Sunday, March 13, 2011

How to Use Lights to Increase Duck Egg Production

Originally posted by John Metzer on Thu, Nov 11, 2010 @ 01:11 PM 

The use of artificial lights is very important in extending the egg production of ducks.  An increasing day length (December 21 to June 21) stimulates birds to lay more eggs and shorter days (June 21 to December 21) stimulate them to lay fewer eggs and eventually stop egg production.  Therefore, the control of day length is very important in starting, maintaining and stopping egg production in ducks.






To start egg production
When we stimulate our duck breeders to start egg production in December, we add ¾ of an hour in the morning and ¾ hour in the evening to the natural day length.  Then every 3-4 days we add another half hour alternating between the morning and evening until we get to a total of 17 hours of light and 7 hours of dark.

To maintain egg production
It is important that you increase your day length to equal the longest day of the year in your latitude.  Why?  So that your ducks never notice the days getting shorter starting June 21.  Let us assume your longest natural day length is 17 hours but you only added enough artificial light in the spring to go up to 16 hours.  Well, your birds will be subjected to increasingly shorter days from June 21 until some time in July or August when the natural day length is down to 16 hours.  And they will lay fewer eggs because of this shortening of their day.  From that point on they will have 16 hours of light, but some of the damage will have already occurred.




To stop egg production
If you want your birds to go into a molt, turn off the artificial lights.  This will help shock their system into a molt and rest period.

Intensity of Light
Birds do not need an intense light to stimulate them.  It can be as little as .5 footcandle but it is probably better to get a level of 3-5 footcandles.  In general this means sufficient light to read a newspaper.  Oftentimes this light level is met about a half hour prior to sunrise and stops a half hour after sunset.

The following charts show the natural day length of three latitudes in the US.  You can set your day length according to these charts.  If you prefer, you can go the Gaisma website for a chart like this for your city.    For exact sunrise and sunset times for every day of the year in your town, you can go to the US Navy Oceanography website.  You want to use the civil sunrise and sunset times (the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon) as this is about the point the light is at about 3-5 footcandles.

These charts are marked in military time – 6 is 6am, 12 is noon, 18 is 6pm.  Sample cities for each sample latitude are shown below each chart.

For this northern latitude, the lights should come on about 4:30am and go off at 9:45pm.


For this central latitude, the lights should come on about 5am and turn off about 9:15pm.




In this southern US latitude, the lights should come on about 5:45am and go off at 9:00pm.

Next week we will discuss timeclocks, types of lights to use, how to make sure your lights are working and how geese do not follow the same rules as ducks in terms of light stimulation and egg production.

35 comments:

  1. Doesn't using a light to increase egg production normally lead to the bird dying sooner?

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  2. I have never heard of that effect of lighting. I don't know why artificial lighting would lead to an earlier death.

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  3. Ok, I thought I had read that, but when I looked back to where I thought I got it from, it didn't say anything about it. I had thought that I read that it caused an earlier death because the break in the winter was good for them, but like I said, I can't find where I heard or read that before, so it probably isn't correct if you've never heard of it.

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  4. I was wondering about leaving the lights on all the time, which we do to deter predators. Do the youngsters need 8 hours of dark night to stimulate them into laying? Thanks for your wonderful company and amazing website!-Khaiti

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  5. I don't have a definitive answer on the effects of 24 hours of light. It is not done commercially as there is no need for 24 hours of light and it is expensive. If possible, I would provide 18 hours of brighter light and 8 hours of dimmer light.

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  6. I am thinking of using Solar powered LED lights to light my duck pens, but it will last the whole night, Will accessive lights makes any different in duck eaggs production?

    Thanks
    Norman

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  7. You can use LED but I would prefer to put them on a timer so they run from sunset until about 8:30pm and then turn on at 3:30am and run until sunrise. Hopefully you can find the correct timer. Try some of the landscape supply stores that have solar powered lights for landscaping. Some of those have built in timers. My guess is that timed lights are best, 24 hour lighting is second best and natural daylength is third best.

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  8. Well I have skipped the method of slowly increasing the light, I just make sure they have at least 17 hours of light. Also I don't add some to the beginning of the day an just some to the end of the day. I add it all to the end of the day, starting at sunset.

    I have calculated the minimum daily light at the winter solstice, which is about 9 hours where I live, and I add 8 hours of artificial light to that.
    I have a combo light sensor/daily timer, that goes on at sunset, and goes off at 12:30am. This way there will always be at least 17 hours of light, and the lights are not on all the time.

    This article was useful though to convey how much light there needs to be. It says about enough to read a newspaper. Well I thought what I have might be too dim, but I can read a newspaper. I use two 4' flourescent tubes.

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  9. The problem with only adding light in the evening is that the sunrise time is continually changing, too. You may have 17 hours of light at the shortest day of the year but the days are still getting shorter every day for your ducks for half the year as the sun rises later every day from the summer solstice to the winter solstice. So right now (fall) the birds may be getting 18 hours but by the winter solstice, they will be getting 17 hours. This means the days will be shortening between now and then which is not stimulatory for egg production. It is better to have lights in the morning and evening so this is not a problem.

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  10. We just started giving our ducks lights to try to get them laying again, and today I saw that a duck should be 20-23 weeks old for this. We have two young ducks that were added to the flock this year. Is it dangerous for them to have increasing light exposure at 17 weeks? If so, would creating a dark-ish corner of the duck house and confining them there be dark enough?

