Lights in winter--necessary?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by beakkeeper, Nov 29, 2008.

  1. beakkeeper

    beakkeeper Songster

    Jul 20, 2008
    I know, I know, you need the lights IF you want your hens to keep laying at full production. [​IMG] But is it really necessary? Will a "cold hardy" bird keep laying throughout the winter, granted not at full production?

  2. Wildsky

    Wildsky Wild Egg!

    Oct 13, 2007
    Not necessary.
    I didn't use lights last year and none this year so far, we still get eggs, but not as many.
    THursday we got 6, Friday 4 today 3.
    I have about 18 layers - some are molting.
  3. Mac in Wisco

    Mac in Wisco Antagonist

    May 25, 2007
    SW Wisconsin
    Ours keep laying. With 13 birds we'd get 9 or 10 a day in the summer, but get down to 3 or 4 a day in the winter.
  4. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
    My girls had a temporary slow down (about a week) when the days first started getting shorter. Now they're back to their normal production.
    I don't know if it's that they're a cold hardy breed or a breed known to lay well in the wintertime (or maybe a combination of the two?) - LF brahma.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2008

  5. digitS'

    digitS' Songster

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    There are 2 different issues here - one having to do with light and one regarding cold-hardiness.

    A laying hen can be well-insulated against the cold. With available feed, she can increase her calorie intake and stay warm and healthy, probably down to very cold temperatures.

    Without light, she cannot see. Her ability to see in low light is even more limited than humans.

    Chickens naturally live in latitudes with nearly equal hours of light and darkness, year around. We know that egg production falls off when hours of light decrease. It should come as no surprise that a hen in 24 hours of darkness would not lay, at all. Of course, she probably would not eat, drink, nor would she long survive.

    If we were all living in the tropics, questions about light probably wouldn't come up. There would not be much need for supplemental lighting if I lived at 28° north latitude in Orlando, Florida. On December 21st in Orlando, my chickens would have 10 hours 20 minutes of sunlight. (If I did the math right.)

    If I lived in Juneau, Alaska at 58° north latitude, on December 21st, there would be 6 hours 20 minutes of sunlight. Out of a 24 hour day, the birds would be roosting for 17 1/2 hours, if they depended on sunlight.

    I don't live in Juneau nor in Edmonton but along with a lot of Europeans and about 10% of the population in North America, I live farther north than any part of Maine and north of Toronto and Montreal.

    At nearly 49° north today, my chickens have less than 9 hours of sunlight - assuming that there was a level horizon and no storm clouds. In another few weeks, there will be less sun.

    The need for light has to do with the absence of sunlight. Do I want the birds sitting in the dark for over 15 hours out of every 24, right now? Of course not.

    Will they lay well if I provide them with 12+ hours of electric light? Of course they will.

  6. TeaLady

    TeaLady In the Brooder

    May 9, 2008
    I'm really impressed with the lights I'm using.

    I'm at about 47.5 degrees North latitude. This time of year, sunrise is at about 7:30 and sunset at about 4:15 -- less than 9 hours of sunlight. But with the cloud cover here in western Washington and especially in the foothills where I am, we sometimes go days without getting past twilight. That much dark & gloom ain't fit for man nor beast. I sure would not want to do without my full-spectrum lights in the house.

    My oldest chickens were just starting to lay at the end of August, and the dark would have brought that to a screeching halt. The youngest batch probably would have never started.

    I have compact florescent work lights on a timer for my girls. The lights are either full-spectrum or close to it (they are good for color matching). They are on from about 5:30 in the morning until about 8:30 a.m., and then from a bit before 4 in the afternoon until 10-ish (since I'm a night owl and often wander into the coop late in the evening to say howdy to the girls).

    From 12 chickens I was getting 6-7 eggs a day in the first part of November. Since then I added the timer (I'd been a bit erratic about getting the light on and off) and the younger girls came on line, and now I'm getting at least 8 a day. Yesterday I got 12 eggs!! That included 5 blue eggs from my 4 EEs, who usually give me 2 or 3 a day, so either somebody was being an over-achiever that day or else that first blue egg I found was laid the evening before.

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