Do Chickens Need Light at Night?


New chicken owners might think they’re getting a comfortable farm animal, and they ask questions like do chickens need light at night?. Chickens are particular about where they sleep, how many chickens are around them, and how much light they get.

Chickens do not need light at night. They require at least 6 to 8 hours of darkness to get a good night’s sleep. This downtime is imperative to the chicken’s health and well-being, just as much as daylight or artificial light for 12 to 14 hours per day is critical for laying eggs.

Learning to raise the choosy chicken is a bit of a learning curve, especially when it comes to their light needs. This blog will explain why sleep is utterly essential for chickens, just like it is for humans. You will also learn how you can make sure they are receiving adequate light and rest, read on to find out.

Why Do Chickens Need Light?

One of the most important things an owner needs to provide to their picky chickens is light. Light is the sole driving force behind their reproductive cycle. In theory, no light equates to no eggs. This is the trigger known as the natural photoperiod cycle, otherwise known as the light-dark cycle. 

Since egg production relates to light exposure, hens will be the most productive during the spring and summer months. That is because the day length will reach up to 16 hours per day, giving the hen plenty of light and time to produce many eggs. This is the same reason why winter months will result in fewer eggs. 

Adequate light is also necessary for baby chicks (which will be discussed further in this article). Chicks are likely to hatch during the early spring when daylight hours peaked past 14 hours. This chick will then develop and mature during the summer when the temperatures are warm enough for his health and safety.

(Source: Roys Farm, Canr.Msu.Edu)

Do your chickens have an insulated coop? Learn how to keep a warm flock in my article.

Do Egg Layers Need Light at Night?

Light is vital for egg production. But that doesn’t mean you should continuously leave the light on to increase laying. Leaving the light on for too long can have some incredibly negative repercussions in health and production. But why?

The chicken is somewhat like a human in the way that they need sleep. They can’t live without it. The answer is clear with that in mind — no, chickens do not need light at night. They need a good night’s sleep, and that can only occur with darkness. 

The Effect on the Chickens Pineal Gland

Darkness has a direct correlation to the pineal gland. Without good darkness and sleep, the hen’s pineal gland suffers. This can lead to several significant issues, including a weakened immune system and unruly amounts of stress. But what exactly is the pineal gland, and why is it so crucial to a chicken?

The pineal gland is part of a hen’s endocrine system that produces melatonin. Melatonin is necessary to regulate sleep as well as other critical bodily functions. When the days lengthen through the spring and summer months, the pineal gland responds by sending out extra hormones to increase egg production.

When the days are shorter during the fall and winter, the opposite occurs. The hormone is not sent as regularly, which results in fewer eggs being produced. That is why so many chicken owners consider using artificial lights during the chillier seasons to increase egg production.

To see more info about how to light your coop during winter to increase egg production see Nutrena Worlds article here.

Knowing the response of the pineal gland makes it clear why the chicken needs darkness and rest. Excessive light will continue to produce the hormone. Over time, though, this can lead to reproductive health issues. 

(Source: Roys Farm)

Do your baby chicks get grit? It’s important for them to digest food, and properly grow, check my post on how to provide it to them.

Will Chickens Sleep With a Light On?

No, a chicken cannot sleep with a light on. Over time, continuous exposure to a light source will confuse a chicken. The chicken will begin to view the light source as the “real” sun. Since chickens can’t sleep during daylight hours, he will miss out on the restful sleep he needs.

(Source: Eco Peanut)

Should You Use an Artificial Light During the Winter Months?

A chicken’s reproductive cycle is based solely on daylight. As you have learned by now, adequate sleep is just as important. So what should a chicken owner do during the winter months when there is a lack of sunlight? Is artificial light recommended, and how do you use them? Is it better to ditch light altogether and let the cycle occur naturally?

For some chicken owners, artificial light during winter months is a travesty. They believe in letting nature decide when their chickens do or do not produce eggs. This is not the same belief for every chicken owner, though. Artificial light can be used, if done responsibly, to encourage egg production during cold weather. Here’s how.

When and How to Use Artificial Light

When daylight begins to fall to 14 or 15 hours per day, artificial light can be applied. That is because a hen’s reproductive cycle will shut down when there are less than 14 hours of light available to her. This typically occurs in September. 

