Karen has been after me to set up hen lights this year, after a hiatus of several years. Hens normally don’t like to lay except when the day length is increasing or reasonably long or both, and neither holds true at the end of the year. Lights have been used since the 1880s to deal with this.
There’s a lot of superstition about hen lights, ranging from the idea that it somehow uses up the hens, to the idea that hens are kept under brilliant 24-hour light as a form of torture.
Lights may have been hard on the hens in the 1880s, which was before anyone knew anything about nutrition, and flocks were generally malnourished during the winter. But the bright-light idea is just silly. Hens respond to very low levels of light, and electricity costs money. Light stimulation works at levels so dim that the hens can’t see to move around. The real problem with traditional hen lights is that they’re so dim that it’s hard for the farmer to work by them. The hens have no difficulty sleeping with the lights on.