Select the right light for your winter coop

Bulbs_1_CargillHens lay best during long summer days but production drops off as nights lengthen in the fall. Installing a light bulb controlled by a timer in the coop keeps chickens happily laying through winter’s short days.

Here are some basic must do’s when lighting your coop:

  • Set the timer to turn the light on in the early morning and shut off shortly after sunrise.
  • Lighting does not have to be fancy or extremely bright. A good rule is that the light in the coop should be just light enough to read by.
  • For optimal winter laying, artificial and natural light should total about 15 hours per day.

To start an artificial lighting program, most chicken keepers simply screw an incandescent bulb into a fixture and control it with an inexpensive timer, without a second thought.  Thing again! That bulb is costing you money – and there may be better options. Incandescent bulbs, invented over a century ago, are inexpensive, work well in the cold, and create bright light the instant the switch is flipped on.  Unfortunately, they are fragile, burn out frequently, and are expensive to operate.   Incandescent bulbs convert most of the electricity they consume into heat instead of light.

About 20 years ago compact fluorescent bulbs entered the market.  Much more efficient than incandescents, fluorescent bulbs convert most of the energy they use into light, not heat. Unfortunately they are not ideal in the coop as they are fragile and don’t work as well in the cold. While fluorescents last thousands of hours before they burn out, when temperatures are below zero they barely glow. The bulbs also contain tiny amounts of toxic mercury.

A few years ago ideal bulbs for coops, outbuildings and barns entered the market.    LED, or Light Emitting Diode, bulbs are perfect for cold locations like chicken coops.   LED’s are durable and have no glass to break.  Their globe is plastic, comes on instantly at any temperature, hardly ever burns out, contains no toxic chemicals and is amazingly efficient. Their only disadvantage is cost, and that is rapidly dropping.

By giving your girls a little extra light through the winter and utilizing the right bulb to do it, you can keep them happy and productive even during the coldest months of the year!


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