Supplemental light - a summary of sorts 不

LinzeeBrie

Songster
Apr 13, 2018
320
535
158
Okanagan, BC, Canada
Okee dokee... I just spent way too long reading forum posts and articles 不. I'm considering adding supplemental light for the first time ever... I feel *okay* with it (maybe still not great?) because we're past solstice...). And I'd really like to ramp things up so that I can get the incubator going this spring! So some of my thoughts/summaries/questions:

1. My coop is small (cozy and comfortable, but definitely on the minimum requirements side of things - building a new one in spring), but my run is big (and they free range most days). Sooo I'm going to light both the coop and the run (hardware cloth fully encloses both, so they have full access at all times).
2. Aiming for 14 hours of light per day, and will definitely be adding it in the morning. Thoughts on how important it is to add it gradually vs all at once? Is it inevitable that my roos are going to be crowing as soon as the supplemental light comes on? Doesn't bother me, but might bother the neighbours
3. I swear I saw a description of the perfect light somewhere (lumens, wattage, warmth, all that good stuff), but can't find it back... How are we feeling about some warm white christmas lights?
4. How soon would you expect to start seeing a change? Is it worth it, with spring coming, and the fact that I'm not completely sure I feel good about it?
Pardon my rambling... Please someone come ramble with me? 不
 

Sally PB

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
Aug 7, 2020
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I don't know for sure, but I thought I read to lengthen the "day" gradually, like 15 min/day. I've also heard that if the light in the coop is bright enough to read a newspaper by, it's bright enough. Hopefully more knowledgeable people will be along and comment.
 

NatJ

Free Ranging
Mar 20, 2017
8,193
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706
USA
Is it inevitable that my roos are going to be crowing as soon as the supplemental light comes on?

Yes.

3. I swear I saw a description of the perfect light somewhere (lumens, wattage, warmth, all that good stuff), but can't find it back... How are we feeling about some warm white christmas lights?

A guideline I saw years ago: if you can read a newspaper, it's enough light.
:gigSomeone else posted exactly that while I was typing.:lau


This might be the thing you saw, or at least have some of the same info:
https://www.val-co.com/lighting-practices-successful-laying-hens
It has a link to a .pdf, and describes several different lighting systems, with pros/cons of each.

There are other articles listed on this page, in case you want more dense technical info to read:
https://www.val-co.com/category/resources/white-papers

Is it worth it, with spring coming, and the fact that I'm not completely sure I feel good about it?

If you're not comfortable with it, and you're worrying about the roosters crowing, then I probably wouldn't bother. They will probably start laying in not-too-many months anyway, given that we are past the winter solstice (as you pointed out).

Your hens will probably not start laying at the same time--one may begin weeks before another. You could make a point of hatching eggs from the early-starters first, if that's a trait you want to breed for. I've seen some breeds that really do seem to lay with fewer hours of daylight than some other breeds.

And I'd really like to ramp things up so that I can get the incubator going this spring!

Think about where you are going to raise those chicks, and for how long. You've already said your coop is on the small side. It might be good to wait a little longer, even though that's miserable when you're impatient.

Pardon my rambling... Please someone come ramble with me? 不

Here I am, rambling along on more-or-less the same topic as you :lau
 

LinzeeBrie

Songster
Apr 13, 2018
320
535
158
Okanagan, BC, Canada
Yes.



A guideline I saw years ago: if you can read a newspaper, it's enough light.
:gigSomeone else posted exactly that while I was typing.:lau


This might be the thing you saw, or at least have some of the same info:
https://www.val-co.com/lighting-practices-successful-laying-hens
It has a link to a .pdf, and describes several different lighting systems, with pros/cons of each.

There are other articles listed on this page, in case you want more dense technical info to read:
https://www.val-co.com/category/resources/white-papers



If you're not comfortable with it, and you're worrying about the roosters crowing, then I probably wouldn't bother. They will probably start laying in not-too-many months anyway, given that we are past the winter solstice (as you pointed out).

Your hens will probably not start laying at the same time--one may begin weeks before another. You could make a point of hatching eggs from the early-starters first, if that's a trait you want to breed for. I've seen some breeds that really do seem to lay with fewer hours of daylight than some other breeds.

Very, very good point!! I have one hen that still lays almost daily, and this is her second winter. I'm not sure what she is though? This is her when we got her last March:
Screenshot_20210104-164204.png



Think about where you are going to raise those chicks, and for how long. You've already said your coop is on the small side. It might be good to wait a little longer, even though that's miserable when you're impatient.
I forgot to mention that I've got a second coop for chick raising, and a whole bunch of hardware cloth panels to make a run:

Screenshot_20210104-164455.png


Here I am, rambling along on more-or-less the same topic as you :lau
And I appreciate it so much! Oh shoot. I didn't do this properly. I added some responses and pictures embedded into the quote.
 

NatJ

Free Ranging
Mar 20, 2017
8,193
17,203
706
USA
The hen might be some kind of red sexlink. They often have some white, although that one has a lot more white than most of them do. They also tend to be good layers.

If that's not what she is, then I don't know what she might be. (I see you're in the western part of Canada, and I'm on the eastern side of the USA, so the breeds common in my area might not be the same as the ones common in your area.)

