Why Aren’t My Chickens Laying (Lighting)?

Philip Einwechter

Have your chickens started laying fewer eggs recently?

If you haven’t made any big changes to how you’re caring for them, there’s a good chance it’s caused by the short day lengths. Chickens need 14-16 hours of light each day to lay their best, and this time of year, they won’t receive that much light anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere (anywhere in the United States or Canada, for example).

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, the amount of daylight per day has been decreasing since June 21. It will continue to decrease until December 21.  Since the end of September, every place in the United States and Canada has been receiving less than 12 hours of daylight. Even if you account for some sunlight reaching your chickens slightly before sunrise and slightly after sunset, they’re still getting less than 13 hours of light this time of year (October) unless you’ve added supplemental lighting.  If you would like to find out the number of hours of daylight in your region, you can find out your latitude then use this daylight hour explorer.

Chickens don’t need a lot of light in order to lay.  Some breeds, like the leghorn, can lay well with just 1/2 footcandle (fc) of light.  To get an idea how much light that is, try reading a newspaper in dim light.  If you adjust the lighting so that you have barely enough light to read it, that is about 1/2 fc.  Heavier, dual purpose breeds need 2 to 5 fc to stimulate laying.

If you decide to add supplemental lighting to keep your flocking laying well through the winter, you can use an outlet timer and a drop light.  It’s best to set the timer so that the light comes on in the morning before dawn, to give at least 14 hours of light.  In theory, you could add lighting at dusk instead, but that approach doesn’t work as well in practice because when the lights go out in the evening the coop will get dark immediately. This makes it harder for the chickens to find a good place to roost. For tips on lighting safety, see our article Preparing Your Laying Flock for Winter, Part 2.

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28 Responses to Why Aren’t My Chickens Laying (Lighting)?

  1. Clair Bennett says:

    In the spring I bought 4 Buff Orpingtons as part of my “experimental farming”. They settled in quite quickly, and as a rule we were collecting 3-4 eggs a day. My husband decided to add a couple of Bantams nearly a month ago, and after the bigger hens established the proper pecking order, everyone is getting along well. At one point after a few days we actually got five eggs one day including a Bantam egg. However in the last couple of weeks production has been going down. In total we have only got a couple of Bantam eggs, and the Orpington production is now down to one egg a day total. We feed them laying feed, cracked corn scattered………have dusted for mites, let them out daily to “graze”…….everyone is healthy and happy! It has of course got warmer being July but we live in Northern Idaho and not West Texas so it it’s not severe. In short we think we have covered all our bases, but can’t understand why no egg production. Orpingtons are about 9 months old and Bantams are over a year. I have been thinking about trying the Cayenne pepper trick with some soaked cracked corn. They have a good size run, probably 10’x40′, the hen house is small but plenty of room at roosting time, we have two nest. They are a couple of feet off the ground at night and shut in every night to protect them from coons and other critters. We have a portable electric fence up around the outside of the pen to keep dogs out…………and hopefully a nosy bear if one comes a calling. Netting on top to keep ravens, hawks and eagles out. Everything was going along ticky boom until about two weeks ago, except the Bantams weren’t laying, which we thought would change once they got settled in…………….any ideas?

    • Matthew Pressly says:
      • Clair Bennett says:

        Matthew
        yes we have gone through the list over and over and are still stumped. This evening we discovered that out of the six birds no eggs were laid today (first time since we brought them home). They never the less are perky, friendly as Orpingtons are, all seem healthy and continue to appear to be quite healthy. The only thing that has changed was adding the Bantams but it’s been nearly a month and one of the Orps is now sharing a nest with one of the Bantams every night………so everyone is getting along now. Perhaps it will remain a mystery???????

  2. ron says:

    An old West Virginia farm trick i learned to increase egg production is use about 1/2 teaspoon red [ground cayenne] pepper mixed in about 1 gallon of feed, and provide plenty of fresh water.
    If hens are healthy and of laying age, that will get them going.
    Do not use red pepper more than 3 or 4 times a week.
    Do not use on bantams, it can kill weaker banty hens.

  3. SKI says:

    Get all the veggies you can from the stores that they throw away — works well.

  4. Teresa says:

    Hi, I have 24 hens. I have a mixture of RIR, Barred Plymouth Rock, and Black Australorpe. They range in age from 1. to 2 yrs. They have not layed (not even 1 single egg) for over 6 weeks. I have 2 lights on in my coup 24/7 and also 1 heat light to keep the water from freezing. I feed them cracked corn and layer crumbles (16%). I currently have my 12 Ducks pinned up with my Chickens because the ponds now freeze over frequently. I lost too many ducks last year due to night-time Predators. So I keep my ducks pinned up with my hens during the cold winter months. I was just wondering if this could be the reason that I am not getting any eggs. I know other people who only have 12 to 15 Hens, and they are still getting 4 to 6 eggs per day. They don’t have ducks. I would really appreciate it if someone out there may know if the lack of egg production could be because of the ducks. Should I put my ducks in a different coup. Other than the ducks being greedy, they all get alone fine together. Thank You in advance for any advice!!

