We put a light in our chicken
coop for the first time this year. You're probably aware that you
can boost egg production in the winter by keeping "day length" 14 hours
or longer. The flip side of that coin is that your flock has to
deal with laying extra eggs during what would naturally be more of a
rest period, so your hens may get sick and/or wear out sooner.
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In the past, I've
decided the extra eggs weren't worth the wear and tear on our flock
(and increased electric bill), but shortening days arrived this year
before our spring pullets started to lay. A young hen (pullet)
can start to lay eggs after she's five to seven months old, but she
might put laying off until the next spring if she doesn't get started
by early fall. Our oldest pullets hatched on April 20, so they're
due to start laying anytime, but I think the shortening days put their
biological clocks to sleep. Anticipating a winter nearly without
eggs was enough to make me lower my standards and hook up a light.
doesn't have to be fancy, but it should be consistent. You'll
need a timer to turn the light on and off --- 14 hours of daylight is
the goal, which currently means turning on the bulb for three hours in
the evening. Many folks recommend adding your extra lighting in
the morning so that the chickens don't get caught on the ground when
the light flicks off, but if you keep your light relatively dim, your
chickens will spend most of that additional daylight on the perch
The type of bulb doesn't seem to be all that important either --- we
used a fluorescent for the lower electric bill, but some people suggest
even LED Christmas lights or nightlights might work. The rule of
thumb is that good egg-laying breeds will respond to 5 lux, which is a
light intensity at which the average person can just barely read a
newspaper. Heavier breeds need 50 lux to keep production up ---
equivalent to the lighting in an average family living room.
(This is still considerably less light than a very dark, overcast day
or office lighting.)
I have high hopes that
the extra light will have our Black Australorps laying shortly.
I'm ready to stop rationing eggs!