Artificial light should be added during the morning hours. If trying to add during dawn, you risk the chickens becoming scared by sudden darkness. This can lead to suffocation as the chickens pile up in a single corner. So, it’s easiest to use supplemental light in the morning rather than when the chickens are preparing for the sun to go down.

What Type of Bulb Should Be Used?

Another essential thing to consider is the type of bulb being used for supplemental light. There are two options.

  • Fluorescent bulbs. These are less expensive to operate, although more costly to install. They are also harder to maintain as there are ample amounts of dust in a chicken coop. It is harder to regulate the light’s intensity, too, which can wreak havoc on a chicken’s natural rhythm. Get some high light Philips fluorescent bulbs from Amazon.
  • Incandescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs, on the other hand, can be dimmed easily. This makes it a cinch to ease supplemental light into the coop rather than a drastic difference from their natural rhythm. They are also simpler to clean and less expensive to install. For a pack of 6-24 fantastically priced bulbs see them on Amazon.

No matter what type of bulb is used, the most important thing to remember is that artificial light should never be used at night. This can confuse and affect a chicken’s behavior and immune system negatively. 

Do your chickens poop in their water? This can be very dangerous for the chickens and lead to illness, to stop the poopy water supply see my article.

Why Is Sleep So Important For Chickens?

Just like a good night’s sleep is imperative for a human’s healthy immune system, the same is true for the chicken. Without a good night’s sleep, you could be unintentionally setting your chicken up for sickness and being more prone to disease. 

Another important reason why chickens need at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night is that excessive exposure to light can lead to overproduction from the hen. The hen’s body responds to light by producing eggs. Being under a light source continuously will push her to lay more eggs. This can lead to severe conditions, including ovarian cancer and vent prolapse.

Without proper sleep, chickens can also become stressed. A stressed-out chicken will succumb to negative behavioral issues. It also has a severe impact on their overall health. Stressed-out chickens will be far more prone to ailments. They will also pick on other chickens, which can sometimes become so aggressive it turns to cannibalism.

(Source: News From the Coop, Fresh Eggs Daily, Vet Poultry)

Do Chickens Sleep Through the Night?

Yes, chickens sleep through the night as long as it is dark outside. They will follow the pattern of dusk and dawn. That is why it is important to cut off artificial light sources during the winter months so that a chicken can continue to be on a normal cycle. 

Don’t be surprised if you see a chicken sleeping during the daytime, though. Chickens can nap when it is light outside, but this is a cautious sleep rather than a deep sleep. This cautious type of sleep will keep them on edge, sometimes with one eye open to look out for predators. Therefore, a nap during the daytime is not sufficient sleep to keep her happy and healthy. 

(Source: Chickens and Chicken Info)

How to Provide the Best Sleep for Your Chickens

Now you know the importance of allowing your chickens to get at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night. It makes for a happy and healthy chicken that is stress-free and ready to produce eggs year-round, especially during the spring and summer months. But what you also need to pay attention to is their quality of sleep. Here are some great tips to provide the best sleep. 

Your Hens Should Have a Roost

Many people are under the impression that chickens like to huddle together for a good night’s sleep, but this simply is not the case. The chicken’s ancestors slept high up in trees. That is why a chicken prefers to sleep up high to this day. This doesn’t mean you need to add trees to the coop. Providing roosts for your hens will do the trick.

How Many Roosts Should You Have?

Chickens can be a bit territorial, but not so much when they are sleeping. That is why you only need to provide chickens with about 25 centimeters of space on a roost per chicken. The chickens will enjoy hopping up onto the roost as a group and snuggling together. This not only keeps them warm in the chillier months but also provides adequate protection. 

For smaller flocks, only one roost is necessary. Larger flocks may need one or two, depending on how large the flock is and how much space is offered on the roost. All roosts should be placed at least 45 centimeters off of the ground. Give your chickens something to roost on with the high-quality Backyard Barnyard Chicken Perch on Amazon.

Alternatively you can go full DIY and build your own chicken roost, see the above video on how to build on for yourself.

The most important thing to remember is that roosts should never be stacked on top of each other. Every time a chicken above poops, it will end up on the chickens sleeping below. This is a recipe for a smelly, dirty disaster. You won’t want to clean up in the morning. I mean do you want someone to poop on you whilst you’re asleep?