    • DON says:

      No, they will all be fine together. I was raised on a farm, and all our flocks were together all the time. Turkeys, chickens, geese, and more stayed in the same pen at night, though in the day they free ranged. We had all kinds of eggs.

    • Hi,
      Actually you never mention if your chickens and ducks go out side. Or are they pinned up all the time. Sometimes it can be a problem with layers with waterfowl in the same coop. Because of the moisture and humidity in the coop.
      When we had ducks we had egg production drop. When we got rid of the ducks we soon had an increase. Because the ducks can be sloppy with the water, feed gets wet and sloppy, etc… You might try rehoming the ducks to another coop. We raise wild Mallards, so they flew away which was the intent to begin with. My chickens don’t like soggy, muddy, soupy conditions, especially in the feed. Now I have a 16 year old goat that lives in my coop. Chicken guard. The chickens are fine with that arrangement. Good luck

    • Carol says:

      I’m new at this, but from what I have read egg production can be effected by stress. By adding the ducks, they may be experiencing some stress. Also, my feed man told me that layers need more protein in the winter. He uses 22% in the winter. Hope this helps. Hang in there!

    • Ruth says:

      I have two ducks with 36 chickens, and my egg production has not changed, and the female duck is also laying an egg a day. I did notice when I don’t get out to open them up half way early they are getting feisty in the building. The ducks have their favorites to pick on just like any other animal.

  5. MARY BARNES says:

    Happy New Year to all. This is my first winter with my 35 hens, and I am loving every minute of it. I have been learning about the care and feeding of chickens on this website, so thank you very much for all the information; very helpful. My girls are laying like crazy. Just when I expected them to slow down they are going strong. I give extra feed and all kinds of goodies; they get shredded carrots, cabbage, apples and they just love their warm oatmeal !!! I have to say that their favorite food is a hamburger that I have left over once in awhile.. I am getting around 24 eggs a day and they are really big eggs. I am loving having my girls and they love to see me come into the barn. Can hardly wait until warm weather; have more chicks ordered !! Thanks for listening. Mary Barnes, Madison, Maine

    • anthony & christina says:

      Wow Mary! We bought red stars in the summer, and they are just starting to lay, so we might have to try what you’re doing.
      Thanks a lot for your help & idea

      Sincerly,

      Anthony & Christina

  6. Valerie A Mitarotonda says:

    We consider our chickens pets so we allow them to rest during this time of year. We haven’t gotten any eggs for about two weeks, but the chickens are not our livelihood so we just enjoy them this time of year. We have a flock of 20 hens and 1 rooster and they are only one and a half years old. We feel it stresses them to force them to lay when naturally they would be resting. Thank you for all of your interesting articles.

  7. Chris Orr says:

    I hung a cheap shop light, and timer in my coop this week. I set it to come on at 5am and go off at 7pm. My coop is in the shade and is slightly dark inside. especially on overcast days, so I let the light stay on through the day. It makes cleaning and egg gathering easier. Chickens are a great farm addition, I love them all!!

  8. Jennifer Fisk says:

    I was a bit late in getting supplemental light into my chicken house this fall and production dropped from 18-20/day to 9-10. I now have 2 100ft extension cords running through the woods to power a CFI bulb that comes on at 4AM and goes off at 6 when it starts to get light. I will make more adjustments in the time and hopefully the girls will get back into production.

  9. Joyce says:

    Great article. It explains a lot. I am in Central Florida. I never get 14 hours of sun light, but I also never get less than 10. This past year we had a lot of thunderstorms in the summer. My hens haven’t been laying very well all summer – brief moments of good laying. First it was too cold, then too much rain, then too hot. I have culled my hens, but others in the area have had the same problem. I will try the molasses, as one person suggested and some extra light. Thank You.

