Should I integrate an Arduino or similar microcomputer into my chicken coup automation or just create a completely mechanical system?
If Microcomputing sounds like a good idea which system would work the best? Maybe a combination of Raspberry Pi and Arduino?
Lately, I have been contemplating methods of automating the process of keeping my chickens. I have a couple of specific plans for how to automate the food and water process, both of which are pretty simple, but there are other systems which require a technologically advanced approach. If you like building stuff or enjoy backyard automation, read on!
For watering the chickens, I plan to use a simple 4”PVC Pipe which runs through the wall of my garage (which is a heated space) directly into the adjacent lean-to/chicken coup. Inside the coup, I will simply Put a t and run 2 feet of pipe out each direction. My hope is that even in the winter the water in the coup will stay thawed with the heat of the lamps, the body heat of the chickens, and the heat of the garage wall which is kept year round at about 45 degrees. The waterers that I plan to purchase are these:
These nipple waterers require less than 1 PSI of water pressure, so supplying a regulated constant water pressure of 1 PSI was my initial plan, but I have decided against this option, due to the cost of the pressure regulator. Instead, I will go with a solenoid water valve which can easily be electrically activated for filling the 4”pvc pipe. Each foot of PVC pipe has roughly .65 gal of water, so if I have 8 feet of pipe, that would be a volume of just over 5 gallons, which will last 5 birds probably at least a couple of days even in the heat of summer. The part where I am having a hard time is with some type of a switching mechanism. There are two options that I have considered.
1st Option- a small weighted float connected to a micro switch that will work somewhat like a sump pump valve.
2nd Option- simply run three wires into the water. One at a high point, two down below. When the wires are exposed they will have no resistance between the wires, this input should be able to be calculated simply using the Arduino computer.
Food system, I don’t necessarily want to utilize a special loading system, but I do think that 4” Pvc pipe with an elbow at the end will work good as a food filling system. With that said, I do want these feeders to be capped off most of the time, only opening in the evening for the feed time, around sundown. I also would like to incorporate a photo voltaic sensor into each of the feeders, so presumably, they would allow the computer system to notify me when the food is low, because that would allow light in to the sensor.
From the research I have done, I think that the guillotine style door and rollers will likely be the best apparatus for opening and closing the door. Regardless of whether or not I integrate a microcomputer, I think that a simple photovoltaic switch and automotive window regulator attached to a chord should do the trick for this system. But it would be nice to be able to control these systems and check the status on via Wi-Fi on my smartphone, but, alas one project at a time.
The hardest of all- The chicken location tracker
When chickens get outside in the run, sometimes they can get carried away and not realize that it is time to come in to the coop for their nighttime rest and to get their evening snack. I would hate to have the door on the coop close a chicken or two out of the coop where they are safe from the many coyotes we have roaming our property at night. The only way that I can think to keep track of these birds is via RFID leg bands which are actually readily available. Initially, I thought that the combination of a simple RFID scanner in the doorway would allow you to know that all the chickens are inside. But, just because you have a scan of a bird just before the door were to close doesn’t guarantee that the bird is actually inside. The only method I have come up with which might work is to make their entrance/exit a bit of a tunnel, where the chickens would have to pass through two sensors with which the computer could possibly sort out the location of the bird based on the order of the scan.
I have many other ideas as well… A predator sensor, activating a light and letting me know in the house. Possibly an RFID system to identify birds that are spending most time inside or outside, which could help me to identify birds likely to go broody. Finally, temperature, lights, and moisture control within the same system would be awesome.
If any of you have more ideas, comment below!
Here at Wild Coyote farms, we just got our new shipment of 50 baby chicks. The chicks arrived in the post office Thursday, January 28 at 7:30 in the morning. I got the phone call and went to the post office right away in the morning to ensure that they wouldn’t have to be in a cold environment for long and they could get there first taste of food and water quickly.
When I arrived at the post office, they were still closed, so I simply knocked on the door and yelled out that I was the guy here to pick up “the chicks”. Pretty soon a lady came and opened up the door, acknowledging my presence, she turned back towards her coworkers (average age probably 55), and says, “There is a young man here saying that he’s here to pick up chicks”!! Quickly, one of the ladies (probably the oldest out of the bunch) yells back, “well is he good looking”?
Without further razzing, I was given my 50 chicks, which easily fit into a box not much larger than a shoe box and I am sent on my way.
By now the chicks have all happily adapted to their new surroundings, although we had a particularly poor survival rate. Sadly we lost 7 chicks in the first 24 hours. Luckily, if the chicks make it passed the first day, they are very likely to survive all the way to maturity. If any of you are considering raising chicks, it is quite an easy process, but it does take a bit of resilience to watch the poor chicks suffer that don’t make it through the first day, even though we try all we can to separate them, give the electrilite water, hold them, and spoon feed them applesauce. But, through it all, I do love watching these cute little guys all run around in search of that perfect little kernel of grain. They are also so fun to watch fall asleep! They will just be standing in one place then start rocking back and forth as they get sleepy, finally succumbing to exhaustion, it’s not uncommon to see them fall straight away onto their faces!! They sure are another example of God’s amazing creation, especially considering how fully functioning they are at just 1 day old. Amazing!
Next, I will discuss some plans that I have for making there chicken coop an automated system so that I can take care of them and keep tabs on them when I am not actually present. If anyone has experience with sensor integration microcomputing, all input will be apprectiated!
It's still January, its cold, snowy, and sometimes feels like the sun and warm weather will never reappear. But, this is the time for planning and making preparations for the growing season.
New seeds have been ordered and delivered. Rough garden plan has been drafted. Planting times have been outlined. And as I write, Paul is building a place in the basement to start growing some plants indoors to harvest before spring. We have also been enjoying reading the book, "The Market Gardener", gleaning all tips we can for improving our garden.
Preparations for the new chicks are well underway. The brooding box is built and ready for the new chicks to arrive next week. I will be traveling tomorrow to pick up our bulk organic feed supply.
All of these preparations make me hopeful and excited for the new growth and sunshine that will come in just a few short months. So what are you preparing for?