Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Lighting your Henhouses

Planning henhouses and choosing the right design is confusing and I want to make sure your chickens get what they need. Check out these simple henhouse plans after you read about lighting your poultry coops.

As you may know, hens and pullets need 14 hours of daylight a day to lay eggs regularly. You certainly have the option of letting nature take it's course and not providing light in the henhouse. There will be a lower egg production over the winter months and it may help reduce boredom and feather picking.

In Northern climes, if the chickens have that break over winter, come April to June their lay rate will be way higher We have gone with no light in the poultry coops and they will still lay eggs, just not as many. Some breeds like the partridge chantecler there is barely a difference in winter, but in spring that will lay slightly better for not having the light.

The surge in production in the spring as the day lengthens is great if you are going to hatch chicks or sell pure bred hatching or fertile eggs. In mid winter, we find the demand for farm-gate egg sales is less, so don't feel you have to provide light.

That said, it is extremely straight forward to provide 14 hours of light to the henhouses in the depths of winter.

First if all, start your henhouses design with at least one good sized south facing window. Chickens love to lay in the sun or even dust-bath in it, inside the henhouses if it streams in that window in the winter months. You will not have to run a light bulb all day with a decent sized henhouse window and you save that 8-10 hours of electricity.

You can supplement to get the 14 hours total light with a money saving light-bulb on timer at the end of the day. We hang a timer up in the top of the henhouses to give that additional light. You can use a cheap timer or more expensive light senor type. As far as bulb wattage, we use a 100 watt bulb if the light will be 6 feet or higher off the ground, and in bigger henhouses, say over 15 feet squared.

For smaller or lower-roofed poultry coops you may go to 60 or 40 watts, as too strong a white light can make the chickens be more aggressive to each other. The fluorescent compact bulbs don't work as well in the extreme cold so we use incandescent.

The other type of lighting we occasionally use in the henhouses (if the temp gets below -20 degrees Celsius) is the 250 watt red heat lamp. These are also used for brooded chicks for the first 4 week of life, for sick or ailing birds.
Occasionally, if it is very cold in the winter and I have small, old or large combed birds that just need a boost we will put in a corner of the henhouses about 2 feet above the ground till the cold weather passes.

If you are in the process of planning your henhouses, click here to check out the best henhouses plans we have found online. If you have any questions or comments go ahead. Maybe we can help! Thanks for reading about lighting your henhouses.

Tags: henhouses, henhouse, poultry coops, chickens coops, chicken coops


  1. I have read that artificial light should be used in the pre-dawn hours, rather than in the post-dusk hours. Gradually-fading natural light at dusk is supposed to help promote healthy circadian rhythms. Also, reportedly, the sudden darkness caused by turning off a post-dusk light can be disorienting to the birds, who are unable to settle onto roosts properly due to the instant loss of light.

    1. I totally agree on the biology, great point and thanks for the excellent comment.

      Part of the timing for us is the convenience factor. With darkness falling around 5pm midwinter, we do the bulk of our chores after work in the evening around 7pm, when we are less rushed.

      By turning the light on to collect eggs and fill feeders and waters, the birds came down from the roosts after sleeping a couple of hours anyway, so we figured one block of light and dark was the lesser of the two evils and we are not blundering about in the dark.

      Our chickens are often roosted already, when we go in and the light is still on! Maybe they learned not to wait to the last minute! ;-)

      Some years we give no light at all and that works too. I just read recently that chickens require 10-30 lux to be productive and some breeds actually need 18 hours of light above that threshold for full productivity.

      Interesting, seems we are learning new things all the time. Even research with LEDs and different wavelengths. We are going to try LEDs in the coop shortly so will report our findings as they should be less expensive to use.