To light or not to light…that is the question.
The debate continues among flock owners if adding supplemental lighting to your coop during the winter months is the best thing to do.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of supplemental lighting, so you can decide for yourself if lighting your coop in the winter is right for you.
Production vs. Feed Costs
The number one benefit to adding supplemental light is keeping egg production flowing.
With the days getting shorter, the need for additional hours of light, up to fourteen hours a day, is necessary for a chicken to lay an egg.
Many flock owners cringe at paying a feed bill when no eggs are produced. Adding lighting takes that sting out by keeping eggs coming all year round.
Many studies have found red lights in your coop to calm your chickens and prevent hen-pecking and cannibalism that may happen during the winter months.
The red light actually prevents the chickens from differentiating their flock mates combs and wattles, making the pecking order of no effect in those closed quarters.
However, the red light does not register as daylight for a hen, so it will not keep egg production going, but the benefits of a happier flock may be worth the light.
As temperatures plummet the addition of lighting can be helpful for your chickens.
Chickens are super hardy, with their coat of feathers and do well in a coop averaging at a 40-degree temperature.
A heat lamp/light can help keep the falling temperatures at bay in your coop, however, if you choose to use a heat lamp, be very careful as they’re well known to cause coop fires! A safer option would be a panel heater.
Cost of Lighting
Winter lighting does bring about an additional cost to your egg production. The added electricity during those long winter months can add up.
The cost can increase even more if you forget to shut your light off. Putting the lights on a timer would help to keep costs low.
Chickens are curious creatures, and if they get bored and begin to peck the bulb, the breakage could be disastrous.
Shards of glass in your chicken’s feathers or worse, having them eat the broken bulb would undoubtedly bring about cost in vet bills or even worse the death of your chicken.
With additional lighting in a coop and bedding (kindling) on the floor, there is always the risk of fire.
Electrical cords can become frayed or damaged, and a fire in your coop can be disastrous.
If you have a mixed age flock, lighting can cause damage to chickens under the age of sixteen weeks. The added light signals their body to begin egg production before their body can support egg-laying.
According to studies, it is best to wait until the pullets are at least twenty weeks before adding artificial light in the coop.
Does the added light shorten the life of a chicken?
Does the added light reduce the number of eggs a hen will lay in her lifetime?
The answer to both of these questions is No.
A chicken is born with all the eggs she is ever going to lay within her, so laying through the winter won’t diminish the number of eggs she produces in a lifetime.
However, it will shorten the hen’s egg-laying life because once her eggs are gone, they’re gone.
We hope this helps you to make the decision of whether you will add lighting in your coop this winter or not.
Share your decision below and what lighting you decided to install.