Mechanise your chickens

My friend Tony always excuses himself early from parties, because he has to get home at dusk to shut his chickens in their coop. Tony, this one’s for you so that next time, you get to stick around for dessert.

Poltava_chicken_breed_male1

Chickens are birds of habit. You don’t need to shepherd (bird-herd?) them into their coops when the sun goes down; they’re programmed to head to their perches as night falls. Foxes and other predators, unfortunately, take advantage of this to chew on stationary, sleeping chickens, so the door of the coop needs to be firmly closed once all the birds are roosting, and opened again at a repellently early hour in the morning. Usually a human will go and do that job. (When I was a kid, I had to do the same for our family’s ducks. I hated those ducks.)

Let’s face it: given a chance to exercise a bit of laziness, most of us will jump at it. (Metaphorically. Lazy people don’t like jumping.)

Eric Escobar has a very neat Pi-powered solution to the problem of night-time chicken imprisonment, which is safer than some others we’ve seen, which use linear actuators. This door’s lowered using gravity, so there will be no very, very, very slow and eventually deadly crushing of any chickens or small children with Eric’s setup. The door is programmed to be lowered at a certain time of day, once it’s dark enough for all the chickens to have moved indoors.

Everything you need to replicate it yourself, right down to schematics, is at Eric’s GitHub.

The nice thing about using a Pi for this sort of thing is that it enables a certain amount of feature-creep. Now the basic functionality’s there, Eric (or you) can add things like the ability to count chickens in and out of the coop; a camera; automated feeding…I’m trying to come up with a way to get the Pi to collect eggs, too, but I’ve got nothing. Ideas in the comments please!

Chicken-owners will be pleased to hear that we’ve got more chicken-husbandry content for you coming up tomorrow. And something that’s a bit like a chicken for Friday. We’re all about the poultry this week at Pi Towers.