Goodbye, Daylight Savings Time

Winterizing: Part 2

If you have animals, you know all about the tragedy that is Sunday, November 3rd. The day it starts getting dark at 4PM. I will give you a moment to wallow in your existential dread.

That’s enough. Take a deep breath. Now we can help you make informed lighting and heating decisions for your chickens.

Do chickens need supplemental lighting?

That is between you and your chickens. Even with extra light, your chickens may still not lay at the same rate they did in the warmer months. This is perfectly fine. The egg factory needs time to rest in some breeds.

If you decide to go with lights, here are some basics that you need to know before you get started.  

1. RED LIGHT AT NIGHT– (NOT to be confused with a red infrared heat bulb) Red is the only color that should be on in your coop 24/7 because it does not disrupt the circadian rhythm of chickens. You do not want to know a chicken with a disrupted rhythm. Think zombie chickens. You won’t like it.

2. WHITE LIGHT IS BRIGHT – Put your white/blue/yellow lights on a timer. Being so close to the holidays you can get a timer almost anywhere. I use a timed white light all year because most coops are poorly lit and chickens are basically blind in the dark. My light comes on at 5AM and shuts off at 7PM, regardless of daylight savings time. This gives everyone plenty of time to get their fluffy butts inside and up on the roost.

Do chickens need a heater?

In a perfect world, all your birds are healthy, your coop is insulated, draft-free, and properly ventilated. But winter chicken ownership is continuously changing as birds age, new birds are added, or the pecking order shifts over time. You may not have a bird who needs heat right now, but that could change in February during a cold snap.

I try to avoid infrared heat lamps at all costs. They are cheap to purchase but are a major fire hazard. The bulbs are fragile, and even in a cage, the bulbs can shatter and send flaming shards of death into your coop. If you MUST heat your coop, I highly recommend a radiant heater designed for livestock. Under normal circumstances, healthy chickens don’t need to bake under a lamp or heater. They do, however, absolutely love a small, ambient source of warmth to “sun” themselves.

With power outages being so prevalent throughout New York state, I prefer to only provide my birds with enough supplemental heat to take the chill off. Remember that red bulb I mentioned? I use a red LED 10W bulb in the summer because it doesn’t generate heat, and a red incandescent 110W bulb in the colder months because it does. Incandescent bulbs are heavier, and you can buy shock-proof red incandescent bulbs online for around $10. My birds have crashed into my 110W bulb several times and the worst that happens is the filament breaks, shutting the light off.

Now, go forth and make an informed decision about lighting and heating your chicken coop, and for the love of all that is good and holy, avoid zombie chickens.