Food pellets are a popular choice to feed chicken but do they even like them? Find out in my article.

(Source: Backyard Chicken Coops)

What To Do If Your Chicken Picks the Nesting Box Over the Root

Sometimes you may notice that your chicken is choosing to sleep in their nesting box instead of their roost. Here are a few common problems and solutions.

  • Make sure the roosts are positioned higher than the nest. Remember, it is a chicken’s instinct to go high to sleep. If the nesting box is positioned higher than the roost, he will instinctively go there for slumber. 
  • Don’t make the roost too high. Placing the roost high up is essential for a happy hen, but placing it too high will make it inaccessible. Note your chicken’s response to the height of the roost. If he is unable to gain entry, simply place it lower.
  • Make sure the roost is comfortable. Again, this comes from their ancestors. Since they originally sat comfortably in trees, they want a comfortable area to sleep. The roost should be flat with a 2 x 4 wide side up the setup. You can add a few branches for warmth during the winter months, but it is not necessary. 
  • Keep in mind some birds like to stay on the ground. Some breeds of chickens, such as the silkies, prefer to sleep together on the ground. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this. Leave them be, and they will happily snuggle on the floor.
  • Sometimes, he simply can’t see it. Breeds that have larger crests, such as the Polish, might not see the roost due to their long feathers. A good trim will allow him to see the roost and sleep comfortably.
  • Ditch metal roosts. Metal roosts seem glamorous because they are easy to clean. But you are doing your chickens more harm than good. Not only are they hard to grip, but they can also cause frostbite during winter months.

(Source: My Pet Chicken, Backyard Chicken Coops)

Are your chickens struggling to put on weight? Allow your chickens to pack on the pounds via the information in this article.

Do Baby Chickens Need Light at Night?

Daylight is just as important as nightfall for the grown, laying hen. But what about baby chicks? Do they also require an adequate amount of sleep in darkness? The same rules do not apply for baby chicks

Baby chickens need light at night for two very important reasons. First and foremost, they need it for warmth. Without proper warmth, the baby chick could die. Secondly, chickens, in general, don’t have great eyesight at nighttime. But this is even more disastrous for the baby chick as she won’t be able to see food or water that she may desperately need during the night.

When Do Baby Chicks No Longer Need Light at Night?

Offer the chicks light until they have reached around 3 to 4 weeks of age. Keep in mind that every flock is different, and some chicks may need more time. You can tell when a chick is old enough to ditch the light when he has developed enough of his flight wings to clear the brooder.

It is important to ensure that baby chickens have light at night in the brooder if they do not have their mother. But round the clock light doesn’t last for a very long time. Chickens grow at a fairly rapid pace, even though those first few days of life can be nerve-wracking as they are so helpless and tiny.

Don’t think you have to cut the light source entirely, though. A chicken who has grown in enough of his flight wings can start hopping and flying around, but he will still struggle a bit at nightfall. To gradually introduce your baby chicken to darkness, you can start by simply dimming the light in the brooder.

You can continue to dim the light until he is old enough to sleep with the flock. 

(Source: Homestead Fowl)

Do Babies Need Light When They Sleep With Their Mother?

The rules change once more when you’re dealing with a baby chicken that can cuddle and sleep with its mother. In the case where the mother is present, the baby chicks do not need light. Since light is most important for chicks for warmth, snuggling with mom reduces the need for warmth. 

Don’t be surprised if baby chicks that live and sleep with their mother develop a bit slower than brooder babes. Since these chicks are only receiving about 12 to 14 hours of light per day, they tend to not grow as quickly as those in a brooder. This is nothing to concern yourself with. 

(Source: Peking Bantam)

Should you give chickens access to food and water at night? Learn the truth in my post.

Do Chickens Need Light at Night? Final Thoughts

A day and night rhythm is incredibly important for a laying hen. They will only lay eggs when there is adequate light. But sleep and darkness are just as important. A good night’s sleep will keep a hen happy and healthy, but she needs complete darkness. No light sources should be present during nightfall, as this can confuse and stress chickens.

Baby chicks, on the other hand, require light at night if they do not live with their mother. This should only occur for around 3 or 4 weeks, or until the flight feathers have grown.

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