CHARLOTTE SHARES A TIP
LAYING AND LIGHT
Often those to whom I sell eggs do not understand why my hens do not lay in the winter and sometimes remark ‘oh it’s so cold, I’m not surprised they have stopped laying’. I try and explain it’s all due to the light.
Hens possess a complex mechanism. The hen’s pineal gland, part of her endocrine system, sits above her midbrain, behind the eyes. This gland produces melatonin, which helps regulate sleep and other body functions. As the days lengthen, her pineal gland responds by sending a hormone through her body to her ovary to start producing eggs. As the days shorten, the pineal gland stops sending this hormone. Since the gland is light-sensitive, you can fool it by increasing the amount of light available to the hen during the autumn and winter.
For optimum laying a hen likes 16 hours of light with only eight hours of darkness. Lighting can be fixed in hen houses, with a timer, in winter but should be used to provide extra light for two or three hours before dawn rather than in the evening, to allow hens to roost naturally. As a general rule, a 40-watt bulb for each 100 sq ft of henhouse should suffice to keep hens laying year-round. Use incandescent bulbs rather than florescent lights, as the wavelengths of incandescent bulbs are closer to those of natural sunlight. It must be said though that I would never use artificial light. I like my hens to have a rest in the winter and, since hens have a finite number of eggs that they will lay in their lifetime, I reckon this means that they will live longer and have more of a chance to go broody, hatch some chicks and live a more natural life.