Do Chicks Benefit From 24 Hours of Light?

Published on: 04/25/2022
Author/s : Michael Czarick, Garret Ashabranner, Brian Fairchild / Department of Poultry Science - University of Georgia.

Why do we, for the most part, give our chicks 24 hours of light during brooding? Do chicks actually benefit from being able to eat and drink at 2 am? Though it is widely believed that 24 hours of light is essential to maximizing chick performance and health, preliminary trails have found no significant benefit in doing so.Numerous studies have shown that chicks, like all creatures, are essentially...

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April 25, 2022
Thanks for this nice article. though, there is no much difference between performance data, but 4 light saving is still a big achievement.
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May 1, 2022
In the field, I have raised chicks on 4 hour darkness at hatch till day 4 and working up to 6 by day 8, and I have found the same. That the 7 day weight is slightly lower but the "burst" of growth after day 9 more then makes up for it. The concern was that in finishing when feeding mash diets that in higher density barns (3.5 kg/ sq ft) that the chicks wouldn't have enough time and feed intake would be depressed. But that has also not been the case as flocks with 6 hours of darkness versus 3 or 4 have the same feed intake and performance data. It's been amazing how "programmable" they have been towards lights.

I have 54 birds to a feeder, maybe that changes if it goes higher and feeder management is important either ways.

I was wondering if any broiler growers have used lighting programs similar to Layer/pullet growers. Where they use a number of shorter lights on/off cycles in a day, and what they have seen with that?
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Dr. Mike Czarick Dr. Mike Czarick
Agricultural Engineer
May 1, 2022
George Entz Thanks for your feedback
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dan hofer dan hofer
Poultry farmer
May 9, 2022
George Entz How old are condemns with longer than four hours dark
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Dr. Mike Czarick Dr. Mike Czarick
Agricultural Engineer
May 1, 2022
I personally believe it is better to have a single dark period, the length of which would remain the same for essentially the entire length of the flock.
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May 2, 2022
Dr. Mike Czarick,

Please email me at entzgeorge20@gmail.com.

Thanks.
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May 4, 2022
Dr. Mike Czarick
If the dark period exceeds 4 hours the birds are getting very excited at light on and crowd in front of the feeders. This bears the risk of deep scratches on the back. Splitting the dark periods in two phases may be better in this respect.
Werner
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Dr. Mike Czarick Dr. Mike Czarick
Agricultural Engineer
May 4, 2022
Werner Bessei This is why I believe it is important to use a "dawn/dusk" dimmer. If the lights are brought on gradually you will avoid potential piling and scratching problems. In my opinion breaking a six hour dark period into two three dark periods somewhat defeats the purpose of having a dark period. I know I would rather sleep six hours continuously than have two three hour naps.
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dan hofer dan hofer
Poultry farmer
May 9, 2022
Werner Bessei but than they are not getting 4 hours rest which is very important for growth performance
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dan hofer dan hofer
Poultry farmer
May 9, 2022
Dr. Mike Czarick so would I agree
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May 9, 2022
Dr. Mike Czarick,

Your dusk/dawn time, is 30 minutes sufficient in 2-5 lux barns?
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May 16, 2022
Dr. Mike Czarick
it depends what you intend to achieve. If the objective is to alllow the development of a cicadian rhythm 4 hours are sufficient. The objective to provide 6 or 8 hours continuous rest may not be accepted by all birds. It has been shown that feed intake of broilers increases during long dark periods. This may not be the case if the birds have enough time to increase feed intake before dusk. A diiming period indeed helps to anticipate the dark period. But the development of the crop capacity may require more time, especially in young birds.
Werner
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Dr. Mike Czarick Dr. Mike Czarick
Agricultural Engineer
May 16, 2022
Werner Bessei And that is why we are conducting research trials looking at 6 hrs of darkness. We have a long way to go but it does look like that birds don't need 24 hours of light during brooding. What is the optimal dark period? Hard to say.
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May 20, 2022
Werner Bessei,

What about when having 8 hours of darkness, have 1 hour of light for birds to eat in the middle of the dark period, same as is done within the Layer industry. Layers don't precieve the hour of light as a change of Day/Night as long as the light period does not go over 1 hour if I remember correctly.

