You hear so much about the positive effects of light on health and well-being these days that it’s hard to keep up.
But, at the same time, you can’t be in the light all the time. Everyones gotta sleep, right?
So where do you strike the balance?
When it comes to your chicken’s wellbeing, light is extremely important, but do chickens really need light at night?
Fret no more. Here’s whether chickens need light at night, why sleep is so important for chickens, what potential impacts light has on a chicken’s sleep, and some hot tips to improve your flock’s sleep!
Do Chickens Need Light At Night?
You might have heard through the community that some backyard chicken owners install a red light, or damp light in their coop or run for their chickens at night. But is it really necessary?
Well, although chickens are naturally afraid of the dark, they do not need a light in their coop to make them feel safe. The warmth and overall coziness provide them all the comfort they need to settle down for a good night’s sleep.
So where did this habit come from?
Well, from a young age, baby chicks raised in an incubator often grow up with a dull red heat lamp on, providing them warmth, comfort, and light while they develop.
But once chickens reach maturity, from about 6-8 weeks, they can stay in the coop and no longer need light at night. In fact, in this case, direct light could actually do more harm than good.
Can Chickens Sleep With A Light On?
So, even if chickens don’t NEED a light at night, are they still able to sleep with a light on?
Well, it depends on the brightness, intensity, and placement of the light.
A faint light from a distant street lamp shining over the coop? Completely OK.
An intense white LED light shining on their roost? Not so much.
In fact, any direct light on a chicken as they sleep will actually mess with the chicken’s natural circadian rhythm, through their pineal gland. This can have serious implications, relating to health, wellbeing, and egg-laying too. This is also why it’s so important that chickens get direct sunlight.
Chickens can sleep with a light on near them, but certainly nothing shining direct light on or in the coop!
Why Sleep Is So Important For Chickens
Have you ever had a poor night’s sleep and woke up cranky?
Well, the same thing can happen to chickens. Well, not exactly the same. But, a chicken that constantly experiences disturbed sleep will inevitably feel the effects.
Sleep is so important for chickens because it helps regulate their egg-laying, is great for their well-being, and keeps them in tip-top shape.
Chickens lay the most eggs when they receive 16 hours of light, and 8 hours of darkness a day. This allows for the perfect amount of sleep, and the perfect amount of light to stimulate their egg development and general health.
The Negative Effects Of Light At Night
Disrupting a chicken’s good night’s sleep is a bad idea, as you can imagine. Sleep not only affects the immune system in animals, but it’s thought to be a time you’re able to recharge, heal, and re-energize.
As it turns out, light is one of the main contributing factors in a chicken’s sleep cycle.
When a source of light invades the chickens’ coop, the pineal gland starts working irregularly. Melatonin is not secreted as it should be, which decreases egg production, disrupts the circadian rhythm, and triggers a plethora of behavioral changes.
Sometimes you’ll be able to tell your chickens aren’t getting enough sleep as they will often take excessive naps during the day!
Do Chickens Need Darkness To Sleep?
So, if a chicken doesn’t need light at night AND shouldn’t sleep with a direct light on, does that mean they need darkness to sleep properly?
Well, they don’t exactly need darkness. It’s rather natural to have some faint light in the distance. Frankly, because of the moon, it’s hard to avoid anyway!
So a little bit of glow in and around the chicken coop is absolutely fine, as long as it’s not direct light, and doesn’t disrupt the sleep or sleep patterns of your chickens!
Tips For A Better Sleep For Chickens
Clearly sleep is vital for a chicken’s health, immunity, and egg production. To help your flock get a solid night’s sleep here are some simple effective tips you can incorporate into your backyard farm!
A roost is a chicken’s preferred bed of choice.
Even if you take a look at how wild chickens sleep in Kauai, they sleep on branches of trees. In the same way, a roost is simply an elevated series of rods or platforms where your chickens can perch for the night.
The reason they love it so much is that it’s above the ground, which makes them feel safer and warmer. Plus, if you get the size right it’s perfect for them to wrap their toes around. Ultimate comfort, right?
Most pet stores have roosts you can get, or you can go old school and use a wooden ladder, or anything else roost-like!
Routine is huge in a chicken’s life. After all, they have a busy schedule of laying, foraging, and eating!
Chickens will put themselves to bed at around dusk, just when it starts to get dark. Use this and build a rhythm in your chicken’s sleep life.
You can encourage them to get out and about in the morning by letting them out of the coop early too!
Feed Before Sleep
To help your chickens get a solid sleep (plus stay quieter in the morning!), try feeding your chickens just before dusk.
Your flock will usually have a nice evening meal, which helps them sleep through the night. Don’t worry, chickens don’t need water in the coop overnight, just make sure they have access to some in the morning!
Do Baby Chicks Need Light At Night?
If you’re accustomed to raising baby chicks yourself, then you’ll know how important having a good heat lamp is for their health and well-being.
But, just to be clear, the reason why baby chicks need a heat lamp at night is not because of the necessity of light, but because of the necessity of heat.
Baby chicks are especially vulnerable creatures. Along with their diet, having adequate heat and sleep is vital to their development.
Because of this baby chicks do need the help of a heat lamp for warmth, light, and comfort.
When Baby Chickens No Longer Need Light At Night
So when do you rip the bandaid off, so to speak?
It’s recommended to keep a heat lamp with your baby chicks until they are at least 4-6 weeks of age when they can naturally keep warm themselves.
It’s around this age, between 6-8 weeks where you will usually introduce your baby chicks to their permanent coop. Provided it’s well protected, warm, and secure, of course!
Although light and direct sunlight are essential for a chicken’s health, chickens do not need light at night.
Don’t get me wrong though, faint, dull light is absolutely OK, it’s just simply not necessary.
Sleep is vital for your chicken’s health, wellbeing, and egg-laying. Too much light can very easily disrupt their normal, healthy cycles.
The exception to this rule is in baby chicks, where a heat lamp is used to provide the necessary warmth, comfort, and light for your baby chicks – without disturbing their sleep!