Chickens, food miles and light quality.

In a world where the average piece of food travels between 1,500 to 2,500 miles (4,000 km) every time it is delivered to your plate, what can you do to reduce your food mileage.

 

For some the answer is a chicken coop in the backyard with three-four chickens kept for egg production. Knowing that the mileage on your breakfast is around 10m can be very satisfying indeed!

 

In terms of keeping chickens happy and healthy, what can the backyard farmer learn from the current state of research into light and how it effects birds?

 

Chickens can perceive UV light that humans can’t and are sensitive to its absence. A widely quoted Wall Street Journal article of 1987 reports that chickens in the study kept under full-spectrum light bulbs lived twice as long, were calmer and less aggressive, and produced eggs 25% lower in cholesterol.

 

This study was backed up by an article in Animal Behaviour (Volume 62, Issue 5, November 2001). The article found that corticosterone levels were higher in chickens kept under standard artificial light, than in chickens kept under full-spectrum light. Production of corticosterone is typically an indicator that the body is under stress. Living in a persistent state of stress is damaging to the body.

 

The ideal would be to keep chickens in conditions where they have good access to natural lighting. But given that chickens started in the jungles of South East Asia but are now kept all over the world – they may be being kept in areas where they simply can’t get the light they need from natural sources. In these cases, supplementing with a full-spectrum bulb will reap benefits.

 

 

Related posts:

  1. Raising healthy chickens – why light matters.
  2. Best of 2011 – Care of Chickens and other birds
  3. Light quality and the relationship to fertility
  4. Vitamin D Deficiencies At Epidemic Levels
  5. How light affects sleep quality

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