IoT Coop Door Cares for Chickens, Tests Home Automation

Most chickens are pretty good at putting themselves to bed when the sun sets, and [Eddy]’s chickens are no exception. But they’re not terribly thoughtful about closing up after themselves, so he set about on a long-term project to automate the door of their coop.

An open door overnight leaves chickens and their food vulnerable to predation. Rather than handle the chore manually and risk one forgetful moment that could wipe out his flock, [Eddy] used a servo to power the door and an Arduino to control it. To keep track of bedtime and wakeup, a Raspberry Pi looks up the local civil dawn and twilight times online and tells the Arduino when the moment is at hand. The Pi cleverly caches the times for use the next day in case the WiFi connection is down, and also provides a web interface to check on the door’s status and manually override the cycle. Result: safe, happy chickens.

If all this seems a bit much for a simple job, [Eddy] agrees. But he’s using this as a testbed to develop a home automation framework that can be retasked at will. Sounds like he’s on the right track to us, but for more IoT animal husbandry tips, he’ll want to check out this small farm automation effort.

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What Came First? The Chicken or the LASER?

If you’ve had a child in the last few decades, you’ve had a choice to make: if you want to know the sex of the baby ahead of time. With ultrasound you can find out or–popular these days–you can have the result sealed and have a baker create a reveal cake. Apparently, researchers at the Dresden University of Technology and the University of Leipzig wanted to do the same trick with unborn chickens.

You might wonder why anyone cares (we did). Apparently, chickens that are bred for egg laying don’t produce roosters suitable for food use. This leads to about half of the chicks being “culled” (a less ugly euphemism than gassed or shredded) and used in–among other things–animal feed. Worldwide, billions of chicks are culled each year and that’s not counting other similar situations like male turkeys and female ducks.

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Start Your Poultry Brood with This DIY Egg Incubator

You’d think that hatching chicks from eggs would be easy – after all, birds do it. But it turns out to be a fussy business for humans, and what momma bird does naturally isn’t necessarily easy for us. If your goal is to raise your own brood of peeps, fear not – this DIY egg incubator makes the process much easier.

While [Chris Raynerd]’s incubator was built for quail eggs, pretty much any domestic fowl – chickens, turkeys, ducks, pheasants – will work. The key is temperature control – momma bird’s rump is a natural heat source, and her downy feathers keep the eggs insulated and toasty. That’s a little hard to replicate in a free-air incubator, so [Chris] started with a polystyrene box for insulation. A halogen lamp on a digital thermostat provides most of the heat and keeps the temperature within a degree or two of 37°C. As a backup, a 12 volt halogen bulb on a dimmer keeps the chamber at a minimum of 36°, just in case the main lamp burns out. A small fan and a pan for humidifying water complete the atmospheric controls, although personally we’d arrange the fan to blow across the water to aid evaporation. And a simple grid lets [Chris] turn the eggs regularly, which is another vital service mom provides to her brood.

Sure, it could be Arduino-fied and servo driven, but why bother? This is a simple yet thoughtful build that should see a clutch through to hatching. We’ve seen a few egg incubators before, but even if you’re not interested in raising fowl, the techniques here could easily apply to incubators for biohacking or yogurt making, too.

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Small-farm Automation Keeps Livestock Safe and Happy

Life down on the farm isn’t easy, and a little technology can go a long way to making things easier for the farmer. It’ll be a while before any farmer can kick back on the beach and run his place from a smartphone, but that’s clearly the direction things are heading with this small farm automation project.

1239891449500446540[Vince]’s livestock appears to consist of chickens and sheep at this point, and the fact that they share housing helped him to deploy some tech for both species. The chickens got an automated door that lets them out in the morning and shuts them in safely once they’ve returned to roost for the night – important protection against predators. The door is hoisted by a Somfy window-treatment motor, which seems a little on the overkill side to us; a thrift-store electric drill and a homebrew drum might have worked too. A Teensy with an RTC opens and closes the door according to sunrise and sunset times, and temperature and humidity sensors provide feedback on conditions inside the coop. The sheep benefit from a PTZ webcam to keep an eye on their mischief, and the whole thing is controlled by a custom web interface from [Vince]’s smartphone.

There’s just something about automating chicken coop doors that seems to inspire hackers; check out this nice self-locking design. As for [Vince]’s farm, it looks like his system has a lot of room for expansion – food and water status would be a great next step. We’re looking forward to seeing where he goes from here.

Chicken-powered Pendulum

Every once in a while we get sent a link that’s so cute that we just have to post it. For instance: this video from [Ludic Science]. It’s a wind-up chicken toy that kicks a pendulum back and forth. No more, no less.

But before you start screaming “NOT A HACK!” in the comments below, think for a second about what’s going on here. The bird has a spring inside, and a toothed wheel that is jammed and released by the movement of the bird’s foot (an escapement mechanism). This makes the whole apparatus very similar to a real pendulum clock.

