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ideal light hours for egg production

 
Leah Sattler
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I finally got my hen house set up and even with a light! the four layers will have to stay locked up until they learn where to sleep but soon they will get to go back out and free range during the day as I prefer and they haven't been able to do all summer. I'm wondering what experience you guys have considering the best amount of simulated daylight to keep the chickies laying through the short winter days. As soon as I can rustle up a timer their set up will be complete!

 
Jami McBride
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Great chicken house, makes me want to re-do mine.

Seems I've read 8 hours, but it's been a long time since I've done the research.  We tried a light for awhile several years back but found it a pain (don't remember all the reasons now.... wait, I remember, the timer was throwing the circuit breaker - what a pain!).  Anyway I switched to a nightlight with auto censer - so it comes on when required.

That was all we needed to see when in their house, and the chickens produced just as well as they had with the light as far as I could tell that first year.  Could be because the nightlight was right at their head level when they were on the roost....

This solution keeps with my minimalistic attitude that doesn't want to over work every little thing.  Couple of years later and we had ducks so we are always loaded with eggs no matter what time of year it is.

~Jami
 
Leah Sattler
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ok looks like I found the info that seem reliable. I need the light to stay on long enough to achieve a minimum of 14 hours and probably 16 hours of light when combined with the natural daylight hours.

hmm. also found out september is "chicken month" or something. interesting.
http://goldenplains.colostate.edu/light_and_egg_production.html
http://www.umext.maine.edu/onlinepubs/htmpubs/2227.htm
 
paul wheaton
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I seem to remember having the light come on at 4am every day and shutting off at 8am every day was about right. 

I remember that having the light on in the evening wasn't good, because then it would suddenly go out and the chickens might not all be roosted yet.

 
Leah Sattler
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so ducks lay despite the light hours? thats sure a plus for ducks!

paul- thats about what I was figuring. did that keep yours laying well?

I plan to set it to come on in the AM. if I put their supplemental food out in the evening hopefully they will wake up and have it mostly finished by the time I let them out to range around. that will hopefully keep my full time free ranging chickens that are mostly here for fun (and occasional chicken soup) from getting the feed. i butchered one sunday evening and it was nice to find its crop full of bugs and grass. daughter had a great time dissecting it to see what it had been eating! chicken soup monday was wonderful! its amazing the difference in the amount and color of fat on homegrown free ranging chickens in comparison to store bought. I'm ready for those tasty eggs again also that come from free rangers. not the bland "lay ration eggs".

 
paul wheaton
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Leah Sattler wrote:
paul- thats about what I was figuring. did that keep yours laying well?


It helped.  But there are other things that helped too.

 
Jami McBride
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That reminds me....  My coop is 80% chicken wire, just the area with two roosts has walls.
In the winter I cover the chicken wire with two layers of clear plastic all the way around.  So their house is very light inside, the same as outside.

I definitely believe this helped.  Warmth would help too.

~Jami
 
paul wheaton
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Well, it would have a little more greenhouse action thanks to the plastic, right?  Although I think I would face the open side to the sun because the plastic reduces the quality of light that gets through.

Insulation on the coop would be helpful.

 
Jami McBride
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Yes...Yes and Yes.  My chick-house does face south and east.

Also having a light, as Leah plans, will add warmth/heat as well.  I have noticed with both my chickens and ducks that stresses of any kind, such as cold temps, a storm, sudden changes, etc. will affect egg productions.  Even extreme heat will affect egg production unless the girls are used to it.  So buffering these animals from stressors helps keep production steady.

Like most everything in life it is the sum of the parts that brings success.  In the case of egg production is is feed, light, warmth and maintaining the norms.

~Jami
 
Jennifer Smith
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Well, new experiances with chickens... same old chickens. 

They are sharing the horse barn, are roosting up high (great!) to handle preditors.  So far I have lost 3 hens here and have started closing up the barn at night.  (one hen was a horse causalty) 

After reading this thread I worry about light as it is a dark barn with the doors closed.  I am keeping a light on in there at night.  Not just for the chickens, but to their benifit I hope. Since they got here I only get 1 or 2 eggs a day but that is plenty for me.  I keep chickens to clean up after horses, and for entertainment, more than for eggs anyway.

On my list is the clear roof panels I had installed in my last barn, but there is a LONG list of projects.  Who builds a barn with no natural light?

