To Light or Not to Light

To Light or Not to Light

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cute and querky decorations for chicken keepers
My “Fresh Eggs” sign that hangs outside the chicken coop in the backyard

Adding a Light

Why did I choose to add a light source when I was building My Chicken Coop? When I got chickens, eggs were one of the main reasons for keeping them. A light in the coop keeps egg production going during the shorter days of winter. Domestic chickens are descended from Red Jungle Fowl that are native to South East Asia, closer to the equator, where daylight hours only decrease slightly by a few hours with the change in season.  North America is not their natural environment.  A Sunlight Calculator can be used to determine local daylight hours, just adjust the setting to the closest big city.  Many folks keep their lights set to provide a day length of 14 hours.  I added light, but only enough to make day length mimic their native environment with 12 hours in months with shorter day length. Eggs are not a top priority with my bantam flock, so we have not been using a light with them. We just buy a few cartons at the store as needed in the off-season.

By using a timer, I added a couple of extra hours to the coop in the evening.  I added it at the end of the day, instead of the morning, to avoid early rising hens disturbing the neighbors (or me!)

Is it Necessary?

I won’t deny, lighting a chicken coop in the shorter daylight hours of fall and winter is not all that necessary here in Los Angeles.  Our local daylight hours drop down to only about 10 hours in midwinter.  We don’t have the extremes folks do at more Northern latitudes, where there would be more of a need for extending the light to avoid a dramatic drop in production in winter.  I have maintained my flock both ways, with added lighting and not lighting. The flock that had a light in the coop with a timer, produced all through the fall and winter. The flock without the adding light has a drop in egg production as the daylight hours decrease and they pick up again in late January most years.


A common misconception in regards to lighting is that chickens need to rest their reproductive systems, sort of like a bear hibernating through winter or a cow not naturally producing milk in the winter.  In their natural environment in the jungle, they do not get this “rest.”  Why would they need it here?  There is also the camp that worries adding artificial light will cause health problems for the hens. 

Important Considerations

The only times I am aware of that flock owners can run a risk of health problems for their chickens with lighting a chicken coop in winter is with:

  • Inconsistency. Even in just one or two days, can cause the hens to go into an untimely molt.  If you plan to add light, use a timer.
  • Poor management of developing pullets. It causes problems with Prolapse in young pullets not yet of laying age. Read Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, by Gail Damerow for a more detailed explanation. NOTE: This is one of my favorite chicken books, it was the best selling chicken book for decades before chickens became so popluar. I read it through many times before actually taking the plunge and getting my own chickens. I highly recommend the book if you are new to chickens.
  • Starting too late in the season or not gradually. For layers, lighting should start in September if it is used.
  • The hens are confined indoors in too small of space for the number of chickens. If so, they are more likely too pick on each other.

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