The separate coop for raising chicks: I'm glad you already thought of that!

The responses in the quote: yes, it's a bit fiddly to get all the tags right so it formats nicely. I messed it up quite a few times while I was learning it, and I sometimes mess it up even now that I "know" how.
 

WallyG74

Crowing
Premium Feather Member
Mar 7, 2020
1,113
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Meridian, MS
Ive toyed with the idea of extra lightning but really decided against it. Those links are really geared toward large commercial farms that need maximum production from optimal lighting. One section even says the less natural light, the better. That doesnt scream happy backyard flock to me. Its my opinion that we (backyard chicken people) are on a much different level than what these suggestions are going for. We are more hobby and pet people. My feelings say let it happen naturally and you and your chickens will be happier for it.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,060
22,763
907
Southeast Louisiana
1. My coop is small ,,,,,, building a new one in spring),

Excellent

2. Aiming for 14 hours of light per day, and will definitely be adding it in the morning. Thoughts on how important it is to add it gradually vs all at once?

How soon would you expect to start seeing a change?


Every recommendation I've seen from someone I'd mostly trust has been to do it gradually. Light is very important to them, not just for egg laying but for social behaviors. I'd try to not shock them too much.

For a hen to go from not laying to laying is not an instantaneous process. She has to change her internal plumbing to get ready, the internal egg making factory shuts down and has to be reinvigorated. Her ova need to grow to the right size to make a yolk for the egg. From start to finish this switch can take weeks. Some people extend lights and get instant results. That means she was already in the process of getting ready to lay.

If you extend the lights to 14 hours and for some reason you stop before natural light reaches 14 hours you can easily send them into another molt where they stop laying. If you start the process you should not end it early. Remember that sunrise is earlier and sunset later each day so it's not as easy as just looking at when the sun rises.

On the 14 hours, how long are your days now? In BC, not real long. But you have a hen laying now with that amount of daylight. What does that tell you about how long days have to be before they can lay? One advantage of a longer day is that they have more time to eat so they will probably eat more. That extra nutrition might help them to lay more often or make the eggs they do lay a bit larger.

I think that 14 hours comes from the commercial egg laying industry and is based on more things than just how much light they need to lay. The way they feed them to get each hen to eat as much as she needs for good egg laying but prevent a food hog from taking too much is wait until they are hungry and feed them all at the same time with a certain amount and enough feeder space so they can all eat until it is gone. Then wait until they are hungry again and do it again. They have the timing down for that so 14 hours works.

What triggers them to lay much more than length of day is that the days are noticeably getting longer. Right now they are not getting longer by that much each day but that process will soon speed up. If I were to do this (and I do not) I'd start adding 15 minutes in the morning every three or four days for two or so weeks. That should kick start the process of them changing their bodies to get ready to lay. Then stop adding light until natural light caught up. Never let the day get shorter.

Is it inevitable that my roos are going to be crowing as soon as the supplemental light comes on?

You don't get guarantees with behaviors of living animals, practically anything can happen. But I'd bet a lot of your money and a little of mine that you will hear crowing pretty early.

4. Is it worth it, with spring coming, and the fact that I'm not completely sure I feel good about it?

We all have to make our own decisions and live with them. You are not trying to get them to skip the molt, you are just trying to get them back to laying early after they have finished the molt. Don't let people harass you about upsetting their natural lives, you are not. I understand the desire for hatching eggs, I incubate in February so I don't run out of meat in the freezer in May or June. Some years I'm limited in how many eggs from how many hens I have to set. It's not always as easy a decision as some people would have you think. I'm not going to criticize your decision either way.
 

LinzeeBrie

Songster
Apr 13, 2018
320
535
158
Okanagan, BC, Canada
On the 14 hours, how long are your days now? In BC, not real long. But you have a hen laying now with that amount of daylight. What does that tell you about how long days have to be before they can lay? One advantage of a longer day is that they
Very short! I noticed they were all tucked in before 4:30 yesterday, and they're up around 7:00. You're absolutely right though - I have the one girl laying consistently, and at least one other egg a few times a week. I think I'm probably going to just leave it be - the days will get longer before I know it.... I think I'll incubate some eggs from a friend instead :). Thanks for chatting! It honestly helps me so much just to talk things through.

Ps. I'm excited about building a new coop, but also a little sad . I put a lot of love and hours into this one! Hubby said he could get on board with me having chickens (in addition to our 5 kids, 3 dogs, and a cat 不) as long as I did all of the work myself!
 
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Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,060
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Southeast Louisiana
I'll tell a story your husband might appreciate more than you. When I retired we moved to two acres in the country. My wife (a city girl) wanted outside dogs, I said OK though I knew I'd be the one taking care of them. She said why don't we get chickens. I grew up with chickens and was willing to take care of them. I was glad to get chickens.

Then she regularly got goat milk from a friend to make cheese and such so after a while she wanted to get a milk goat. I said fine, but you need to help your friend with her goats every day for a month, no days off because when you have animals like that you don't take a morning or evening off, let alone a whole day. Once a day would be enough, either morning or night milking. You need to learn how you will take care of your goat and you need to learn how you will milk your goat twice a day, every day. I'll be glad to build the facilities once you do that for a month so we can get the design the way you want. That was the last I heard about a goat.
 

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