Guide to Broiler House Lighting: Key Considerations for Broiler Producers

16th May 2024
Lighting design determines bird behaviour, growth and welfare.

Effective lighting design in broiler houses is far more than just illuminating the space; it's a tactical tool that influences bird behaviour, growth, welfare, and overall production success. 

It must be understood early on that birds see differently from humans. Poultry species has a unique sensitivity to light, especially in the ultraviolet spectrum, which react differently to different sources of stimuli. When planning the lighting design for broiler houses, careful consideration and accurate selection of lighting equipment is needed to ensure maximum performance and productivity. 

Proper lighting is in fact as equally important as ventilation or feeding systems with its impact going far beyond just providing visibility. Most modern broiler production facilities pay close attention to lighting design as its significance to the health and performance of the birds cannot be overstated, these include:

1.Stimulating Desired Behaviours
Lighting programmes can be tailored to stimulate specific behaviours. Adequate light exposure encourages birds to feed and drink, promoting healthy growth rates.

2.Behaviour and Welfare
Proper lighting design contributes to improved bird behaviour and welfare. Uniform illumination and appropriate light intensity help reduce stress, aggression, and harmful behaviours such as feather pecking and cannibalism.

3.Optimal Growth and Feed Efficiency
Effective lighting design supports optimal growth and feed efficiency. Birds that receive the right amount of light are more likely to achieve target weights.

4.Energy Efficiency
Energy-efficient lighting systems can lower operational costs while maintaining the desired lighting conditions, leading to improved profitability.

Energy-efficient LED lights are now the standard in broiler houses.

There are various considerations that come into play when designing lighting systems for broiler houses. From intensity and durability to colour temperature and cost efficiency, designing a lighting concept is a meticulous process of calculation and configuration to achieve the most comfortable outcome for the birds.

Some of the key elements that every broiler producer must know when designing a lighting system are as follows:

1. Light SourceMoisture-proof LED lamps are more robust and durable.

The choice of light source – whether it's incandescent, fluorescent, LED, or natural light – affects both the quality of illumination and energy consumption. Most broiler houses in the recent decade have adopted the use of LED lights due to its energy efficiency, long lifespan and minimal maintenance requirements. Some LED lamps also come enhanced with extra durability, such as the Moisture-proof LED lamp from Big Dutchman with a protection rating of IP65.

2. Light IntensityDifferent light intensities stimulate different behaviours.

The amount of light in broiler houses, typically measured in lux, is a key consideration. Different growth phases and bird ages require varying light intensities to stimulate desired behaviours. Calculating the amount of illumination needed, based on house dimensions and flock size, will also determine the number of lights required per line. Normally, the minimum light intensity for broiler houses is at least 20 lux, with lighting designers usually overcompensating to up to 50 lux to account for intensity depreciation over a long period of time.

3. Light Duration (Photoperiod)
The duration of light exposure per day, often referred to as photoperiod, is a critical factor in regulating bird behaviour, feed intake and growth. Different phases of production also require adjustments to the photoperiod to achieve specific objectives. For example, day-old chicks usually receive up to 24 hours of light to ensure they acclimatise to the new environment. The hours of darkness are gradually increased as the chicks grow, and finally reduced again to promote growth in the final stages.

4. Light Distribution
Uniform light distribution is vital to minimise stress and negative behaviours. Proper fixture placement, spacing, and the configuration of lighting sources play a crucial role in achieving uniformity. It is important that light reaches all parts of the broiler house to prevent birds from grouping in certain well-lit areas, which can lead to competition for food and water, affecting growth and welfare.

5. Colour Temperature
Cool lighting promotes activity whereas warm lighting encourages growth.

The colour temperature of light, typically measured in Kelvins (K), can also influence bird behaviour. For instance, blue or cool white light (around 4,000K to 5,000K can promote activity, while warm white light (lower than 3,000K) can have a calming effect that promotes growth. Selecting the right spectrum is important for achieving specific production goals.

6. Lighting Programs
Establishing a well-structured lighting program is essential. This involves creating a schedule and timing for light exposure, including dawn and dusk simulations, which help regulate bird behaviour and growth during different production phases. It is especially important to get the birds acclimatised to the transition between lights-on and lights-off with the use of dimmers and gradual change in light intensity.

Effective lighting design is a strategic investment in the success of your broiler production, ensuring that your birds thrive and contribute to your business's profitability. By understanding the key elements, considering the specific needs of your birds, and implementing best practices, you can create an effective lighting program that promotes bird health, welfare, and growth while optimising energy efficiency and operational costs.

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