Automated Chicken Coop 2.0 - Off the Grid

Years back when Mrs. Stork said she wanted chickens I agreed as long as I was able to build the coop. Actually, I said no for years and finally caved when I started lurking in the dark corners of the internet and learned about automated chicken coops. Actually, I've always spent time in the dark corners of the internet... I just didn't know there were chicken people there. Now that we are being honest, I should have caved long ago. My wife was right about how much fun being a chicken farmer is. Storks make good chicken farmers. Who knew?  

Okay. Automated chicken coop? During the day the hens are free to run around their enclosed space but at night they hang out in their coop... Their safe house where they are protected from elements and predators like foxes, rodents and shirtless neighbors.

For the record, our friend was checking in on the hens while we were away in the above picture. Except, we were no longer away and a few days of confusion ensued as we queried the neighbors as to the identity of the shirtless man in high waisted pants.

Back to the chickens. What's amazing is they go up into their coop naturally. The first day we put them outside they went upstairs on their own at sunset. I figured you at least would need to train them a little with a water gun and some candy corn? Nope. Sun goes down and they're ready for bed. Last call. Lights out. Goodnight John-Boy. Goodnight Jim-Bob.

And to keep the bad guys out... it's nice to have a door that shuts behind them. Those dark corners of the internet are a mess with ideas on how to solve this simple feat. Sun goes down = door closes. Sun goes up = door opens. How hard is that? One farmer has an entire Rube Goldberg setup with a timer on his garden hose that opens a valve in the morning to fill a hanging bucket of water that pulls down the door as it fills. A second timer at night does the same to another bucket that then closes the door.

I was looking for something a little less wet. Plenty of people talk about a drapery motor that people use in the house to automatically open and close miniblinds. It's a simple pulley that is on a timer that can be placed in the coop to operate on the same principle as the bucket method.

The motor has become so popular in chicken coops since I bought ours a few years ago the company now sells a modified version of it specifically for coops. Rather than a pulley, this one is more like a fishing reel that with winds or unwinds a cable attached to the door.

So, we've had this up and running beautifully and have only had a few hiccups during the occasional power surge to the house AC power supply. The door motor reverses direction whenever power is sent to the device. Ideally, at sunrise and sunset per the timer but after a power failure to the house, when power is restored, the motor would trigger and the door would close at noon if that is when the power returned.

Worse yet, the door would now open at sunset plus the time difference the power was out. Say, sunset plus 30 mins. And then close at sunrise plus 30 mins!

Chickens don't like being locked up all day and are ready to fly the coop.

To avoid this issue and ensure happy chickens and healthy eggs, I searched around those dark corners again for a battery/solar power option.

Automated Chicken Coop 2.0
12v DC motor attached to a 12v DC timer attached to a 12v DC battery attached to a 12V DC solar panel. The timer has a digital battery level display plus an override to manually run the door off cycle. For the time being, a visual indicator shows coop door position from the house or webcam but Automated Chicken Coop 3.0 will have a magnetic reed switch on the door which will send a signal to a raspberry pi computer that will push the door position to a website.

The chickens on the other hand are much more analog. They send out an old school tweet of sorts when they lay an egg. Maybe it's more of a cluck.