Should Chickens Have A Light On At Night?


The coop at dusk

For myself, I prefer to have all the lights off and the windows open so long as the weather allows. Unfortunately, my toes don’t always appreciate my midnight voyages through the dark. Having even the smallest of night lights would probably save me from at least a few injuries or better yet, the wrath of spouse who was woken up a startling ‘thud’ – which is inevitably followed by a stream of cursing (from both parties!!!).

It’s easy to understand why a concerned flock owner would wonder about adding a night light to the coop. However, if you want your chickens to have a good restful sleep, then you should leave their coop as dark as possible – this means ‘no’ to the nightlight.

As a general rule, if it’s light enough for chickens to see, then they are awake. This may have to do with their survival instinct of constantly watching for predators. Regardless, if you decide to add a light to your coop, then be sure to install a light switch (and food/water), as I have my doubts as to whether or not your chickens are going to truly rest.

Our flocks have always used the normal sunrise and sunset cycle for going about their day. I figure this seems to work for a whole bunch of wildlife birds, why shouldn’t it work for mine? After all, the original chickens came from the wild.

The one exception to my ‘no nightlight’ rule would be the chicks that we are raising in the brooder. Considering how small and fragile they are when they arrive and just how much they will grow in the first 8 weeks, I am most comfortable with giving them access to food and water 24/7. Obviously, this will not happen to the chicks being reared by mama hen outdoors. But as I am the one who usually gets to play mama hen and do need to check on things in the middle of the night, having a light is very helpful.

### Important Note ###

You may see one of your chickens sleeping during the day. I don’t see it very often, but I will occasionally catch one my girls with her eyes closed. It’s important to note, however, that there is a difference between the rare afternoon nap and a good nights sleep.

Just like us, a short nap in the afternoon can go a long ways, especially if we’re sick. However, extended periods of napping without a nights sleep, is ultimately going to be destructive to your chicken’s health.

How Many Hours Of Light Do Chickens Need To Lay Eggs?

Living in a northern latitude, we have quite a range of daylight hours. It’s anywhere from just under 9 hours of daylight in the winter time to 15.5 hours of daylight in the summer. That’s a pretty big range for an animal that uses the sun as their alarm clock.

Egg production for your flock will vary with the amount of daylight hours they have. However, it has been my experience even at 9 hours of daylight, a flock of five Barred Rocks (at less than 2 years old) should still lay more than enough eggs for your family – per weekly demand. You may not have a whole lot of extra to barter with, but there should be enough for your personal needs.

Winter Lighting For Egg Production

Moonrise over the chicken coop

It can be tough to see your egg production cut, maybe as much as half, with the shorter days of winter. For those lucky enough to partake of your extra stock during the summer, it can be pretty disappointing to hear that you don’t have any extra share. I always feel bad, but then I always encourage them to get a small flock of their own (there is a lot more to chickens than just eggs!).

Adding lighting to your coop can override the natural daylight cycle, encouraging your hens to lay more. But…do you really want to do this?

For production facilities, it is more than obvious why you would want reliable output. These individuals make a living by providing a steady flow of product. A reduced output of 50% is clearly not an option. For them, controlling the sleep cycle is absolutely necessary.

However, for the average backyard flock owner, maximum egg output 12 months out of the year may not be necessary or even desirable. Remember, for flocks in northern climates, your birds are not going to be getting the same amount of exercise as they do during the longer summer days.

Also, the range in your chicken’s diet will be considerably more diverse when there isn’t several feet of snow on the ground. This extra nutritional input is certain to coincide with available daylight hours and the consequential egg production.

Granted, today’s chicken feed is very capable. So ultimately, the choice of ‘tricking’ your hen to lay more eggs is up to you.

If you do choose to do this, please consider installing a timer on your coop light. Any inconsistencies in the wake/sleep cycle is certain to affect your flock. Chickens can be easily stressed out. If you forget to turn off the light, then it is certain to be a rough night for them.

### Important Note ###

For those of you who live in the warmer lower latitudes, you can pretty much disregard any of the above. Your environment is painfully more conducive than mine (LOL).

Do Chickens Stop Laying Eggs In The Winter Cold?

It is true that the colder temperatures mean more calories burned in order to stay warm. This could very well take some of the energy away from producing eggs. However, it is not my opinion that the colder temperatures are the key factor for lower egg production. It is probably more due to a loss of daylight and exercise.

As some of us are familiar with, loads of snow on the ground can make things difficult when it comes to getting around. Ever try hauling a full garbage can up the driveway through 15 inches of snow? It’s not fun!

And with chickens being especially fond of scratching and pecking at the ground, an over-abundance of snow just makes for an all around bad day. The right breed of chicken will weather the colder temperatures just fine. The problem with grumpy birds comes from the fact that they can’t get access to unfrozen dirt. Consequently, they will stay inside the coop, hunched up and grumbling about about the weather (sound familiar?). Hence the phrase, ‘all cooped up!’

Do Chickens Stop Laying Eggs In The Hot Weather?

Every breed of chicken has an ideal operating range of temperature. Cold hardy breeds such as the Orpington would probably have a very difficult time with excessive heat as compared to the White Leghorn – an all white bird with a huge comb and wattle.

Extreme heat can cause a loss in egg production, just like limited nutrition or unwanted stress. For production facilities, this means ensuring some measure of temperature control. For us backyard farmers, though, it generally means doing what we can to wait out the weather.

For an in depth look at chickens and heat, check out ‘Can Chickens Die From Heat?

Conclusion

If you have concerns about how many eggs your hens are laying, then I highly recommend posting on a chicken forum. The help that I have gotten from these boards has been absolutely incredible. You are bound to find someone that either is or has been in your exact position.

When posting, make sure to include important details such as:

  • Breed Chicken – as each breed has its own quota of eggs laid.
  • Age of the chicken – Older hens will naturally produce less than younger ones.
  • Size of your flock – Do you have the right number of birds for your expectation?
  • Chicken Feed/Supplements – Is your flock getting enough nutrition?
  • Environment – Quite often, I will get a response from someone who lives within an hours drive; meaning they know exactly what I am dealing with with regards to the weather.