  10. peggy says:

    My chickens stopped laying all together. They are not very old – they are about a year and half old. I have 1 Silver Laced Wyandotte, 2 isa browns, 1 Buff Orpington, 3 Americanas (still very young and haven’t started laying yet), a young Americana rooster, and I just got a Silver Laced Wyandotte rooster, thinking it would help. Still no eggs. I have even put fake eggs in nest boxes. We do have a heat light lamp on them 24 hrs round clock, all the food and water they could possibly want, but still no eggs. Is there anything else I can do or shouldn’t be doing? Thanks, Peggy

    • Treasa Ridenour says:

      You have almost the identical set-up as we do, right down to the round the clock light. I have been raising the hodge-podge of “misfits” as I lovingly call ‘em for over 15 years and they will go through spells like that. Natural light seems to be the best for egg production. In our area we seem to lose a lot of daylight quickly as soon as fall arrives. Because our chickens and ducks are free range and because of our severe predator problem, we have always kept a light on in the coop – for whatever reason, it seems to deter the raccoons and possums and has never stopped the poultry from laying. That said, every two or three years it seems that we hit a spell where all of them stop laying altogether. It’s temporary. Give them about a month or so to adjust to the shorter natural daylight and they should resume laying again. Also, it may be that your hens are all “in-tune” with each other and are molting at the same time. If that’s true, you should be seeing a lot of feathers strewn about. Shorter days signal molt to your hens, and they don’t lay during that time, but usually they don’t all molt simultaneously or at the same rate. Depending on how fast they molt you could start seeing eggs as soon as a month and a half or it may take as long as 3. I really wouldn’t count on it taking that long though. Hope this helps.

    • Phil says:

      You may want to consider ticks….
      As we bring in our chickens for the winter, we should treat them for fleas.
      The easiest way of doing this is by grabbing them one at a time by the shanks and bathing them with diatomic earth. This is the same powder you buy to treat against earwigs and ants… Also spray the powder in the nests and living areas….it will kill all fleas. You need to repeat this treatment about one week later to then kill of the tics that have just grown in and were larva when you first treated.
      Your hens will stop laying if they are being bugged by bugs….
      Let me know if this helps.

      Phil

  11. Dan says:

    You won’t be able to power heat lamps from any solar panel that you can buy for a reasonable amount of money. For example, a 15 watt solar panel is $80 at Northern Tool. You would need 10 of those to power a 150W bulb. Or, if you had the one panel collecting sun for 10 hours, you could power the bulb for 1 hour.

    And that doesn’t even account for the fact that you will loose some power in the efficiency of the charger and inverter you’d need (and those cost more money) and that a 15 watt panel will give you 15 watts only with the brightest mid-day sunshine.

    You could get a solar panel powered light – but it would be an LED light that uses much less power, BUT it won’t provide supplemental heat.

    • Chris Byers says:

      If you get a small LED light it will work well. They need very little light. 150 watt is enough to run a coop of around 1000 square feet.

      There is no need to give them additional heat, unless you are keeping them in an area where it is hitting several degrees below zero each night. Then you have other issue to consider besides getting them to lay.

  12. Malcolm K. says:

    I give the chickens about 1/2 drop of black strap molasses once each day and about 4 to 5 days per week. This is done by putting it on the feed and stirring. This resulted in delayed molting and continued egg laying. So I cut back on the molasses. One person was asking why are your chickens still laying? So this brought it to my attention. I felt molasses was to supplement the fact that they need fresh grass and vegetables to eat too. So I used molasses to provide extra minerals, and carbohydrate.

  13. Vermont Gardener says:

    Speaking of light….
    Anyone know of a simple, small, solar device to attach to the roof from which will run a cord through the window or eaves to power up the heat and light lamps during the winter so I don’t have to run a cord out from the house?
    There must be a ready-made, low-cost product that was, say, invented for the garden or some other application.

    • cmb says:

      Anything solar to power a heater is still pretty expensive. You can try realgoods.com They have a lot of cool things. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, just email or call them. They are very helpful and can tailor to you needs.

    • Ann says:

      Yes, Farmtec sells two different versions. try searching for solar shed light they run for 2 hours then go out.

    • Hal Bunzmann says:

      Anything solar will obviously only work during the day & then only when the sun is out which defeats the objective of trying to provide extra light/heat outside daylight hours. You’d need about 3-4 200 watt panels and storage batteries to achieve your goal. Each panel is app. $800 plus inverter & battery costs making it cost prohibitive.
      Hal B.

  14. Renae Edwards says:

    I have a flock of three chickens and I found the article on urban chickens interesting and encouraging. It would be wonderful if our city allowed chickens. Everything said in your article applies to our household. We feed the chickens all the scraps and feel it does help decrease our garbage output. Another plus is when the leftovers start getting old I don’t feel so guilty if I can feed them to the chickens instead of just throwing them away.

    Next year I plan to raise my number to six chickens to keep up with the demand for fresh eggs. I have a friend that pays for half the feed, and I give her all the eggs she can eat (or did till this fall when the chickens slowed down in laying).

    Now that I know how to encourage them to keep laying I will work towards that in the next week or two.

    Thank you for the helpful articles.

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