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Turning the lights off is one of the best things that you can do for young meat-type chickens. By giving your birds short days and long nights from one to three weeks of age, you can help them to maintain a healthy body and rapid growth rate. Long dark periods help stimulate melatonin, vitamin D3 and other hormone levels in the blood that improve the chick's immune system and tissue development. Limiting the hours of light will slow early growth slightly, allowing the birds to develop the strong hearts and bones needed to support rapid growth later in the flock. Turning the lights out when the birds are young produces benefits that can last the life of the flock.
Flocks given significant hours of dark from 7 to 21 days of age benefit from fewer health problems:
In general, all flocks benefit from lighting programs but farms where total mortality averages 5% or higher will benefit the most.
Turning the lights off when the birds are young will improve bird health from brooding age to market. A large block of 14 hours dark each day from 7 to 21 days of age is recommended.