If you have chickens or ducks for eggs you are going to want to do your best to maximize their egg production. This is most easily achieved by installing automatic supplemental coop lighting to create more consistent patterns of routine for your birds.
The extra light should simulate the maximum daylight hours during a set summer day where they will naturally be most productive: see more on this below.
In this post you will learn everything you need to set up automatic lighting in your coop. This article will also help you sort through your supplemental light options, install your lighting set up, and manage your times to transition your birds to supplemental lights.
If you’re interested in automating your chicken or duck coop, see our related post on everything to know about automatic poultry feeders. Some of the products linked in this article are affiliate. A purchase may support GWR at no extra cost to you.
What to Know About Automatic Coop Lighting
Does More Coop Lighting Lead to More eggs?
Yes, supplemental coop lighting helps with more consistent laying. The simple reason for this is physiology. Chicken and duck egg production is regulated through hormones controlled primarily from their endocrine systems. They have a gland behind their eye that responds to daylight. Increasing the daylight hours simply activates the endocrine system to secrete more of the appropriate hormone for egg production, which results in more eggs!
Does supplemental light shorten your chicken’s life?
No, but it might shorten their active laying years without reducing overall egg output. Every chicken is born with the maximum number of eggs they will have already existing in their reproductive system. All supplemental light will do is reduce the days they do not lay in between their laying cycles. You will get more of their eggs sooner. There have been no studies to suggest the recommended extra light provides any extra stress to chickens or ducks.
How many hours of Coop Lighting should I Use?
14 -16hrs/day. If you use less than 14 hrs a day you may see a reduction of egg production. If you have over 16hrs a day of lighting it causes excess stress to your chickens resulting in less eggs and lower immune systems.
When is the Best Time of Year to Set Up an Automatic Timer?
Right now! You can do it at any time of year, but keep in mind how much time you’re adding. Chickens also like to molt in the fall and many farmers choose to change lighting at a different time to respect the change the chicken is already going through. Add no more than 30 minutes per week to your coop’s light timer until you reach 14-16 hrs. Consider adding time onto the morning first to get the desired time as this seems to be easier on the birds.
The absolute best time to set up your lights is right after the longest day of the year (if you have less than 16hrs of daylight). This will give you a good idea of the ideal times to have your lights running. Simply set your light to come on at the desired time and let it roll! Because you will hopefully be using a LED bulb the electricity used is so minimal ($2-4/year). You can set and leave your timer on. If you would like to be extra conservatives you can set it to turn off during most of the midday hrs. If you do this be sure not to forget to extend the on times as the days get shorter.
What is the cost of setting up an automatic timer?
You can expect to spend from $50 to $100.
What tools do I need to set up a light on a timer?
You don’t need any tools! If you want to hammer hook the power bar and timer on a nail. In which case you will need a hammer and a nail.
Watch the video below to see how we set up our automatic coop lighting here on the homestead.
Equipment Needed for Automatic Coop Lighting
What do I Need to Buy for my Chickens/Ducks?
Depending on your coop set up you will need a few things to get going. Every setup will consist of this list of basic pieces. You can see more detail on each below.
- Extension cords to move your power to your coop.
- A plugin with multiple plug options.
- A timer to keep track of the actual time, as well as function as a switch to turn the lights on and off.
- Light fixtures to house your lighting.
- the lights themselves. There are a number devices or packages that are available to purchase online. Or you can buy each piece separately to keep costs down and for more options.
I recommend purchasing an outdoor-grade extension cord. They are generally built to be more robust. They are also more likely to have better housing connections on each end that will reduce any chance of interfering and starting a fire. When creating automation with electricity it pays to build with quality items for peace of mind.
If you do not already have a power bar installed on your chicken coop I recommend putting one in. Decide on your location before you order as you’ll have to choose an indoor or outdoor power bar. (An outdoor one will work fine for either, but no vice versa.) You may find it useful if you choose to add lighting, an automatic door, an electric fence, or to provide extra heating. The easiest way to do this is to put a screw or nail in 90% of the way under a covered place in your coop. Most power bars come with either a hole in one of the side plates or a groove on the back that allow for easy installation.
I prefer to build semi-permanent infrastructure for livestock because you never know when you’re going to move things around or try something new. A simple hanging socket on a chord does the trick just fine. Make sure your fixture can fit an E26 lightbulb base as this is your most common single bulb fitting. This will mean that bulbs will be less expensive and more readily available to purchase. If you choose to go with fluorescent fixtures make sure they can fit T8 bulbs as these are most common.
When deciding on your light you will need to consider the type of bulb, bulb color, light intensity, heat produced, and energy usage.
Incandescent, fluorescent, and LED are your three main lighting options. All should work fine as long as you can get the correct color. You can find all three of these types that fit into E26 sockets, which is why I recommend just a single light fixture/socket. Unless you are nostalgic for the incandescent or have a bunch in storage there is no reason not to go with LED. You can get LED lights in every light spectrum and intensity conceivable. LED also uses 70-80% less energy to run and can last up to 25x longer than incandescent. All of this will save you time and money. Here is more info on differences in energy efficiency in bulbs.
The type of lighting you use should do its best to resemble natural sunlight. Natural sunlight exists in the spectrum of 5000-6500K. You can purchase bulbs in almost any spectrum but to simplify it most bulbs are labelled as either “warm” or “cool/daylight” Avoid the “warm” and go for the daylight bulbs(4500k-5000k).
Light intensity is measured in lumens and can be easily found in the details when purchasing any type of light bulb. For a single small coop (100 square feet or smaller) 10’ x 10’ using a single bulb with 400-500 lumens will do fine. If you have a larger coop (200 square feet) you want 800-1000 lumens. There is no need to add more light fixtures to add more light if you can simply change out the bulb for higher lumens. E26 fixtures can support bulbs above 5000 Lumens. However, I would not recommend using such a strong light without a shade to stop your chooks from staring straight at it.
Depending on where you are and how well insulated your coop is you might be looking for a bulb that produces more heat and you may be considering an incandescent bulb. Don’t do it! Incandescent bulbs are highly inefficient in converting electricity to light as well as heat. I would recommend setting up an identical, semi-permanent cord/light set up and buy a bulb that is designed for producing heat. You can run the heat light off of the same timer as the light to help prevent any light emitted from the heat bulb keeping the birds up. If you need to run heat for longer in the night/day you should get a ceramic bulb that produces heat and no light and put in on a separate timer.
Energy use (annual cost of automatic lights for chickens?)
The total energy used in your automatic light set up is important for calculating cost of effort, time, and money. Based on current average electricity rates across the US (13.19 cents/kwh) the cost of running a 450 lumen bulb for 8hrs a day (average over the year) in your chicken coop will cost you $2.12 in electricity. At 2920 hours a year the light bulbs should still last you another 4+ years.
[(watts of bulb) x (electricity rates in kwh ) x (average hours of use each day) x (365days)]/1000 = annual cost of electricity to run your lighting.
Use this online calculator to check how much it would cost you. Local kwh prices are not provided.
When looking for a timer you have many options. However, there are some particular features that are nice to have:
- I recommend using outdoor-grade timers inside coops as they can get moist and dusty at times.
- It is also convenient to have a nail or screw for attaching it to a wall.
- A digital interface with the options to change settings easily
- 3 pronged ports (with a ground wire port)
- More than 1 outlet.
For a small investment in time and resources, you should see plentiful repayment in efficiency in your chicken coop. If you are excited about automatic coop lighting you can also read about automatic coop feeders. Let us know below: what are your experiences with supplemental coop lighting for your chickens or ducks?