While prepping for the upcoming apocalypse, the [prepforshtf] folks had time to design and build an automatic chicken feeder. It’s a very simple design (the best kind) that is made from standard PVC drain pipe. The pipe is positioned vertically and filled with chicken feed. A T-joint at the bottom of the pipe allows chickens to access the food inside. As food is eaten away, gravity pulls more food down to the feeding area.
That sounds pretty straight forward but it quickly became clear that checking the food level was a chore, almost as much as just feeding the chickens everyday. To remedy the requirement to constantly check the food level, the automatic feeder system was taken apart and modified to include a level indicator. Now, inside the 4-inch pipe resides a plate that resembles a butterfly valve.
This plate doesn’t control the flow of feed like a normal butterfly valve would, the feed actually holds the plate in a vertical position until the feed level drops below the plate. Since the plate has a heavier side, it will rotate when the feed no longer holds it in position. A large red pointer was attached to the plate’s axle and, since it is on the outside of the feeder, it allows a clear indication that the feeder needs a refill.
This is a great project that shows that even simple projects can be very beneficial in everyday life. With no electronics or batteries to fail, this feed indicator will certainly be very reliable. No doubt the chickens will be happy. Check this out for a more involved electricity-powered feeder.
The folks at Manifold created their version of a tweeting bird feeder, and [Chad] wrote up a behind-the-scenes of their design. The goal is something we’ve seen before: When the bird lands to eat, take a picture and tweet it. In this case, they had some corporate money behind the project, and that allowed them to buy a nice solar panel and battery pack to keep the whole thing running.
The write-up is full of the experimentation that we all enjoy: They found that detecting motion through the camera feed wasn’t reliable, so they switched over to a PIR sensor. The PIR sensor was too sensitive to heat changes during the day, so they went with an ultrasonic rangefinder, but wind caused issues there. They finally came up with a solution which involves using two sensors to confirm motion. This seems a bit more complicated than it needs to be, but it works well for them.
We think it is nice to see companies getting behind quirky projects. All told, they spent dozens of hours on this, and they chose to give all of their findings back to the community in the form of thorough explanations and project diagrams. It would be nice to see more of this.
The weather in Colorado hasn’t been the best lately, so the birdhouse hasn’t been tweeting for a while. In our experience, a project that’s turned off is in the dangerous position of being scavenged for parts. Hopefully that isn’t the case here, and we will see it back in action when Spring starts.
If you weren’t aware, Adafruit Industries is sponsoring the “Make it Tweet” contest over at Instructables, and this Twitter-enabled bird feeder is [quasiben’s] entry into the competition.
His bird feeder not only sends messages to Twitter, it also sends a picture of each bird to Twitpic. The feeder itself is a standard off the shelf model which has been fitted with a LinkSprite camera. A LilyPad Arduino controls the camera, sending images to his computer via a pair of XBee modules. To detect when a bird has stopped by for something to eat, [quasiben] used an infrared LED and an IR detector. The emitter and detector are positioned at opposing sides of the feeder’s opening, triggering the Arduino to snap a picture whenever the beam is broken. Once the image has been transferred to his computer, it is posted to TwitPic.
We’re pretty sure [quasiben] built this Tweeting bird feeder just because he could, but we think it’s a pretty smart idea for people who don’t necessarily have the free time to gaze out the window into their yard. It’s a great way to keep tabs on all your new winged visitors while on the go.