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Do Chickens Need Sunlight? [Can Chickens Be Kept In The Shade?]

As a chicken owner, one of your responsibilities is ensuring they have all of their needs and requirements fulfilled. What about sunlight? How important is the sun and do chickens need or require sunlight to survive and thrive? Are there any effective substitutions for it and what are some of the considerations that you need to take into account? These are just some of the questions we will be answering here today.

So, do chickens need sunlight? Chickens need sunlight. The sun determines their daily sleep/wake schedule and the light helps them synthesize and produce the hormones required for egg production. However, chickens only need a moderate amount of sunlight and do require shade. Too much exposure or excessive exposure to sunlight can prove fatal.

Chickens are interesting birds with their very own unique requirements. As a chicken owner, its important to be aware of these and how you should set up their environment for optimal health and well-being.

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Let us now demonstrate and explore how important sunlight is for your birds in the rest of this article.

Do Chickens Need Direct Sunlight?

Chickens do not necessarily need direct sunlight, so long as they are receiving natural light. Light exposure helps regulate their circadian rhythms, boosts their immune systems, and helps with vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D is crucial for calcium absorption, which is essential for egg production and overall health.

If you are able to provide direct sunlight to your birds, it is essential to mindful of the breed, age, feathering, health status, time of day and climate/temperature.

All such factors should impact how long they are exposed to direct sunlight for.

Equally, you must provide shade for your birds, so that they can actively find shelter to avoid overheating and sunburn.

If direct sunlight is not available, ensuring they receive indirect sunlight or adequate artificial light is the way to go.

In addition to the health benefits, access to natural light can also improve chickens’ behavior and reduce stress.

Do Chicken Coops Need Sun Or Shade?

As crepuscular birds, chickens are their most active at twilight (the periods of dawn and dusk). However, even though the sun is not in the sky during this time, sunlight is crucial for their well-being.

While you can install an artificial light into your coop, the quality of the eggs will not be the same. This is partly why eggs from cage hens (along with their diet) are considerably less wholesome and nutritious.

While you can install an artificial light into your coop, the quality of the eggs will not be the same. This is partly why eggs from cage hens (along with their diet) are considerably less wholesome and nutritious.

Chickens are tough birds, but they are no different than most animals that need rest and natural light in their day.

The sun determines a chicken’s daily schedule.

They know instinctively when they should sleep and when they should wake up; using the cycles of sunrise and sunset to control their circadian rhythms.

If you own a rooster (make chicken), this is why you’ll notice the crow at dawn (which they do ahead of sunrise in anticipation).

Sunlight is also an excellent source of vitamins (like Vitamin D), so direct exposure to chickens is important.

Chickens need sunlight, but that doesn’t mean that they should be in direct sunlight for extended periods, there is sufficient light in the shade.

In the height of summer, shade is a welcome relief for your birds.

While it’s okay for chickens to get some exposure to the sun, especially as they free-range in your back yard, they need an area where they can cool down and maybe enjoy a dust bath.

Chickens can suffer from heatstroke very quickly when they get overheated – so you must ensure that they have some cover from the sun.

Chickens coops must be in the shade or provide shade. The reason for this is that chickens do not cope well in the heat.

It is easier to warm up a cold coop than cool down a warm coop.

Hot temperatures make chickens sluggish, and they are uncomfortable in themselves.

Their thick coats of feathers naturally keep them warm, and they have no real way to naturally cool off.

It’s hard for any chicken keeper to watch their birds struggle in the hottest days of summer, and it can be heartbreaking to see your chickens stretch out in weird positions and pant in a way that isn’t normal any other day. But this is your bird’s only potential chance of cooling down.

Conditions inside the coop can be sweltering, and you should consider switching your straw bedding for sand, as sand is cooling.

If where you live has hot nights as well as hot days, the temperature inside the coop can be unbearable for your chickens, if this is the case for you, you should provide the coop with an air conditioner.

If you are lucky enough to have deciduous trees in your yard, these trees can provide shade for your coop in the summer and the winter when they lose their leaves, your coop will get plenty of sunlight.

Do Chickens Need Sunlight To Lay Eggs?

Chickens need sunlight to lay eggs. The reason is that egg production is governed by the hen’s pineal gland (part of the endocrine system).

The pineal gland sits behind the hen’s eyes and is activated by the light. As the days become brighter and longer, the hen’s pineal gland will send a hormone to her ovary to begin egg production.

In the colder weather, when the days grow shorter, the pineal gland ceases to send this hormone.

In late fall and winter, egg production significantly decreases. Even in hot countries, chickens will lay fewer eggs once daylight hours decrease.

Can Chickens Be Kept In The Shade?

Certainly, chickens manage better in the shade than in direct sunlight; this is especially true in the summertime when days can be scorching.

The location of your chicken coop is a major concern, as the inside can get extremely hot, and it can be very uncomfortable for your birds. Because of the coop getting overheated, you must build or place it in a shaded area.

If there is a bit of a sunspot in the chicken run, there is no need to be overly concerned. As long as there are shaded areas, your chickens will be fine. These poultry birds are smart and won’t allow themselves to get too hot.

Chickens that free-range will often naturally gravitate towards the shaded areas if they begin to feel too hot; they self-regulate their body temperature and will always choose to be in the shade over being directly in the sun.

How Many Hours Of Sunlight Do Chickens Need?

To continually lay eggs, hens require at least 12 hours of natural light a day. However, 14 to 16 hours of daylight will keep them producing top-quality eggs.

The reproductive cycle of a hen is set in motion by natural light to dark cycles.

The correlation between light and egg production is evident by the fact that hens don’t reach their reproductive potential until the length of the day has reached twelve hours.

Chickens in Sunlight

It is for this reason that hens lay the most in the spring and summer and why they lay the least during the fall and winter.

Some chicken keepers opt to put artificial lighting into the chicken coop. This is a personal decision, and it’s understandable if you need a continuous supply of eggs during the winter.

Of course, you’ll need to consider your setup and whether or not you can feed electrics into the coop. Otherwise, getting a solar-powered indoor lighting system can be immensely effective.

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A 40-watt bulb that is placed around 7 feet from the floor will provide enough replacement light for daylight in a small chicken coop (around 10×10 feet). For a larger coop of up to 200 square feet, use a 60-watt light bulb.

You can also use a timer to keep the light on for 12-14 hours each day. You can set it to come on when there is not adequate daylight in the coop and off when “natural” daylight is provided in the coop.

12 to 16 hours of light is what hens need for egg production; whatever you decide, you must remember this.

It is advisable not to introduce supplemental lighting to pullets, as their bodies will mature before they are physically ready to lay eggs.


Chickens need sunlight; it sets their daily schedule; it keeps them happy and healthy.

Chickens love being outside, and the light has a lot of health benefits; it’s an excellent source of vitamins, and it’s what chickens need to lay eggs.

Direct sunlight is great, but only in moderation. Too much, and its another issue. It’s certainly not good for chickens to be out for too long in direct sunlight, especially in the summertime.

As long as their coop is in the shade and they have shaded areas outside, they will be fine. Chickens are smart and able to look after themselves.

Don’t become too concerned with the sun that you keep them indoors the whole time, they love free-reigning and foraging through the grass, you can leave them to their own devices within reason.

Want to learn more about keeping chickens and best practices in and around the coop? Then my other guides may be of interest: