Installing lights in the chicken coop can provide a range of benefits for you and your flock. From providing supplemental light to improve egg production through to additional heating (depending on the type of bulb used). But can there be too much of a good thing? Should lighting be turned off when the sun begins to set? Or can you extend lighting long into the night? I spent some time researching to find out exactly what a keeper should do.
So, will chickens sleep with the light on? Chickens will not sleep with the light on; they will perceive this as sunlight which will keep them awake. Instead, chickens require total darkness in their coop at night to get the sleep they need to be happy and healthy. Lighting should therefore be turned off when the sun goes down.
Chickens are actually, very light sensitive.
In fact, it is their exposure to lighting that largely influences their sleep and wake cycles. They are diurnal animals (active during the day, sleep during the night) after all.
Therefore, lighting is something that actually must be highly controlled as a keeper – with around 14-16 hours being considered the optimal amount per day.
Of course, the season can largely influence exposure to sunlight; which is where supplemental heating does come in and can serve a purpose. But a timer that turns it on and off at appropriate times is considered a must.
Well, it’s been scientifically proven that below 12 hours of light per day reduces egg production in hens. At the same time, access to 24/7 lighting also depresses egg-laying in these birds.
So, we can start to see a pattern here. There is an optimal amount of light to aim for.
You may actually be fortunate to still get some eggs with under or over-exposure, but know that you would get considerably more eggs if your hens spend the night in the dark.
Let us now take a closer look at the impact lighting can have on your flock; the considerations to be made and what is considered optimal for your birds.
Will Chickens Sleep With Light On?
Generally speaking, chickens will not sleep with the light on in their coop. Light to chickens, means the day, regardless of whether this is coming from the sun or a supplemental light source.
Chickens actually are known for waking up at the slightest hint of light in the morning, moments after the sun emerges.
Once up, they are raring to go about their day – laying eggs and obtaining the food that they need. Whether this is through their supplemental feed, or through grazing and foraging the land.
Come the evening, and when the light gets low; they instinctively know they need to return back home. To the coop before it gets too dark to see and predators begin to surface.
It is during the night that chickens will sleep.
Standing upright on a perch – high above the ground to ensure they remain safe (an instinctual behavior learned over thousands of years to keep them safe).
Do Chickens Need A Light On At Night?
Chickens do not need a night on at night, generally. These are birds that sleep for up to 12 hours per night, given the season. And they need conditions to be dark.
Light will disturb their sleep. Even if some of your hens could drop off, you can be sure that your more alert and vocal chickens will keep everyone awake!
There is one caveat here, though.
It does depend on the type of light of somewhat.
White light, which could come from a fluorescent or incandescent bulb, is much more disruptive.
Red light, on the other hand, will not be perceived as daylight, and it’s therefore much safer to keep on in the coop at night. Besides, it does offer some warmth too.
Red light is important for young hatchlings and chicks; so this is something you may want to install depending on your flock’s age. Further research will be considered here, though.
The Pros And Cons Of Supplemental Lighting
Providing supplemental lighting is a hot topic of debate among the chicken keeping community. There are reasons for and against, and pros and cons, either way.
Supplemental lighting is often used during the winter to increase egg production, but it does place extra strain on your birds during a season in which they would normally biologically rest.
Remember, a chicken’s daily schedule is governed by light – so manipulating it in any way is going to have an impact.
So, it’s a decision that does require some careful consideration – it shouldn’t be made on a whim.
And there are certain best practices to abide by, such as ensuring it is turned off at night and discussed above, for instance.
Let us now take a closer look at the pros and cons of supplemental lighting. This way you can see whether it is something you want to explore:
The Pros Of Coop Lighting
Increased Egg Production
Egg production slows down in the winter since the days are shorter and the nights are longer.
Supplemental lighting stimulates a hen’s pituitary gland signaling her ovaries to release eggs.
Hens require fourteen hours of light per day for egg production; in some parts of the world, the sun only provides eight hours of light. A light will therrefore keep egg production going.
Lighting can be a heat source in the coop during the winter months.
While chickens are quite hardy and can withstand freezing temperatures, chicks do need to be kept sufficiently warm.
You can use a red bulb in the coop instead of a white bulb for these purposes.
A red bulb won’t keep egg production going, but long-term exposure to a red light is not seen as problematic as white – it does not prevent hens from sleeping for instance.
Keeping your coop lit, whether manually or on a timer, helps you to see what you are doing and can help you care for your hens.
With supplemental lighting, you can find all the eggs to collect, top-up the feeders and waterers more easily, and give a more accurate headcount.
You won’t need to keep the light on for too long, so the effects here can be kept minimal.
Cons Of Coop Lighting
Many experts believe that forcing hens to extend their egg-laying cycle, through exposure to supplemental lighting, is bad for their health – and egg-production capabilities in the long term.
These theories are mostly anecdotal and theoretical, but there have been reports of side effects that include: ovarian cancer, egg binding, and vent prolapse; these conditions can be fatal if untreated.
Supplemental lighting can be a fire hazard, especially if not set up properly and appropriately.
Lighting systems should be installed with fire precaution in mind, as insecure wiring, a spark, and a heat source near dry hay and sawdust can be potentially dangerous.
