Lighting Your Coop

There’s plenty of debate among chicken keepers as to whether or not to light their coops in the winter months.  This time of year the days are shorter and the temperatures are not getting any warmer, but does that mean you should consider supplemental light in your chicken house?  There are many reasons that chicken keepers turn to supplemental light.  It’s not just to keep the coop cozy, it is helpful because a chicken’s egg production is dramatically reduced in the shorter days of fall and winter.  Adding a light to your coop will help to keep your hens laying, but are there negative side effects to this change?

Everybody loves collecting eggs.
Everybody loves collecting eggs.

A hen’s ability to lay is stimulated by a gland which is affected by daylight.  Her pituitary gland, in about fourteen hours of sunlight, will signal her ovaries to release an egg.  In less than fourteen hours of daylight a chicken’s system does not send that message, and it will take a few days for her to gather enough light to lay her egg.

Putting a light in the coop has other side effects besides stimulating egg production.  It’s pretty much necessary to get any chores done in winter, so you should at least put in a light that can be switched on and off when you’re working.  A light will be helpful in keeping the coop warm, especially if you use a heating lamp.

There are plenty of negative aspects to lighting the coop as well.  From a safety perspective, adding a light always has its risks and a heat lamp is a particular fire hazard.  Since a chicken coop is often dry and contains straw and other highly flammable materials, the placement of the light is very important to avoid unnecessary risk.

Chicken keepers have hypothesized that there are health risks to lighting the coop for extra egg production.  It has not been proven that there are serious side effects, but the risks haven’t been debunked either.  Theories abound that adding a light to force a chicken’s cycle to continue can increase her risk of ovarian cancer and a condition called vent prolapse.  Both of these conditions are fatal if contracted, and hen owners believe that making a chicken lay continually throughout the year rather than experiencing her natural winter rest is a major contributor to these problems.

Our coop light is on for an hour in the mornings, so I can see my work as I do the chores.
Our coop light is on for an hour in the mornings, so I can see my work as I do the chores.

If you are going to light your coop, invest in a timer and only use a low level light such as a night light.  This small increase in light will be enough to keep your hens laying, and be less startling to them as it comes on.  It is always better to time a light to turn on earlier in the mornings, rather than staying on later in the evenings.  Hens will have a hard time finding their roosts if the lights suddenly go out at night.  Alternative light sources, such as a solar powered light, will help reduce the risk of fire in the coop.

Another way to get more eggs through the winter months?  You can always get more chickens!  Chicks that you got in the spring months will start laying in November or December, and should not decrease their production for at least a year.

A coop light will help keep you rolling in eggs through the winter months, but there are serious risks to consider.  It is always best to let nature take her course and allow your hens some winter rest, but if you need eggs this is a sure fire way to increase production.

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4 thoughts on “Lighting Your Coop

  1. Great article, thanks for sharing. I use solar, it’s not great, but they offer some light a little longer. Here in Phoenix, our birds lay all year. Maybe because it’s so mild, not sure. Production slows just a little, but certainly not as much as where it’s very cold. I should research this, not sure why it’s different here, considering our days are shorter too. ???

    1. That’s a great question. I’m sure the added cold is uncomfortable for them, but I don’t know if it would affect production. We have one hen whose never slowed down at all, and the rest stop completely for a month or two. I think it depends a bit on the chicken, too.

  2. Who knows about chickens, I have one who NEVER lays an egg, others who lay all year round, and then some don’t seem to have any regular schedule at all! Funny, I just accept whatever… even the freeloader. lol

  3. Interesting; I know there are two side on this one. I used a red heat lamp w/ my girls. We get below zero in the winter & yes, it’s nice to see where I am dumping the food:) Egg production decreased significantly, but did not stop so I felt like I was catering to both sides. I was informed (can’t remember how or where) that the red light isn’t as hard on their systems as regular white lights in winter.

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