Artificial light helps chicken & turkey growers & breeders

October 1946
C. E. Rohde
Tuesday, 01 October 1946
By C. E. Rohde

In the strictest sense artificial lights do not increase annual egg production, but merely influence the distribution of production, which makes it possible to get more eggs during the fall and early winter period of normally highest prices. For this reason, use of artificial lights can be planned to give desired results, dependent upon egg sales for market or hatching purposes.

It is usually unwise to light a flock of pullets being kept as a hatching flock, because the resulting stimulation of fall and winter production is made at the expense of a somewhat lower level of production in the early spring, when hatching egg demand is greatest.

Old Hens Under Lights

The lighting of the laying flock beginning in mid-August or early September is one example of greater production control that enables more net earnings. Lighting of old hens at this time, beginning at 4:00 a.m., makes it possible to postpone molt for a large portion of the flock and extend production for 45 to 60 days into the period of higher prices.

This practice as particular merit this year for the poultry raiser who wants to take advantage of price conditions to get the most net income from his production.

The smaller hatches this past spring and higher feed costs, which usually mean later maturing pullets and delaying fall production, all add up to strong demand and rising prices, and these extra eggs from old birds will mean greater income.

Glands Stimulated

This result of artificial lighting is based upon findings of the Kansas State College of Agriculture and Ohio State University. Experiments established the fact that production increase was due to stimulation of the pituitary gland by the infra-red light rays. This stepped up glandular activity resulted in greater egg production, which brought about higher feed requirements and consumption. These facts made it possible to discard the earlier explanation of higher production due to a longer feeding period and greater feed intake.

Aside from this common use of lights for stimulating egg production during the fall and winter months numerous other values can put extra dollars in the poultry raiser's pocket.

Artificial lights may be used to reduce early chick and poultry mortality, to bring turkey breeder flocks into production more uniformly, and to increase the number of turkey hatching eggs produced per hen by approximately 10 eggs in the average season. They may be used to moderate the effects of extremely hot, as well as cold weather. Late hatched pullets can be brought into production earlier and at heavier weights, and late molting, "cream of the crop," breeder hens can be hastened into production to obtain hatching eggs earlier in the spring.

The research department of one prominent feed company has established a close relationship between the interval of time between hatching and the beginning of feeding and watering of turkey poults and livability and weight of these poults at 6 weeds of age.

Livability ranged from 91.7 per cent, when feeding was begun within 24 hours, to the lower figure of 73.7 per cent when delayed until 72 hours after hatching. The same experience is also common with baby chicks. Since time is so important, the use of all-night lights in the brooder house frequently makes it possible to shorten this hatching-to-feeding interval and to make added use of these critical "starting period" hours. This, in part at least, will offset the effects of unavoidable delay in getting chicks and poults on feed. Brighter lights, that is 40 t 60 watt bulbs, may be used for this purpose, to be followed, after 3 or 4 days, by 7 ½, 10, or 15 watt bulbs, which also aid in avoiding piling and loss from smothering if brooder temperatures accidently range too high or low.

Missouri College of Agriculture experimental results show that rate of chick growth is definitely retarded during hot summer weather. This is likewise true of turkey poults, though perhaps to a lesser degree.

Lights for Growth

Producers in the western and southern portions of the country, where daytime temperatures, for days on end range in the upper 90's or higher, have found that the use of dim – 10 to 15 watt – all-night lights in the brooder house helps to maintain growth. Feed and water consumption during the cooler night portion of each 24 hour period equals that of the daytime period and helps keep poults and chicks growing at or near the optimum rate through the 8th to 12th weeks.

Turkey Hatching Eggs in 30 Days

Turkey breeder hens that are approximately 7 months of age can be brought into production rather uniformly within 30 days after they are placed under artificial lights.

This fact proved important this past season to George Lewis of Quinlin, Okla. Mr. Lewis' flock of 400 breeders, which were lighted during the last few days of December, began laying in late January and continued to lay at a 50 per cent or better rate until sold on April 29th. Mr. Lewis sums up his first experience with artificial lights by saying that he sold 12 extra eggs per hen over the previous year in a season when hatching egg demand ceased 30 days earlier than in 1945.

Applying Lighting Principles

In stimulating egg production, intensity of light is the important consideration along with flock comfort. A safe rule is that of providing one 40 watt lamp for each 200 sq. ft. of floor space. The light should be located about 6 ft. from the floor and equipped with shallow reflectors 12 to 14 inches in diameter, to insure illumination of roosts as well as feeders and water fountains.

If reflectors are not provided, larger bulbs – at least 60 watts – are helpful. Much of the value of artificial lighting may be lost unless these principles are followed.

Intensity of light appears to affect turkey breeding flock production to a greater extent than is true with chickens. For this reason, 60 watt bulbs for turkeys more nearly insure desired results.

Flock comfort is important, and housing requirements vary with climactic conditions. In the southern climates where winters are mild, turkeys can be successfully lighted in a protected shed that is entirely open on the south. Some growers, with out door roosts, have successfully used flood lights mounted on poles 10 or more feet above the ground. These are arranged to light the roosts, feeders, and water fountains. Lighting is usually delayed approximately 30 days beyond the time when they might be used with greater housing protection from severe weather, which is generally of short duration.

Turkey breeder hens respond to light stimulus about 2 or 3 weeks sooner than the toms. For this reason, fertility must be protected in these first eggs by lighting toms 2 weeks before the lights are used on the hens, if both sexes are of the same age. Oklahoma College of Agriculture results indicate that toms that are from an earlier hatch, and consequently 30 or more days older than the hens, do not require this special consideration.

Begin Lights Gradually

Lighting of laying flocks should be started gradually and the lighting period lengthened 10 to 15 minutes per day until a 13 or 14-hour total light or feeding period is attained. Once begun, lighting should be continued until normal daylight approaching this number of hours prevails.

The use of automatic time switches in turning on the lights in the laying house will be found helpful. It avoids the necessity of being present in the house to turn on the lights. When an automatic time switch is used, provision must be made the night before – in the case of early morning lights – to have water available as soon as the birds come down from the roosts. This means, in wintertime, having water heated in the fountains.

Feed and Water Important

Satisfactory results, that is, higher production and an increased or maintained rate of growth, are related to higher feed intake. For this reason, the feed supply must be adequate and readily available. The water supply is of equal importance. During the winter months, provision must be made for an abundant water supply with a temperature range of 55 to 65 degrees F. Unless the chill is removed from the water and the supply is adequate, the results are likely to be disappointing.

National Poultry Digest from A.P. Journal

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