Newbie question... what do chickens see?


In the Brooder
8 Years
May 7, 2011
We have an excellent run (just built) and a huge shed for our four hens and one rooster. We have cut and installed secure windows into the shed for ventilation and light, but here's the question. Do chickens see well at night?

Up until recently, they've been under a heat lamp, so even at night, they've had light. In our new shed, I've installed a compact fluorescent 10w bulb, and I have it on during the night. Do they need this? Should I allow the natural light to come through the windows and let the chickens experience dawn, dusk, and complete darkness at night?

Thanks for your help,

I wouldn't keep a light on in the coop at night. They may complain for a night or two, but then they will be used to it. I've always read chickens don't see well in the dark, but then they're asleep, they don't need to -- and they sleep better in the dark. I've read of people having bad experiences with keeping a light on, and correcting the problem by turning it off.
Chickens need darkness. They need it for good rest. Even in the huge factory style broiler houses they turn the lighting off for at least 30 minutes a day. 30 minutes is a joke though.

Your lighting will come in handy in winter, you could put it on a timer to increase the amount of "daylight" the hens get and increase egg production. You will want the light to come on a couple of hours before dawn, then turn off. Then once again for another couple of hours after dark.
Ok, I was wondering this very same thing. I have another, How old do the chicks need to be before the light can be turned off at night? as soon as their feathers come in? I think the light is more for me than the chicks, my husband says "Jenn their not afraid of the dark" LOL I cant help it I worry about my girls.
another thing with lights.....
if you're putting it on a timer, try not to have the OFF time be AFTER dark. let the darkness come gradually so they can get to their roosts and prepare for the night.
If it goes to complete darkness instantly, I've read the can't get up to the roosts due to poor eyesight.
In the winter months I have a light that comes on early in the AM before sun up, but it turns off a few hours later, and
let the darkness come on it's own.
4-5 weeks they are feathered well enough to go without the light
Thank you! I really appreciate your feedback. Tonight will be their first night of natural light (or lack thereof)...

Mine are 5 weeks old and I havent had a light on them for a couple of weeks now. But , I do let them get settled in with dim lights, or a small light ( I can tell by their chirps) and huddled together for awhile before I turn out all the lights. I didnt one time, and they like froze in a spot on the linoleum and no one would move, I went in to shoo them to the shavings area and they didnt respond normal ha ha , it was kind of funny, but I got them settled in. Then lights out ! night night time birdies !~

I read someone had a chicken stuck outside in the dark and couldnt see to get back in the coop .
As with most birds, chickens have about the same range of color vision that humans do. (Indeed, that is in significant part the POINT of having bright-red comb and wattles, it is a mate-choice signal). That is also why they are such vicious cannibals when they see blood -- they SEE the red of blood, it is quite distinct and noticeable to them.

The point of a red lamp for chickens is to color everything the same color so that blood looks black and doesn't stand out as anything peck-worthy. This is different from the use of a red bulb for most mammals, most of whom cannot see the red wavelengths so while WE can see a mammal illuminated only by red light (in the nocturnal-house at the zoo, for example) THEY cannot see it much if at all and so percieve themselves to be in near-darkness.

AFAIK the reason broiler houses turn off the lights at least briefly every day is simply to accustom the chickens to darkness so that if/when there is ever a malfunction and it goes *accidentally* dark, they don't panic and pile up and suffocate a bunch of 'em to death, which is otherwise a signfiicant problem.

As far as I know, chickens do not experience substantial amounts of obvious distress/illness if kept lit 24 hrs a day. But, personally I can't believe it's good for them, and it's kinda wasteful to boot.

It's real common for people to start off with your situation of brooder chicks accustomed to 24-hr light (b/c of the brooder lamp); it is not usually a big deal to transition them to learning to deal with night, especially if it is a relatively small number of chickens. Obviously you do it a bit gradually, as you're apparently planning, but they WILL learn to cope and you will NOT need to leave a nightlight on for them for very long, really really

Good luck, have fun,


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