Chicken Coop Lighting for Egg Production
The best lighting types and required hours of light for chickens to lay through the winter.
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Do you need chicken coop lighting for egg production, and how much light do chickens need to lay eggs?
Coop lighting is essential, especially when you have laying hens. This goes beyond common sense practical reasons; lighting contributes to flock health and well-being, especially for animals living indoors for periods.
Laying hens have a particular vested interest in their light exposure. It can maximize their egg production to keep them laying even through the less opportune times of the year. Doing this effectively requires an understanding of physiology along with the proper application.
The Science Behind Lighting
While a natural process, egg-laying behaviors have been heavily influenced by selective breeding and domestication. But nature has laid a strong framework that still governs the hen’s biological systems. In early spring, daylight reaches 14 hours a day. At this time, hens will naturally begin their yearly laying cycle. However, their fullest potential for regular laying happens when daylight hits a full 16 hours.
The daylight triggers a physiological response in accordance with the warmer season — the ideal time to sit on a clutch so that hens will hatch chicks through late spring into early summer. This allows their vulnerable offspring to grow and develop their feathers when the weather is primarily mild to be ready to go for the harsher winter.
Both egg production and pullet maturity are naturally dependent on this light. But, as chickens were domesticated, their perception and physiological response to light have changed. This includes adapting to a wider range of the light color spectrum and having different spectral intensity responses. Chickens can see UV-A light, which is more intense than UV-B. This makes their magnitude of sensitivity for red and blue spectra also much higher.
A wider range of light responses means that hens can better utilize an artificial chicken coop light as a supplement to their natural daylight. Their response to light — due to how the eyeball absorbs or reflects and in addition to some glands — controls their hormones and behavior. Although they can use artificial light to these means, the intensity and duration can have varying impacts.
With this knowledge, utilize light as a management tool to help optimize pullet growth, age of sexual maturity, and egg production in various environments.
Using Light Effectively in the Coop
Apply artificial lighting in the coop at the lowest intensity level. Experts recommend lighting that is just bright enough to read a newspaper at bird level. Such lighting should be on in the morning hours so the birds can naturally roost. Likewise, place lights above feeders and waterers. Keep a few areas in the hen house shaded, allowing hens to escape the light if they so choose.
Maintaining uniform light intensity can be difficult, even in commercial poultry houses. Backyard coops will vary in design and style quite a bit, so lighting solutions may require a bit of a trial-and-error approach. Just make sure that it is uniform and can supply an adequate number of hours through the winter months.
Once pullets have reached 16 weeks of age, they can receive a maximum of 14-16 hours of artificial light exposure throughout the year. The best way to incorporate the additional lighting time is to increase light exposure by an hour each week until you are up to the maximum hours of light per day (automatic timers are great for this).
Not all artificial lighting is created equal. Even when given the same number of hours, different types of light sources can have different effects. With fluorescent bulbs, choose a “warm” color (ranging from red to orange) to stimulate egg production. Research has shown cooler colors don’t seem to have a positive impact on reproductive mechanisms.
Likewise, incandescent bulbs can be expensive but can achieve the same effect at a more affordable cost when coupled with a dimmer. LED bulbs can also be used and may be more reliable in the harsh conditions of the coop through the colder months. As a whole, experts tend to recommend LED lights for laying hens for their versatility, reliability, and light distribution.
Approximately 50 lumens supplies sufficient intensity. Remember to expose feeders and waterers to the light and nesting boxes left in shadier places.
Even if you are not using chicken coop lighting for egg production, lighting is more than just practicality. It’s an important stimulant for a hen’s biology. Understanding the way the chicken eye perceives light and how domestication has aided in the process is essential for housing the layer through the winter months.
No matter your coop style, be sure to have lighting in mind as you get your winter preparations in order. Areas of shade and privacy are also still important to maintain. Color of light can impact the way a chicken functions, but when it comes to the type of light, it will vary based upon the coop requirements.
- Daniels, T. (2014, December 25). How to use artificial light for chickens in winter.
- Hy-Line International. (2017, February 4). A guide to led bulbs and other sources of light for egg producers. Zootecnica International.
- Ockert, K. (2019, October 1). Decreasing daylight and its effect on laying hens. MSU Extension.
Originally published in the December 2021/January 2022 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.