Raising a home flock for the primary purpose of producing fresh eggs can be a rewarding and challenging venture. To accomplish the goal of year-round egg production, one of the most important factors to consider, next to the overall health and nutrition of the flock, is lighting.
The avian reproductive cycle, which is how a hen produces eggs, is stimulated in poultry by increasing day length. As day length approaches 14 hours per day during early spring, chickens begin laying eggs, gradually increasing their production as the day length increases. They will reach their maximum egg laying potential when the day-light reaches approximately 16 hours per day. By providing artificial light, growers can manipulate this natural cycle to their advantage and increase the egg laying potential of their flocks.
As mentioned above, approximately 14 hours of light per day is required to stimulate a hen to lay an egg. Anything below that will cause her reproductive cycle to shut down, triggering the hen to cease egg production until spring when the natural day length will increase to sufficient levels once again. Artificial light needs to be applied when the day length approaches 15 hours per day; which happens in September. By applying extra light in the morning rather than the evening, chickens will naturally go to roost with the setting of the sun.
When setting up sources of artificial light, pay attention to the type of bulb (fluorescent or incandescent) and wattage needed to most effectively supply the proper amount of light. Should the choice be made to use a fluorescent fixture, a warm wavelength bulb (appears as orange or reddish light) must be used since the “cool” wavelength bulbs, which are commonly used in offices and households, will not stimulate the hen’s reproductive cycle. Light fixtures in the coop should be placed above feeders and waterers, and care should be taken to avoid having areas in the chicken house that are shaded from light.
An additional consideration for the producer is the cost associated with implementing a lighting system. Depending on the size of a poultry operation, supplying artificial light can noticeably raise electrical bills. Since it is easy to forget to turn the lights on in the morning and usually not cost effective to leave the lights turned on all the time in the chicken house, a programmable timer is a viable and cost effective remedy to ensure that laying hens receive the amount of light they require to continue producing eggs, while minimizing electrical bills.
Although there are many issues to consider when implementing an artificial lighting program, most producers find it to be a rewarding investment. By properly managing the amount of light that the residents in your chicken house receive on a daily basis, you will be ensured of a year-round supply of eggs.
The above excerpt is from the article: Proper Light Management for Your Home Laying Flock by Chad Zadina, Extension Poultry Assistant Sheila E. Scheideler, Extension Poultry Specialist, published by Cooperative Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.