If you are starting your own backyard flock of chickens, it can seem overwhelming at first. There is a lot to know, and you always want to be sure you are doing the right thing. For example, one of the myriads of questions you may have is whether or not you need to keep a light on in the chicken coop at night.
Do Chickens Need A Light In Their Coop At Night?
As a general rule, chickens do not need a light in their coop at night, and they only require between six and eight hours of darkness to get a good night’s sleep.
However, lighting is generally particular to chickens and their egg-laying capabilities.
This article will discuss how lighting is vital to chickens and when additional light may be needed. I will also talk about how darkness is essential to a good night’s sleep.
Why Light is Important to Chickens
One of the most critical pieces of knowledge a good chicken owner needs is understanding why light is vital to chickens. Light is wholly connected to chickens and their egg production. In fact, without light, egg production is seldom possible.
The Light-Dark Cycle
The light-dark cycle is the name given to egg production as it relates to light exposure. Hens are most productive during the spring and summer as there is ample sunlight, which provides them with more than enough light to lay their eggs.
The flip side of this cycle is the slowing down of egg production during winter due to decreased natural sunlight.
Why the Pineal Gland is Important
If a chicken does not have an adequate amount of darkness, it can significantly affect her pineal gland, which can lead to a great deal of stress, and a weakened immune system.
What is the Pineal Gland?
A crucial part of the endocrine system, the pineal gland produces melatonin, which is necessary for sleep regulation and egg production.
During the long months of the year, the pineal gland sends out an extra amount of hormones needed to increase egg production. However, the opposite occurs during the shorter months of the year, and melatonin output decreases, resulting in few eggs.
By understanding how the pineal gland works, chicken owners have a better idea of the importance of a dark atmosphere for her to rest, and in fact, too much light can lead to issues with reproduction.
Adequate Light and Chicks
Most people who are raising day-old chicks know that they need a constant source of heat for the first several weeks of life, but what about light?
Adequate amounts of light are essential for baby chicks, but what about at night? If a baby chick is hatched and kept with her mother, so will get enough warmth from her and will not need additional lighting at night. After all, mother knows best.
But chicks that have hatched without a hen need warmth and lighting at night as it’s essential for their development. A heating lamp kept over the brooder should do the trick in providing both.
Darkness is Just as Important as Light
We know that light is vital for good egg production, but too much of a good thing can be detrimental. Therefore, chickens should never have continuous light, even if you are trying to increase egg production.
Chickens, like ourselves, need to sleep. They can not survive without proper sleep, and for them to have adequate sleep, they need darkness. In fact, chickens can not and will not sleep with a light on.
Exposing hens to a continuous light source will only confuse them, and they will miss out on that essential sleep they need.
Why Is Sleep So Important for Chickens
A chicken’s immune system thrives on adequate sleep, and depriving them of it is almost sure to cause illness and disease. If a hen does not get six to eight hours of sleep a night, overproduction of eggs can occur as continuous light only causes her to produce more. This can ultimately lead to vent prolapse and ovarian cancer.
Another reason that proper sleep is essential is that hens can easily become stressed out without it. Stress has unfavorable results on hens, including behavioral issues and illness, and stress can also lead to aggression towards the flock.
Ensuring Your Chickens Get a Great Night’s Sleep
We know that hens need a good six to eight hours of sleep a night, but there are also things you can do as a chicken keeper to add to their sleep quality.
Provide a Roost
The story behind chickens and roosting goes back thousands of years to when chickens would naturally roost high in the trees for protection from predators. This is why chickens always prefer to sleep as high up as they can, and by having a proper roost in your coop, you are giving them the peace of mind they need to sleep well at night.
You don’t need to provide a lot of roosts, and often even just one will do, depending on the size of your flock. Chickens will snuggle together to keep warm at night, so space is usually not an issue.
What About Artificial Light in the Colder Months?
Daylight during the summer months is usually around 14 hours, but when the amount of sunlight decreases during the colder months, egg production slows. Therefore, some chicken owners feel artificial light should be added during the winter months to keep egg production high.
But many chicken keepers feel that adding artificial light goes against nature and that a chicken should lay her eggs when nature intended.
There is no right or wrong answer, and it’s merely a personal choice among chicken keepers. Artificial light can be used, but it should be done responsibly.
How to Use Artificial Light in the Coop?
If you choose to add artificial light to your chicken coop, this should be done during the morning hours as this will help prevent your hens from getting startled by sudden darkness rather than the gradual setting of the sun.
Types of Light Bulbs
You can use two different types of bulbs if you wish to add supplemental lighting to your coop.
Incandescent light bulbs are easily dimmed, giving you the option to have a less drastic shift in lighting. This is closer to the hen’s natural rhythm. Incandescent bulbs are also easier to clean and not as expensive to install.
Fluorescent light bulbs are more expensive to install and can be tedious due to the high dust levels in most chicken coops. In addition, the lighting intensity is much harder to regulate and can easily disrupt the natural rhythm of the hens.
The rhythm of night and day is essential for hens and their egg production, and the proper amount of light will keep their egg production up.
Sleep and darkness are equally important, and hens can be thrown off completely without a good night’s sleep in the dark. Therefore, except for baby chicks, there should be no light source at night in the chicken coop to keep them happy and healthy.
- Can You Leave A Chicken Coop Open At Night?
- Do Chickens Need A Heat Lamp In The Winter?
- How Do Chickens Know When to Go to Bed?
- Do Chickens Need Sunlight?