People and chickens operate on different schedules that sometimes conflict.
As days shorten and the temperatures drop, people turn on furnaces and electric lights and sleep about as many hours as they do in summer. Not chickens. Their daily schedule is set by daylight. Lacking artificial light, they settle into a long night’s sleep as soon as dusk arrives and don’t wake until tomorrow’s dawn.
So for chickens, winter is a time of rest, not reproduction. Although cooler temperatures don’t reduce laying, decreased daylight causes egg production to dwindle. Chickens ideally need 14 or 15 hours of light for high egg production, which can be difficult to achieve during the darkest days of December. And that can create a problem for backyard producers needing plenty of fresh eggs for their holiday baking!
Fortunately, there's an easy solution. A single light bulb simulating June’s day length will boost production. Often, the same light fixture used to brood chicks serves well for winter lighting. Here are a few tips:
- Suspend it near the coop ceiling.
- Use a 9- to 12-watt compact fluorescent or LED bulb. Neither bulb type uses much electricity, but LED’s work better in cold weather.
- Set the lamp on a timer such that it comes on during the dark early morning hours and switches off after dawn.
Some people question whether it's ethical to "trick" chickens like this, arguing it's better to let nature take its course with reduced egg production. That's a question we leave to our customers. But for those inclined to manipulate their chickens' natural environment a bit, offering nine hours of natural daylight augmented by several pre-dawn hours of artificial light will help keep hens reliably laying eggs throughout the winter.