The concept of supplemental lighting has been used in commercial poultry production since the 1920s. As a backyard and homestead poultry keeper, you may wonder if there is a need to offer extra light hours for your birds.
You might be looking at adding extra light for my chickens when the days are short and the nights long and cold.
Do chickens need extra lighting? Some poultry keepers choose to add extra lighting for their chickens to increase egg production in layers. Others use supplemental lighting to shorten the period meat chickens reach their desired weight. This leads to processing the meat birds earlier, hence increasing production. While this might be okay for some, other poultry keepers prefer to let nature have its way.
Let us have a look at why you may want to have light in the coop.
Which came first, Chicken, Egg or Light?
I may not be in a position to answer this, but chickens need light, whether natural or artificial for production. Their productive cycle is triggered by the dark-light cycle, also known as photoperiod. This means that chickens need both darkness and light.
Light penetrates chicken through the eyes, skull, and skin. It activates the pineal gland found in the brain (yes, chicken have brains) of the chicken. The gland produces serotonin and melatonin hormones, which in turn guide the chickens' biological processes, one being stimulating the ovaries to produce eggs.
Studies have shown that hens never reach their productive maturity until they are exposed to 12 hours of light. Chicken need between 12 to 14 hours in order to produce eggs. Shorter daylight hours will lead to a decrease in production. This explains why your girls will give you more eggs in summer and spring while they slow down production during fall and winter.
Understanding light for chickens
Chickens perceive light differently from human beings. They can see small light fluctuations that people cannot. They do see red, blue, green light, and even ultraviolet light. This gives them the ability to see more shades of light than human beings.
All chickens, even the blind ones can sense light. This is because, in addition to the eyes, chicken can tell the presence of light through the pineal gland. They can tell when it is daylight and when the season changes.
The right kind of light
When considering light for chickens, there are three factors involved. These are the spectrum of light, the intensity of light and duration of light.
Do chickens need a light in their coop?
You will need light in the chicken coop for:-
See while doing your chores in the coop - You need to see while in the coop. When collecting eggs, having some sort of lighting in the coop will make sure you do not miss some. It is also easier to do a headcount at night when the chickens a calm and not running around. You will also need light to see when administering medication or vaccines at night when the chickens are calm.
Increased productivity - As discussed, hens will lay more eggs when the right number of light hours are provided. Providing light in the coop will help get more eggs from your girls.
Heating when in extreme cold - a heat-emitting bulb is one of the ways you can provide warmth for your chickens, in cases of extreme cold
Heat for baby chickens - Baby chickens are not able to generate their own body heat, hence an external source of heat is needed during the early days. A heat emitting light bulb is usually used to provide heat in the brooder.