problem with this in the flock then it really is no issue.

    If the light goes off late at night they may be caught off the roost. I do this and don't worry about it though. My light goes off at 10pm, to give them additional time in the coop to eat and walk around a bit. I don't turn the light on early in the morning, as many do. I don't want to activate the cockerels' crowing.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    We all have our different goals and reasons for doing things. Adding light can kick start young pullets coming into laying age to start to lay and it can delay the molt so hens continue to lay. Perfectly legitimate reasons for extra lights in my opinion, especially if you are selling eggs and you want to keep your customers happy.

    I personally choose to not add lights. I always have pullets which tend to skip the molt and continue to lay those small eggs all winter so it’s not like I’m without eggs for my use. My main goal is not eggs anyway, it’s meat plus I like to play with genetics. The eggs are just a nice sideline with most of them being given away to a food bank or sold at church with the money donated.

    Chickens do not lay continuously from first egg until they die of old age, even if kept under lights. Each individual can be different but for a flock there is a definite curve where laying builds up to a peak, stays there for a bit, then starts to drop off. That’s number of eggs plus egg quality. An example of egg quality is that the whites can get runny. Hatchability can drop. That’s why commercial egg operations are forced with a decision when productivity of quality eggs drops. They either force a molt or replace the laying flock when profitability drops enough. Normally this is after maybe 11 to 12 months of continuous laying. Another advantage of them molting is that the eggs are usually noticeably larger after an adult molt.

    Most hens will go through a molt or mini-molt after 11 or 12 months anyway. They need the time off to recharge and renew their body and store up nutrients and pigments they need for egg laying. Many people that add lights through the winter to keep them laying experience a drop in egg production in summer and blame it on high heat. Don’t get me wrong, high heat can cause a drop in egg production, but sometimes that is just the hens taking some time off to refresh their bodies. You can get extra egg production in the winter by adding lights but you just might pay for it during the summer.

    It’s a personal decision. I’m not trying to say that my way is right and everything else is wrong for everybody. I think it does help to have some facts to base that decision on.

    Good luck whichever way you decide.
    9 people like this.
  4. GaryDean26

    GaryDean26 Chicken Czar

    Dec 22, 2011
    McAlester, OK
    My Coop
    One of my ecclesiastical leaders used an analogy on artificial light in production flocks about 2 years ago that really got my attention. He had studied this in depth (Phd thesis type depth). He said that researcher have found that laying around the clock all year long fatigues hen and they burn out really quick. The average age of a chicken in the US is 10 months old. If you want to rotate your layers every year then lighting will maximize your production. The alternative is investing in birds breed for longevity. Heritage breeds that are built right and breed for steady production over a long life span lay for 6+ years. I heard of a Hungarian Yellow hen that lives in Canada that is 10 years old and still laying 13 eggs a month.

    I also know of a local 4H boy that kept one pen on artificial light one on natural lighting last winter. He was able to increase production on the lighted pen, but because he is more into chicken for pets, show, breeding his family decided to use natural light to give the hens the rejuvenation that they require to keep their feathers in top condition, increase the vitality of hatching eggs, produce thicker egg shells, etc.

    in short: Pros to artificial light are increased winter production, Cons are hen suffer from high stress.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2013
    2 people like this.
  5. cargilelove

    cargilelove Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 21, 2013
    Just like everything in life.... I am a firm believer that nature does what it needs to do because that's inherently the way it works best. Thanks for the comments. It really mirrors what my instincts were telling me. : )

    6 people like this.
  6. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    Fire. Fire is a big risk. Burnt to death hens won't lay at all [​IMG]
    2 people like this.
  7. cargilelove

    cargilelove Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 21, 2013
    hahahahaha!! yes, burnt chickens would slow production.
  8. xmonster0

    xmonster0 Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 1, 2013
    Calhan Colorado
    In my experience the down sides are the following

    less frozen water in the coop
    less loss of chickens due to freezing to death
    and more eggs in the winter, in fact my hens lay consistantly year round

    hope that helps
    1 person likes this.
  9. Cindy in PA

    Cindy in PA Overrun With Chickens

    Jul 8, 2008
    Fleetwood, PA
    I have been lighting my coop from August 15th until May 15th for 20 years. I started lighting because the article in Organic Gardening in 1993 told me to do it & told me everything else I needed to know for chickens. My chickens have always molted & taken their turns at "resting" in their second fall even with lighting. I never understood the comments that lighting keeps chickens from molting. I have never found that to be true. They molted on schedule & the light was there for the ones that were still laying. Chickens indeed are born with all the eggs they will ever have, but so is every other female in the food chain & very few ever "run out" including humans. I have had 8 year old chickens laying a few eggs a week, even though they laid like gangbusters in their first 2 years and were hatchery stock. This is just my experience, so everyone has to make their own decision on lighting.
    2 people like this.
  10. Interesting, how do you employ your lighting regime?....................RR
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2013

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