Chicken light keeps up egg production

It turns out that as the days get shorter, chickens lay fewer eggs. But you can trick them into keep up production using artificial light. [Jpitz31] decided to build his own timed coop light to bridge the gap until the days of plentiful sunlight return.

He already had an LED camping light to use, but needed to find a way to power it and to switch it on and off on a schedule. He chose an ATmega328 for the latter, as he had a bunch of extras sitting around. As for power, there isn’t AC available where the coop is, so he opted for a 12V lead-acid battery with hopes of adding solar charging features in the future.

Switching is handled by a relay, with accurate time kept by a DS1307 real-time clock (it’s the red PCB seen above). Everything fits nicely on the board, and we have a couple of feature suggestions for future improvements. The linear regulators will eat up some extra power so moving to a switching regulator will help save juice. Also, it would be very easy to add a light sensor so that the light will only be on when the ambient light drops to a preset level. This way he won’t need to mess with the schedule as the length of the days change.

Comments

  1. Markp says:

    I’d have thought a light sensor would make more sense as the days get progressively shorter.
    Can’t say I’m a fan of artificial lighting for chickens, it shortens their life span and I’d rather have fewer eggs over a longer time!

    • Justin says:

      Not only does it shorten their lifespan, but increases their general stress level. I’m lucky to get 3-4 eggs a week from my 4 hens in the winter, but they’re generally happier. Everyone needs a vacation sometimes!

  2. GWDev says:

    I don’t mind when our hens stop laying every day. They become dinners. A recent hen named Fajitas is going on the grill today.
    Nice job on the project though!

  3. Spacey says:

    This sux. Just because you CAN make things to exploit animals means you should. That’s not what hacking is about to me

  4. Hiatus138 says:

    But the issue isn’t just fewer eggs, it’s that they’ll completely stop laying in the winter months. ensuring 12 hourso of light prevents that.
    I just use a plug in style appliance timer.

  5. Don’t trick chickens..

  6. nes says:

    Aren’t chickens domesticated wildfowl originally from the subcontinent? That being the case, wouldn’t their ancestors be adapted for more-or-less constant daylight hours year round?

    If the microcontroller is in sleep mode the majority of the time, i.e. you’re average current is in the 100s microamps or less, then a good linear regulator with low quiescent current is probably the better choice. (Not a 7805 though.)

    A buck converter with an enable input is the right choice for the load though.

  7. Justin Case says:

    Oh sure!!!
    You let your micro controller go into sleep mode but no rest for your chickens???

    I’m with Markp & Justin on this one.

  8. Erik Johansson says:

    I like this it’s very well documented, an neatly done. A good tutorial. But from website:

    I decided to use two linear power regulators. For low cost I decided to use 7805 and 7806 regulators to drive the microcontroller and the LED light.

    Do you guys have any links to cheap switched power supplies for 12v -> 6v 5v?

    BTW for the light naysayers, I hope you guys never buy eggs in the stores, or eat any products with eggs in them. Because all commercially available eggs, come from hens that have a pretty crappy time laying eggs.

    “All” as in 90%-96% here in Sweden, but I’m pretty sure those 5% that are ecologically farmed have lights installed as well.

  9. ejonesss says:

    i think the industrial farming industry has solved that problem by packing 100’s or 1000’s into 1 industrial sized barn and having dozens of industrial sized barns on the property and dozens of properties all over the nation/world so they can meet the demands through imports/exports.

    then they also may have a few eggs hatching new chickens to replace the older chickens as they die and are taken down to feed the chicken meat market so you can have stuffed chicken, chicken noodle soup with chunks of chicken meat and so on.

    i think it is the light it’s self probably tricking them into thinking it is day time.

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