Friday, January 14, 2011
Do you give your chickens artificial light in the winter? Why? And how do you think it affects egg laying?
Here is why I ask.
About everything I've ever read about raising chickens for egg laying says that you'll need to give supplemental lighting during the short days of winter to keep up egg production. It is one point that everyone seems to agree on - except two people.
My dad never gave his chickens light during the winter and he always had plenty of eggs. He did design a chicken coop with large windows low to the floor for lots of sunlight.
Gene Logsdon, in one of his books (forget which one), claims that the legend of chickens needing supplemental lighting was begun by the electrical companies to persuade reluctant farmers to attach their farms "to the grid".
Our chicken coop is out in our pasture and not near an electrical source. Our coop is a garden shed that we retrofitted for chickens by cutting large holes for windows and small hole for a door.
Last year was our first year to have chickens. We had a small flock of heritage breed hens and they drastically cut back their laying in the winter. But we were expecting it and really weren't alarmed and they picked up laying again in the spring.
This year we have eight sex-link hens, a commercial type breed. They are young birds, only begun laying in October so they are in the prime of life. Nearly every day for the past three months, we have received eight eggs from these hens. Occasionally, we get only seven. The two old heritage breed hens that we keep as pets lay eggs occasionally as well. Since the breeds lay a different color egg, we know who laid what.
We have given them no light but sunlight. Their coop is uninsulated. We have experienced very cold weather this winter and every morning my husband has to dump the ice out of their water. They are fed grain in the coop. If there isn't snow on the ground (these girls hate snow) we let them out to run free in the afternoon. They relish the food scraps in the compost pile and try to steal cat food.
I'm just wondering what other's experience is. I don't think we could get any better egg laying production. Do we just have extra hardy hens? Or is supplemental lighting truly unnecessary? Of course, in commercial laying houses, lighting is necessary since no sunlight is available. But I'm talking about the home folks.Thanks for helping my curiosity!
And, yes, we are getting over run in eggs! We can't eat eight eggs a day. But it is a great "problem" as everyone loves receiving a gift of fresh eggs.
Photos are of our five year old who presently has the chicken feeding/egg gathering job. The wire egg basket and coonskin hat are treasured gifts from his grandparents!