The Sunny Side of Life: Do Chickens Need Sunlight?

While chickens get uncomfortable in hot and warm weather, these birds need sunlight for survival. Sunlight is critical for chickens as it is for humans.

It provides chickens with the vital vitamin D they need to support their normal growth. Sunlight determines your chickens’ daily wake/ sleep schedule.

Furthermore, sunlight helps chickens produce and synthesize the crucial hormones they require for egg production.

Health Benefits of Sunlight for Chickens

Sunlight is vital for chickens’ survival. From helping chickens produce and synthesize vitamin D, sunlight has multiple health benefits for chickens.

These are the top health benefits of sunlight for chickens.

Vitamin D Production

The FDA notes that inadequate vitamin D levels in a chicken’s diet can lead to serious health problems, such as bone weakness, joint pains, and fractures. Acute vitamin D deficiency in chickens can cause death.

Exposing your chickens to sunlight is vital to help their bodies produce adequate vitamin D levels, especially if they need more of this vitamin from their diet. Chickens need between 3,000 and 5,000 kg/IU of vitamin D daily.

Nonetheless, it’s hard for your chickens to achieve this amount of vitamin D from their regular diet. Your chickens can get a significant amount of vitamin D if you allow them to remain in the sunshine for around 15 to 30 minutes daily. Overall, chickens need sunlight for vitamin D production.

Although sunlight is critical for helping chickens produce this vital vitamin, your chickens need it in moderation to make vitamin D. Exposing your chickens to direct sunlight for too long, particularly in the summertime, can suppress vitamin D production.

Effects on Egg Production

Exposure to sunlight affects egg production. It also determines the number and size of eggs your chickens will produce. Hens need 14 hours of sunlight exposure daily to lay eggs.

Maximum egg production occurs when a hen gets 15   hours of sunlight daily. Sunlight stimulates a hen’s reproductive cycle. No wonder egg layers produce many eggs in the summer and spring because they get long exposure to sunlight during these months.

Exposure to sunlight helps stimulate a hen’s ovary and the glands in its endocrine system, prompting the hen to lay more. Hens will lay less frequently during wintertime because this season has minimal daylight hours.

That’s why poultry owners add supplemental light inside their coops to trigger their layers’ reproductive systems to help them lay more and larger eggs.

Disease Prevention

Sunlight plays an integral role in a chicken’s overall health. Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sunlight exposure can lead to serious health problems. For instance, it can lead to stunted growth in growing chickens.

Furthermore, vitamin D deficiency due to poor exposure to sunlight can make your chickens develop weak legs, walking problems, brittle bones, and broken or soft nails. Sunlight is crucial for preventing bone weakness in chickens

. It can also help prevent joint problems and fractures. Sunlight helps prevent chicken diseases by killing the disease-causing pathogens that thrive in a chicken coop that doesn’t let in UV rays for your chickens.

UV rays from sunlight can help prevent egg production problems in chickens. Egg layers that don’t get adequate vitamin D levels suffer from egg production problems, such as laying soft shell eggs.

Chickens need sufficient sunlight to produce vitamin D, to help the birds modulate adaptive and innate immune responses, which are vital for disease prevention in chickens.

Vitamin D deficiency can increase autoimmunity in chickens. Furthermore, it can increase your birds’ susceptibility to many diseases. Overall, sunlight will play a critical role in disease prevention in your flock.

How Much Sunlight do Chickens Need

The amount of light a chicken needs depends on its age. The average chicken needs around 14 hours of sunlight daily. However, chickens only receive these hours of sunlight during the summertime because there are several daylight hours.

Nonetheless, the number of daylight hours is at its lowest during wintertime. Chickens will receive a maximum of 9 daylight hours during the wintertime.

Adequate Alternatives to Sunlight Exposure

Although sunlight is crucial for chickens, your chickens won’t always get enough sunlight. Consequently, the birds will experience health problems, like vitamin D deficiencies, due to inadequate exposure to sunlight.

Your hens’ egg production capabilities may suffer a profound glitch due to a lack of sunlight exposure. Fortunately, you can try some adequate alternatives to sunlight exposure to ensure your flock gets enough hours of sunlight exposure in the absence of natural sunlight.

Artificial Lighting Sources

You can try numerous artificial sources to ensure your flock gets adequate exposure to sunlight when they don’t have exposure to natural sunlight.

These are some excellent artificial lighting sources to help you provide your chickens with adequate sunlight exposure.

  • Incandescent lighting– This is the cheapest artificial lighting for poultry raisers. It entails using an incandescent bulb, an incandescent light globe, or an incandescent lamp. Incandescent lighting can provide your chickens with around 750 to 1000 hours of artificial light exposure.
  • Fluorescent lighting– Fluorescent lighting is perhaps the most efficient artificial lighting option, especially for chicken raisers with large chicken flocks. It entails lighting a chicken coop with low-pressure, gas-discharge lamps to produce artificial light for chickens.
  • Compact fluorescent lighting-This artificial lighting is more energy efficient than other artificial lighting options. It utilizes a smaller percentage of fluorescent light to produce high-intensity lighting.

Incorporating Natural Light Sources

Incorporating natural light sources can also provide your flock with an adequate alternative to sunlight exposure.

You can incorporate natural light sources such as skylights, fireflies, and external glazing into the chicken coop to provide the flock with a reliable alternative to sunlight exposure.

The advantage of incorporating natural light sources in your coop is that it allows your flock to utilize the light in their coop as an alternative to the natural sunlight.

You can incorporate natural light sources when natural daylight hours drop significantly to help maximize the natural sunlight in the coop to keep your egg layers laying their best.


Chickens do require sunlight like other mammals and birds. The absence of sunlight can be fatal to your flock. You can try alternative lighting sources to ensure your flock gets adequate sunlight, particularly if your flock has many layers.

However, don’t expose your flock to excess sunlight because excess sunlight can have harmful health consequences on your flock.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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