Chicken House Artificial Lighting in Winter
Hens naturally lays less in the winter than the summer and this effect can be mitigated by the provision of artificial light to control day length for the birds. Through the winter, poultry have normally no interest in breeding. There are good reasons for this because, in the wild, the reduced day light, general lack of food and cold weather are not suitable conditions for breeding.
If you are raising chickens for eggs and want to continue to have a good supply throughout the winter, you will need to provide additional lighting during the winter months when daylight hours are shorter. Chickens need approximately 14 hours of light a day, or their egg production begins to fall off.
Increasing the 'day' by giving a certain amount of artificial light in the coop is a routine exercise with commercial flocks, so that the number of eggs does not dip in the winter. It is also a technique that is used by breeders to induce earlier laying so that the breeding season is extended. The effect of light is to stimulate hormone production. The need for light was well known even before the availability of electricity. Traditionally, chicken houses were painted white inside to maximise the amount of reflected light.
Where mains electricity is available, wire your chicken coop so that you can install a light on a timer. If you set the light to come on early in the morning before dawn, you will increase the available light hours for your chickens, and also provide some additional warmth during the coldest hours of the night.
It is best to set the timer in the morning to go on before dawn and let the chickens go to roost in the evening when normal daylight reduces. If you put the light on in the evening then there is a risk that the chickens are stranded in the dark if they have not returned to their perches when the light goes out.
Of course artificial light is an additional cost and you also may feel you are pushing the birds too hard against their nature.