Sustainable Living Center Oregon
The demand for food worldwide is expected to double by 2030. To meet that demand, producers are adopting new technologies that will enable them to increase production at a reduced cost with less stress on the environment. Most of these production technologies focus on enhancing traditional inputs such as water, air, nutrients, and housing. One largely unexplored production input is light.
Many chicken farmers still utilize general-purpose residential and commercial 40W, 60W, and even 100W incandescent lamps in their coops. These lamps are well suited to human environments, but incandescent light is not the same as sunlight, and the best light for humans is not necessarily the best light for animals. Animals have evolved living under the sunlight, whose spectrum differs substantially from that of incandescent light.
Lighting stimulates hens to lay eggs. If you want to produce eggs year-round, you will need to install adequate lighting in yourhen house. Gradually increase the length of time hens are exposed to light. Start with 12 hours of total light per day at an indoor intensity that just allows you to read the fine print of a newspaper at night (0.5- to 1.0-foot candles). Increase daylight length by 30 minutes per week until you reach 16 hours of light per day. Additional outside light exposure is fine; you should just have the supplementary lights begin and remain on before and after dawn and dusk.
The white light is achieved by producing and combining narrow bands of red, green, and blue. As a result, there are large gaps in the spectrum between the red, blue, and green spikes, and many of the red, blue, and green wavelengths present in sunlight are lost.
Blue light is exceptionally weak, and most of the deeper reds are lost. Overall, CFLs do a terrible job of mimicking natural sunlight. They are also hard to clean, contain small amounts of toxic mercury, and do not dim well — plus their lifetime is shortened significantly when dimmed.
High-pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs offer excellent efficiency and high light output, with a color spectrum that is strongest in the reds and yellows, thus giving the bulbs their distinctive orange-yellow or amber hue. As with CFLs, however, much of the color spectrum is missing, especially the greens and blues. HPS lamps are also very difficult to dim, are slow to warm up, require a ballast for operation, have high upfront costs, and may contain sodium and/or mercury.
LEDs are the most efficient and environmentally friendly of the chickens lighting options, producing white light by combining a blue LED with red and green phosphors. The spectrum is near continuous with especially strong blues, but also ample green and red. While not exactly daylight, the LED spectrum provides a close approximation of daylight from a human’s point of view, without the spectral gaps of other technologies. They also have the longest lifetime, are highly rugged, are not susceptible to shock or vibration, and allow for color shifting and color control.
One of the most promising applications is the lighting of chicken coops, primarily due to the profound differences in the way that humans and fowl absorb, detect, and react to photons. By exploiting these differences, LED-based technologies can lower luminaire cost, increase musculoskeletal development and weight gain, induce earlier maturity in layer chickens destined to produce eggs, improve feed conversion, alter melatonin production, increase egg output and quality, regulate reproductive cycles, and increase length of reproductive life.
Green light, for example, significantly increases growth rate at an early age by enhancing proliferation of skeletal muscle satellite cells.
Blue light increases growth at a later age by elevating plasma androgens. Narrow-band blue light reduces locomotion. It also reduces cannibalism rate at late age (especially in broiler chickens raised for human consumption).
Together, green and blue light promote myofiber growth due to more effective stimulation of testosterone secretion. Overall, blue light has been shown to improve feed conversion by up to 4%, thereby reducing the cost per pound by up to 3% and increasing overall live weight by up to 5%.
Red light stimulates and promotes sexual activity and increases growth rates for chickens and turkeys at the beginning of the rearing period. It also increases locomotion, thereby minimizing leg disorders at the end of the rearing period. Red light also reduces the amount of feed consumption per egg laid with no differences in egg size, shell weight, shell thickness, or yolk and albumin weights. Red light has a significant impact on egg-laying performance and much research has been done on which type of red light is most beneficial. Two recent studies (El Halawani 2009, Huber-Eicher et al, 2013) show that red light (630 nanometers wavelength) is the most beneficial to laying hens; this particular color is “superior to any other wavelength in increasing egg production “ (El Halawani, 2009).
In laboratory tests, red light has been shown to lengthen the peak production period and increase egg production by up to 38 eggs per hen, while potentially decreasing food consumption by up to 20%. The rule of thumb is that good egg-laying breeds will respond to 5 lux, which is a light intensity at which the average person can just barely read a newspaper. Heavier breeds need 50 lux to keep production up — equivalent to the lighting in an average family living room. This is still considerably less light than a very dark, overcast day or office lighting.
The best method for lighting poultry houses has been an issue for many decades, generating much interest as new systems become available, according to researchers at Bern University of Applied Sciences. Beat Huber-Eicher and colleagues explain in their paper in Poultry Science that poultry farmers are now increasingly using colored LED to illuminate hen houses, for example, in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and England). In Switzerland, they report, all new systems are now equipped with LED, usually green ones.
LED give monochromatic light from different wavelengths and have several advantages over conventional illuminants, including high energy efficiency, long life, high reliability and low maintenance costs. They examined the effects of illumination with white, red and green LED on behavior and production parameters of laying hens. Light intensities in the three treatments were adjusted to be perceived by hens as equals.
Twenty-four groups of 25 laying hens were kept in identical compartments equipped with a litter area, raised perches, feed and drinking facilities, and nest boxes. Initially, they were kept under white LED for a two-week adaptation period. For the next four weeks, eight randomly chosen compartments were lit with red LED (640nm) and eight more with green LED (520nm). Behavior was monitored during the last two weeks of the trial. Additionally, weight gain, feed consumption, onset of lay and laying performance were recorded.
The results showed minor effects of green light on explorative behavior while red light reduced aggressiveness compared with white light. The results confirmed previous research that red light accelerated sexual development of laying hens and this trial demonstrated that this effect was due to the specific wavelength and not the intensity of light, concluded Huber-Eicher and colleagues. They added, however, that an additional effect of light intensity should not be excluded.
With a Sustainable Living Center’s Chicken Sanctuaries, we are able to test many batches of chickens in a pasture raised environment with and without different type of lighting arrangements to review the effects. Results will be published here as they are documented.
6347 S Hwy 101
Lincoln City, OR
Occasionally, some of your visitors may see an
6349 S Hwy 101
Lincoln City, OR
Occasionally, some of your visitors may see an
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