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    1. I think separating and moving them would be more stress than allowing them to lay a bit early. The only real consequences of laying early is that the eggs are smaller, longer before the ducks get full size and lay normal sized eggs. Laying early has no long term detrimental effects.

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  11. Thanks for the reply! I thought I'd heard that getting them to lay early could put them at higher risk for becoming egg bound. If that's not the case, I'll get out there tomorrow and bump up the timer another click!

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  12. One more question, or maybe two... How long after increasing the day length should I expect before we start seeing eggs (or looking into other reasons for non-laying)? Also, the first year ducks seem to be losing more feathers this week than typical. This seems an odd time of year to molt. Can increasing the lights cause that?

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    1. You normally see eggs 2-3 weeks after increasing the lights. The loss of feathers indicates a molt. If they are molting, they have been stressed by something - feed, water, fear, disease issues, etc. In addition, a bird in molt rarely lays eggs. Increasing the lights will not cause a molt.

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    2. I am a new Duck Farmer. I have started my Farm with 10,000 Ducks. The problem which I m getting is that sometimes my Ducks give me 80 percent production and next day it comes on 20 percent. Management,Feed,Water is the same then what problem I m having?

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    3. Contact us directly at metzinfo@metzerfarms.com and maybe we can help.

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  13. i have two female and one male duck .1 duck nener lays eggs and 1 another duck sometime lays but not regularly only 2 or 3 times she lays in a month so what should i do

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    1. If your ducks are laying less than you expect, I would make sure they are being fed the correct feed (chicken or duck breeder or layer feed), all the feed they want to eat, there is no stress, they have plenty of clean water to drink, you are in the northern hemisphere (if you are south of the equator the days have been getting shorter and shorter), their pen is kept reasonably clean and your ducks aren't too old.

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  14. I had a friend care for my ducks while I was gone for a week. Since my 4 ducks hide their eggs under bedding, my friend never found their eggs. Since they all use the same nest box to lay (even though there are 3 nest boxes), there was a clutch of over a dozen eggs when I returned. They promptly stopped laying. How long before they start laying again?

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    1. Are all four ducks now trying to sit on the eggs? If not, then my guess is there was something other than a full nest that stopped their laying. Maybe there was a lack of water or feed or some other stress during your absence? What breed are they? If the breed is a good egg layer, they should start within a week or two. If not, then it might be later in the fall or even next spring.

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  15. i have started a duck raising project and my flock is now st the egg production stage. i feed them well but still the production rate is at 10%-15%. what needs to be done to increase its egg production sir?

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    1. How old are they? What breed? What is the protein and calcium level of the feed they are eating now? Are you using lights to stimulate production? How many weeks has it been since they laid their first egg? How many females are in the flock?

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    2. Sir John Metzer, they are now 8 months old and they started laying eggs 2 weeks ago. they mixed Philippine local ducks. ill check the contents of the duck laying feeds i used. i just started light stimulation technique 2 days ago oct 11, 2015. there approximately 750 female ducks and close to 100 male ducks sir.

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    3. You may just need to be patient. It takes nine weeks to go from 2% production to peak production. It also takes several weeks for light stimulation to affect egg production. However, they should have started laying at five months of age so I don't know why the delay if they are eight months old.

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    4. thank you very much sir for the very insightful reply. i owe you a lot. they lay eggs late due to poor feeding practice. backyard style but when i oversaw it that was the time they were able to recover healthwise.

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    5. and by the way sir, how many weeks of egg production at its peak expected volume? thanks again sir.

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    6. Production at their peak varies tremendously on how they have been raised and their genetics. It will range from 60% (60 eggs each day from every 100 females) to 99%. They will stay at this level for about three weeks and then production starts to go down from .5% to 2% a week. Normally commercial flocks are kept in production for 40-50 weeks.

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  16. Does the color range of lights make any difference I know it does make a difference in starting seedlings is there any difference between using LEDs over old fashion bulbs

    I would prefer to use LEDs for the lower cost of installation skipping the cost of trenching ,conduit ,,wire etc over a simple solar power set up

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    Replies
    1. I think you are safe with LEDs. They are used exclusively in new broiler buildings but I really don't know with breeders. I have used fluorescent and high pressure sodium with good luck.

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  17. Is there aNY difference in amount of light or time for Ducks V. Geese ?

    I am thinking of running a mixed flock of runners and Chinease Geese in a orchard area

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    1. Ducks do the best with about 17 hours of light. You can bring geese into production earlier with extra lights but it does not extend their season as it does with ducks, chickens, turkeys, etc. They have found the ideal day length for geese in Europe for maximum egg production is 10 hours. Obviously this can only be done in a dark house, not if they are subject to natural day lengths.

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  18. Hi. We live in New Hampshire and have 1 mallard and 2 rouens. They were born in march and have been laying for about 2 months now. We use a heat lamp in one corner of their small barn so they can have a warm area if they want, the light is on from late afternoon until morning. After reading your info on light and egg production im wondering if this is a bad idea? Will a heat lamp be enough light to cause them to never have a night time? THANK YOU!!!!

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    1. Yes, a heat lamp will provide enough light that they will not have a "night". This will not harm them but may prevent maximum egg production. But maybe maximum egg production is not critical to you. As I said, the heat lamp's light is not harming them.

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  19. Why do you recommend increasing the light gradually at 20 to 23 weeks? Would it harm the ducks to go from a 10 hour day to 17 hour day overnight?

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    1. I have seen no research supporting either method though the general consensus is that you get more prolapses if you increase the day length too much too quickly.

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