Let there be Light! And Eggs!
Let me put this out there. I use lights and add nutrients to help support egg production in my hens, year round. The primary reason I acquired chickens was to harvest eggs. Domestic chickens have been genetically bred to be producers for meat and egg. They are no longer jungle fowl in the wild, living close to nature. There is no reason to not take advantage of these bred traits if you want your poultry for meat and eggs.
I grew up with parents who grew up on farms. So, my mentality about farm animals is one of a working and producing role. There was respect in the caretaking. They were fed well and given shelter, much better than they would ever have it in the wild. Even though at some point farm animals may become dinner, there are still satisfying emotional relationships to be had while they are still living. I know some farmers who name every one of their farm animals and can still butcher them when the time comes I think that trips a lot of people up. How can you have emotional feelings for your animal and still eat them or require them produce food for you? By respecting the natural order of nature, it gives you an understanding. This kind of relationship might not be easy, but it is necessary. To have life, you have to have death. Our existence depends on it, no matter how much you try to put that in a box somewhere on a shelf. But, I digress.
My approach to administering to the health of my flock is holistic and using natural medicines from herbs. If you study evolution of any creature, the evolution works closely with nature. We evolve to survive in our environment and develop a natural diet. Most of the reasons given by people who will not supplement with light, largely pin it on damaging the health of the hen. She needs to rest amd it will shorten her egg laying years. Here is what I know for sure. Hens need certain nutrients to lay eggs, including light to stimulate the pineal gland which regulates the sex hormones. When a hen does not have exactly what she needs nutrient wise AND not have good health, she will not lay eggs. Mother hen lays it down. There is no way to "force" or "trick" a hen into laying. Isnít going to happen unless she has exactly what she needs to do that. Which means, if she is layig eggs, it is healthy for her to do so because she knows and has decided that. What makes even more sense to me, is that the less sunlight of the winter season, was developed for the protection of raising the young, so the hen would hatch and raise her chicks in the warmer temps and sunshine, to have forage to eat. With out modern management abilities, we no longer have to live by the seaons.
As far as simply labeling it unnatural? I use herbs all the time for nutrition and health, and herbs do exactly what a light does. They trigger bodily functions to happen. I can easily support all the nutrients a hen needs to lay eggs in the middle of winter. I have found no extra health issues that seem to be attributed to this practice including prolapse or cancer. Which quite frankly seems to suggest other health issues with the hen other than laying in the winter.
Eggs are an integral food source on my farm. Some peopleís relationship with their poultry does not require that. I am good with that. But I want you to try to understand the other relationships some of us have as well. They are still relationships of respect and love with the addition of embracing the natural part of a chickenís existence. It engages my farm with healthy purpose. The final word? My hens are very happy while laying eggs no matter what time of year it is. I canít top that!