So what would you all think of a cold dark barn with a light?  Happy enough chickens or is there something else I could/should do?
 
Jami McBride
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Sure, they should be happy enough.

If your temps drop real low at night you could add another light (if that works in your situation) up by the rafter they prefer, about 8-10" from the side (different distance for different wattage so test it with your hand).  Then your girls can roost around the campfire/light bulb so to speak.  Since a barn is big and these chicks have had free run of the place you will need to make changes slowly.  Add the light, but don't turn it on, let the girls get used to the new addition, make sure they are not bothered by it's closeness and will continue to roost there.  Then go out late the first night and turn it on.  With animals conditioning/training is always a consideration.

Another idea would be to make a partial containment at the top of the roof encompassing part of a rafter.  Add a light and the containment will hold in the heat from the light.  Leave the bottom open for the birds to get up there and there poo to get out.  Easiest materials for this would be plastic sheeting.

You could eventually enclose a very small section of the barn next to a wall, floor to ceiling with chicken-wire and train the birds to go in and roost there.  Thereby keeping them and their poo from the horses.  Enclosing the top area and giving them their own light would then be much easier in this set up.

All in all I would keep it as simple as possible, only doing what becomes necessary in your situation. 


You may know about production with a small flock already, but I'll add it in case it might help someone:
With a very small flock staggering the age and life cycle becomes more important.  For example, every spring buy a couple new chicks, by fall they will begin laying and molt shortly there after (no eggs during molting). You can cull (for the pot) in the fall the group that turned 3 years old that spring, this is the time egg production usually drops off.   

This way your birds will molt and cycle differently and you will be keeping them during their high egg production years.  You can buy/try different breeds each spring and know on sight what age each group is.  A 4 year flock is also a good rotation.

But since yours are for enjoyment mostly    culling my not be in their future.

~Jami

Silly Tidbits:  Did you know you can train your chickens not to cluck?  I live in the city where clucking is frowned upon.  When a group of new chickens begins to lay and announce it by Bakaw-ing we run out and lightly spray 'em with the hose.  In no time at all the announcements stop and they lay eggs without all the noise for the rest of their lives.  Before anyone shouts chicken abuse - red spots in egg whites are a sign of trauma or fright to a chicken.  There are none in the eggs of our chickens in training.
 
paul wheaton
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Just a quick tie-in .... for more information on getting more eggs (especially in the winter):  http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/911_0/critter-care/hens-not-laying

 
paul wheaton
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I just read something that suggested that you put the light in one of those bulb safety things for when you are working on your car - so the bulb is behind a sort of cage.    And then you keep the bulb low to the ground - that way if it attracts bugs, your chickens can eat the bugs!

 
Leah Sattler
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thats a cool idea!

finally got an egg again yesterday. whew. it appears that they went through a molt also. after getting a chance to talk to a chicken expert friend he determined that was probably what was taking so long. I was getting a little frustrated.
 
Leah Sattler
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three eggs a day now! would be four if I hadn't lost my leghorn. looking at the date on my first post it took almost two months to get them all laying again. better late then never!
 
Jennifer Smith
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paul wheaton wrote:
I just read something that suggested that you put the light in one of those bulb safety things for when you are working on your car - so the bulb is behind a sort of cage.    And then you keep the bulb low to the ground - that way if it attracts bugs, your chickens can eat the bugs!

I kept a light out as a chicken buffett when I lived where the the wild horses run.  Really cut down on the june bugs and stuff coming in front door...oh I kept it on the front porch instead of the over the door porch light.  Yes the chickens made a mess but it was safest place for them and what a dramatic cut down on bugs!!
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Jami McBride wrote:
Did you know you can train your chickens not to cluck?  I live in the city where clucking is frowned upon.  When a group of new chickens begins to lay and announce it by Bakaw-ing we run out and lightly spray 'em with the hose.  In no time at all the announcements stop and they lay eggs without all the noise for the rest of their lives.  Before anyone shouts chicken abuse - red spots in egg whites are a sign of trauma or fright to a chicken.  There are none in the eggs of our chickens in training.


That makes a lot of sense. If I put a home automation system in my house, perhaps I'll want to put in something that monitors for noise, similar to the collars that spray barking dogs.
 
Leah Sattler
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some chickens are louder than others also. i have had some that made a huge ruckous everytime they laid an egg. the three layers I have now are relatively quiet.
 
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