One of the most frequent questions I receive from homesteaders this time of year is, “How can I keep my chickens laying during the winter?” Winter egg production, especially here in the north east, is challenging to say the least. You might have a draft free coop, keep plenty of feed in front of them, and keep their water thawed but the biggest thing working against us this time of year is the lack of daylight hours. The optimal number of daylight hours for egg production is 15 hours and by December we have under 9 hours. Probably the easiest thing homesteaders can do to increase winter production is to provide some supplemental lighting.
Providing supplemental lighting is not very expensive or complicated. A simple trouble light hanging in the center of the coop with a 100 watt bulb will do the trick. A 100 watt bulb may be a little “over kill” as studies have proven that a nine-watt compact fluorescent bulb will produce enough light to be beneficial, but I prefer the extra light from the standard type bulb and I have a steady supply because we use them in our cow stable. Be sure to clean your bulbs because they tend to get dirty in the hen house. Dirty bulbs give off up to 20% less light. We plug our light in at 4 am when start milking the cows. My sons go to the barn at 8pm to check on the stock and they unplug the light then. This gives them 16 hours of light, which is an hour more than they have to have, but it fits our schedule so that’s what we do. If you would rather not go out at night to unplug the light, you could purchase a simple timer switch . These devises are simple to use, very inexpensive, and allow you to have the lights turned on and off automatically.
If you want steady egg production in the winter months, installing some supplemental lighting should be a top priority.