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Day 55: Lighting Up the Chicken Coop

Our little flock has been doing a less-than-stellar job of keeping us in eggs. Not that I blame them. Some our over four years old, so just the fact that they are still laying is fabulous.

But even the youngsters have slowed their production. The problem? Winter has arrived.

Okay, so it's not quite winter yet, but it is close. And it's not the cold weather that has them saying no to the nesting box. It's actually the early nightfall.

For the best egg production, chickens need about 16 hours of light a day. Up until now, we just squeaked by with whatever we had.

But at Christmas-time last year, and dozens of cookies to bake, we had to break down and buy a carton of 18 eggs. After years of not buying them, talk about sticker shock!

This year, we decided to artificially lengthen their day. It was so simple, I wish we would have done it sooner.

We bought an outdoor light fixture with safety features like a cool-touch bulb and protective housing (to keep them from accidentally breaking the bulb.) A few zip ties to affix it to the rafters of the coop, and we were in business.

As soon as dusk fell, we plugged it in and the entire family watched as the girls milled around in mild confusion. They knew the sun was supposed to be setting, and had already settled atop their bedtime box. But that blasted light wasn't going away!

From outside the warmly blanketed coop, you could see their plump chicken silhouettes against the canvas. We let them spend a few hours under the light, then turned it off to let them sleep.

The plan is to turn the light on a few hours every evening until the days grow long again. Hopefully we'll see more eggs soon.

Homesteader's Tip: You don't need a ton of light to help your flock through the winter (just a 40 watt bulb will do.) But it should give off a warm, yellow light (rather than blue or green you often see with camping lanterns or solar light fixtures.) The warm light color better mimics the sun's rays.

Only use light on mature hens, though. Growing birds need their sleep to get fat and healthy!

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