Light bulbs can also break, and a broken bulb can leave hundreds of sharp remnants on the coop floor that can cut your chicken’s feet.
Stress In Your Hens
Any change to a hen’s natural biological clock will cause stress – this can lead to health consequences.
Stress will certainly affect your hen’s behavior. Hen-pecking and cannibalism are common in stressed hens.
Can Chickens Get Too Much Light?
Chickens can get too much light, with 14-16 hours being considered the optimal and maximum amount of light chickens should receive per day.
You also need to consider the age of your chickens, as too much light too soon can cause advanced development.
Supplemental lighting, in the form of fluorescent or incandescent, should only be introduced when your hens are at least 16-20 weeks of age; when they begin to start laying.
Regardless of age, if you do decide to light your coop, you should also look to build up your flock’s tolerance gradually.
This should be both in terms of time of exposure and the strength of light used. To begin with, it is recommended to opt for a 25 or 40-watt bulb and keep it on for short periods at a time.
The right duration of light can do wonders for your hens; but how much you intervene will depend mostly on the season.
Access to sufficient light is of equal importance as providing too much.
Either way, sufficient light will increase your flock’s sociability, and it can lessen aggressive behavior like feather-pecking and fighting.
So if your birds are confined for long periods due to bad weather, providing a little light temporarily might actually be a useful approach to improving your bird’s welfare.
If you do want to keep up egg production without the use of additional lighting, consider looking into specific breeds, such as Red Stars.
When Should I Turn Off My Chicken’s Light?
You should look to turn off any lighting for your chickens, as close to dawn as possible.
This may require some calculation, working out how many hours of natural daylight there is and when it will begin to get dark.
Working backwards can help, ensuring that you aim for around 16 hours of total light at most.
A timer can guarantee consistency each time, and it makes it easier than getting up in the early morning to turn the coop light on, and then switch it off again when necessary.
This cost-effective timer and Amazon bestseller is fantastic and used by many keepers with great success.
When the days get longer, you should look to reduce any supplemental lighting; keeping in mind, over 17 hours of light can be harmful to your flock.
Of course, you do need to consider your flock’s age.
First, let us look at chicks and those under 16 weeks of age.
Baby chicks will need continuous light for the first two days; however, it’s important that you use a red bulb here.
Red light will help them to get brooder orientated.
After the first 48 hours, you can then look switch the red light off when you go to bed at night and switch it back on in the morning (or get a timer to do this on your behalf).
You can put the red light on a timer so that it allows for 8 hours of darkness to give chicks a chance to rest.
A red bulb can also be a heat source for your chicks; it reduces stress and discourages them from picking on one another.
Back to older, adult hens.
You should use a diffused light, bright enough for you to see your chores.
The Wattage depends on your coop size. The light should be safe to use, rope lights are readily available and inexpensive – they don’t emit heat, and the light is diffused.
You can hang these lights above the roost out of reach of pecking beaks.
An infrared hanging heater that emits no light is better for brooding.
However, if the coop has enough natural light through the windows or it’s near a well-lit room, they may get enough light without additional brooder light.
Consider the following safety tips when using additional lighting in your coop:
- Don’t use a heat lamp as it’s one of the leading causes of fires in coops. Additional heating is usually unnecessary.
- You shouldn’t light your coop in the evenings. Chickens can’t see very well when it’s dark, so light going on at dusk and off halfway through the night could result in anxiety, stress, and injury as chickens attempt to find their roost.
- Avoid changing your mind halfway through the winter because if you suddenly turn off the light or forget to switch it back on, your hens could go into molt.
- If you add white light to the coop, wait until your hens are 20 weeks old or more.
Most chickens will not sleep with a light on.
We are both diurnal by nature so it makes sense that we both sleep with the darkness of the night, and are active during the light of the day.
Regarding what this means for your flock; you have different options.
You can use this to your advantage to increase dwindling egg production in the winter, or you can acknowledge it as part of your hen’s natural cycle and their time off to rest and replenish in the winter.
If you choose to light the coop, be sure to have it set at a timer so that your birds don’t get more light than they need – and to keep consistency.
Chickens need a maximum of 16 hours of light per day, any more than that can harm your birds.
If eggs are important to you and you do not want to expose them to supplementing lighting, you can always get particular breeds of chickens that are better layers and will be able to produce more eggs year-round.
If you’re not concerned about egg production, but you want to be able to see your way in the coop, a light with a red bulb is a better option than a white light.
Thankfully, so long it is used appropriately, there is no evidence that proves additional timed lighting is harmful to your birds, even if it’s not natural.
Whichever you choose, be certain your decision is based on accurate, well-researched information based on the health and longevity of your flock.
Want to learn more about keeping chickens and best practices in and around the coop? Then my other guides may be of interest:
- Can Chickens Stay In The Coop All Day?
- How Long Can Chickens Go Without Food?
- How Long Can Chickens Be Left Alone?
- Can Chickens Live Alone?
- Can Chickens Be Potty Trained
- Do Chickens Need Sunlight?
- What Time Do Chickens Wake Up
- How Long Do Chickens Sleep?
- What Time Do Chickens Go To Bed
- Do Chickens Need Food And Water At Night
- Do Chickens Sleep Standing Up
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.