Has anyone tried that in Broilers?
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Dr. Mike Czarick Dr. Mike Czarick
Agricultural Engineer
May 20, 2022
George Entz One argument I could make against a very long dark period is that it would likely increase bird heat stress during warm weather. The shorter the day, the more calories the birds have to taken in during the shorter day, the greater the amount of heat the birds will produce during the shorter day (more Btu's/hr)
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May 23, 2022
Dr. Mike Czarick
that is correct. In this case you need a light phase period during the night. But it must not cover the whole night.
Werner
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May 23, 2022

Dr.Mike Czarick,

The point of giving one hour of light in the middle of a long Dark period is for birds to fill up with feed again, so therefore would reduce Btu's/hour versus having a long Dark period with no light hours, theoretically.

Dr. Werner,

If I understand your comment correctly, you agree. What would be the max hours of light you'd go in the middle of a dark period. The 1 hour I'm thinking comes from Layers, but broilers surely could be different.

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May 4, 2022

Look for Dr.Karen Schwean-Lardner work on lighting. She found that birds regulate the feed passage according to number of darkness. Link below.

https://en.engormix.com/poultry-industry/articles/dirunal-lighting-programs-broilers-t49707.htm

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May 5, 2022
This is very instructive. Thank you
Reply
dan hofer dan hofer
Poultry farmer
May 8, 2022

Good information there Geoge I find that using same of time from day one to finish is good idea get them eating and drinking good amount before they rest but 4 hours max cause it takes 4hours to empty gut that leaves empty section in Gut which bad bacteria can grow in the empty section when longer dark hours they hit feed and water to hard sometimes causing overeating which causes necrotic enteritis and More cellulitis at least that’s what I’ve been seeing. We recently installed light stimulation for 20 minutes every four hours and that seems to get better feed and water intake and in results better feed conversion

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May 9, 2022
Dan Hofer,

I have opened birds before lights came on at 6 hours of darkness and there was still feed present in the GIT so that confirmed to me Dr. Karen's work, that birds regulate the feed passage time according to hours of darkness, is correct. They were checked after they had been on 6 hours of darkness for a week, so It is quite possible that when first using 6 hours that the GIT runs empty till they are " programmed" to it. I don't have a reference (don't remember the paper) but I have read that it can be overcome by doing it gradually. I myself would never recommend changing hours of darkness more then 1/2 hour a day. I haven't seen differences in cellulitis from 4 to 6 hours.

I have tried the light stimulation you mentioned and I found that in heat stress moments that "maybe" it works.

Maybe Dr. Mike can comment if he has tried that technique to released trapped hot air in high density barns.

But the rest of the time all I have seen is the birds eat more in the 20 minute time frame and less during. But because you increase lights they become more active and all birds want to eat at the same time, which caused more competition at the feeders, especially in the late stages, and that caused a increase in cellulitis for me.

Maybe the difference in our results is feeder space/bird, diet type and density, bird density, lux starting point and increase used, and time between stimulation.
Reply
dan hofer dan hofer
Poultry farmer
May 10, 2022
It works good for us here I guess not each barn is the same
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Wijaya Saputra Wijaya Saputra
Veterinary Doctor
May 15, 2022

thank you, it's an article that is very useful to me.

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May 23, 2022
In India, we have bright days and day temperatures are seasonal. Our day length ranges from 12 to 14 hours. We work with open sided houses and it is not possible to reduce the day length to 8 hours as recommended for layers during growing. Our layers brooded in winter mature early by a week to10days due to increasing day length while growing. They do not respond to additional night light. We do use additional 2 to 4 hours ( to make it 16 hours) at peak. Not to stimulate maturity.
Birds started in summer and approach maturity in winter respond for additional evening or morning light in terms of sexual maturity. This is true only with birds with proper body weight in layers and broiler breeders.
Broilers growing in summer during summer months are extremely benefitted with 24 hours light because they do not eat enough during day time due to high temperature.
The birds grown in winter eat well during day time and also night time. They face sudden death during the day if the day temperature goes up suddenly. Putting off the night lights and not allowing them in night helps in less sudden deaths and better flock Feed efficiency.
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Talaat Mostafa  El-Sheikh Talaat Mostafa El-Sheikh
T. M. El-Sheikh Prof. Dr. of Poultry Production, Head of Animal & Poultry Prod. Dept.
June 9, 2022

While the light is very important the dark is very important too. Light is good for pituitary gland activation to secretion growth hormone. The same thing the dark period is important for bineal gland activity and melatonin hormone which is very important to immune response and stress tolerance.
A lighting program it is not only photoperiod but also light intensity weave length as well as a source of light

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