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Don't see any chickens? They're probably out for a walk and will be back soon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fussy Chickens' Automated Coop

The Fussy Chickens page was created to help keep an eye on our four Barred Rock hens while I'm away from home. Who'da thunk the project would provide a learning lab to experiment with various automation, streaming, blogging, social media and mashup technologies?

How It Works:
Live video is captured by Supercircuits CD33 cameras. When it's dark, the cameras turn on their built-in infrared LEDs and switch to black and white mode for an amazing ability to see in total darkness. Web site visitors can switch between the three cameras via links to the right of the streaming video. The actual switching is done by two ioBridge Relay Modules. It takes two or three seconds after you click for the video on your screen to change.

The live video is captured and uplinked to uStream via the Internet using a Mac Pro and firewire interface. A PZM microphone lets you hear the sound in the coop.

Temperature, light level and door status data is brought to the page in real time via an ioBridge. An Apple Airport Express connects the ioBridge to the outside world via our wireless network, and also extends the range of our network out into the back yard.

Water Supply
The coop's water bowl is kept full using a Trough-O-Matic automatic float valve from Miller Mfg. These are available in the U.S. from Tractor supply.

A submerged temperature sensor monitors the coop's water supply. When the temperature approaches 32 degrees, a 20-watt light bulb mounted below the water dish is switched on by the ioBridge to keep the water from freezing. If the water temperature drops below freezing, I get an automatic heads up via text message and email.

The VSBb Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener lets the girls out at sunrise and back in at sunset while keeping nighttime predators out of the coop. It's extremely reliable, and it's four AA batteries seem to last forever. Although fully automatic, it can be operated via the Web if need be. When the door opens or closes, the ioBridge sends a text message to my iPhone. It also sends a Tweet to @fussychickens and an update to Facebook via, reminding me to fire up a browser and make sure all the chickens are in for the evening. The door usually opens and closes when the light level is about 35. UPDATE: The girls have been getting into trouble around our neighborhood, so we've only been allowing them to go out in the late afternoon to keep them from wandering too far from home.

Future projects will include adding sensors to automatically switch the coop cameras, and a low-tech watering system with high-tech enhancements. Stay tuned.


  1. Our mutual friend Steve, steered me to your site. I'm impressed and envious and will be checking out the links to see if I can incorporate this into our small flock operation in Chatham.

    Meanwhile, I'm enjoying listening to the clucking of your hens from my office as I work.

  2. You have inspired my wife and I to enclose my backyard garden and to build a coop inside it for a couple or more girls ourselves.I had tossed the idea around in the past but after a day of watching and listening to your girls we're on fire to make it happen. I'm sure as I begin to get close to getting it all together that I'll have more than a few questions to ask you and I hope you'll not mind.THANK YOU for the inspirado!

  3. I assume that you're still happy with the automatic door closer? I lost a hen this weekend (out-of-town) and need an alternative to my current set-up.

  4. The automatic door opener/closer has been 100 percent reliable. No complaints at all. It's been operating from the same four AA batteries all winter and the batteries are still going strong. It just plain works.

  5. Update: happy with my new and improved set-up, with changes described in the comments here:

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  7. An Automatic door does take the work out keeping chickens. It makes for hassle free keeping. - you can fit an automatic door onto most of these coops.

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