Heck, the chick toy itself is pretty cool. It’s nose-heavy, so that under normal conditions it would tip forward. But when it’s wound up, tipping forward triggers the escapement and makes it hop, tipping it backward in the process and resetting the trigger. The top-heavy chicken is an inverted pendulum!

And have a look, if you will indulge, at the very nice low-tech way he creates the pivot: a bent piece of wire, run through a short aluminum tube, held in place by a couple of beads. Surely other pivots are lower-friction, but the advantage of using a rod and sleeve like this is that the pendulum motion is constrained to a plane so that it never misses the chicken’s feet.

Our only regret is that he misses (by that much) the obvious reference to a “naked chick” at the end of the video.

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Hacklet #8: The Animals

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This week on the Hacklet we’re looking at Hackaday.io projects that are all about animals! Hackers and makers are well-known animal lovers, in fact many a hacker can be found with a pet curled up at their feet, or on their keyboard!

catWater[Brian’s] cat Roger loves drinking from the bathtub faucet. Unfortunately Roger hasn’t learned how to operate the faucet himself, so it gets left on quite a bit. To keep Roger happy while saving water, [Brian] created the Snooty Cat Waterer. Cat’s still don’t have thumbs, so [Brian] turned to capacitive sensing in the form of a Microchip MTCH10 capacitive proximity sensor chip. Coupled with a home etched PC board, the waterer can detect a cat at 3 inches. A valve and water feed teed off the toilet provide the flow. The project is moving along well, though Roger has been slow to warm up to this new water source.

 

catWater2[Jsc] has the opposite problem. His cat has decided that bathtubs are the perfect litter boxes. [Jsc] is taking aim at this little problem with his Cat Dissuader. After a servo controlled squirt bottle proved too anemic for his needs, [Jsc] turned to the Super Soaker Hydrostorm. These electric water guns can be had for as little as $16 on sale. [JSC] didn’t want to permanently modify the gun, so he 3D printed a switchable battery pack.The replacement pack is actually powered by a simple wall wart. Power to the gun is controlled by an Arduino, which senses his cat with a passive infrared sensor. Since the dissuader was installed, [Jsc’s] cat has been a model citizen!

 

doggieBowlCat’s don’t get all the love though, plenty of engineers and hackers have dogs around the house. [Colin] loves his dog, but he and his family were forgetting to feed it. He created Feed the Dog to help the household keep its four-legged member from going hungry. [Colin] tried a microcontroller, but eventually settled on implementing the circuit with old-fashioned 4000 series CMOS logic chips. He used a 4060 (14-stage ripple counter w/ internal oscillator) as an 8 hour timer, and 4013 dual flip-flop. Operation of Feed the Dog is as simple as wagging your tail. Once the dog is feed, the human presses a button. A green “Just fed” LED will glow for 30 minutes, then go dark. After about 6 hours, a red LED turns on. After 8 hours, the red LED starts blinking, letting everyone know that it’s time to feed the dog.

 

chookin

[Steve] has outdoor pets. Chooks to be exact, or chickens for the non Australians out there. He loves watching his birds, especially Darth Vader, who is practicing to become a rooster. To keep track of the birds, he’s created What the Chook?, a sensor suite for the hen-house. He’s using a GCDuiNode with a number of sensors. Temperature, humidity, even a methane detector for when the bedding needs to be replaced. An OV528 JPEG camera allows [Steve] to get pictures of his flock. The entire project connects via WiFi. Steve hopes to power it from a couple of AA batteries. [Steve] also entered What the Chook? in The Hackaday Prize. If he wins, this will be the first case of flightless birds sending a human to space!

 

hackaspace-mini

Hey – Did you know that Hackaday is building a Hackerspace in Pasadena California? We’re rounding up the local community while our space is being built out. Join us at a Happy Hour Show & Tell Meetup Event hosted by our own [Jasmine Brackett] August 18th! It’s an informal show and tell, so you don’t have to bring a hack to attend. If you’re local to Pasadena, come on down and say hello!

 

 

 

 

 

Mobile chicken coop includes wireless sensors

mobile-chicken-coop-build

In and of itself this mobile chicken coop is a pretty nice build. There are some additional features lurking inside which you don’t find on most coops. [Neuromancer2701] built-in a set of sensors which can be accessed wirelessly. It makes it a snap to check up on the comfort of the hens without leaving the couch.

At the heart of the sensor system is an Arduino along with an Xbee module. The build isn’t quite finished yet, but so far three sensors have been implemented. A thermistor is used to read the temperature inside the coop. To make sure there’s enough water, two sheets of foil tape were applied to the water reservoir. The CapSense library measures the capacitance between these plates which correlates to the water lever (we’ve seen this type of water level sensor before). And finally, there’s a sensor that can tell if the door to the coop is open or shut.

He’s having trouble automating the door itself. This can be pretty tricky, especially if you go for a super complicated locking mechanism like this one.