How you decide to install lighting in your chicken coop depends on the light's primary use. If you merely want the coop illuminated so you can feed or clean in the dark, a simple incandescent bulb does the trick. If you're trying to fool your hens into thinking the days are longer so they'll continue laying, you'll have to install timers.
Fooling Mother Nature
As autumn approaches and days grow shorter, you'll notice that your hens aren't laying as much or have stopped producing eggs altogether. That's partially because hens require about 14 hours of daily daylight to lay eggs regularly. If you don't want to wait until spring to have a supply of fresh eggs, you can install artificial lighting in the coop to fool the hens' bodies into thinking that, cold as it is outside, it's still spring or summer.
Types of Lighting
Before electricity was available, farmers painted the interior of chicken houses white to increase the amount of light reflected. Today, backyard flock owners can choose from incandescent or fluorescent lighting. For the backyard chicken keeper, an incandescent bulb is the best bet. The University of Nebraska Lincoln website points out that while fluorescent lighting is cheaper, it's more difficult to install and maintain in the dusty chicken coop environment. You'll also need a red or orange wavelength bulb, since the standard fluorescent lights won't stimulate the bird's reproductive cycle. For most home flocks, an incandescent 40 watt bulb or two, depending on the size of the coop, works best. Place the lights in an area where they best illuminate the bulk of the coop. Clean the bulbs regularly.
It's All in the Timers
If you're trying to fool your hens into thinking the days are still long, you must install timers on your lights and adjust them as the season changes. In the depths of winter, there's only about nine hours of natural light, so adjust your timers accordingly. It's best to adjust timers so that the extra hours of light come prior to dawn, rather than adding them to the evening. That way, you don't interfere with your flock's roosting schedule.
If you've experienced issues with predation, consider installing a solar-powered light emitting diode, or LED, on the outside of your chicken coop. During the day, the light stores energy from the sun's rays. Once the sun sets, the light starts flashing a tiny red light, ceasing when morning breaks. This light scares off common predators such as raccoons and foxes, keeping them away from your coop so your chickens aren't killed while roosting.
- University of Connecticut: Light and Lighting for Poultry
- Hobby Farms: 15 Accessories For Your Chicken Coop
- Nutrena World: Winter Lighting in the Chicken Coop
- The Poultry Guide: Chicken House Artificial Lighting in Winter
- University of Nebraska Lincoln: Proper Light Management for Your Home Laying Flock
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.