Chickens are notoriously low-maintenance animals to keep, and if you’re drawn to homesteading, even in urban environments, getting a couple of hens is a great way to start. Plus, nothing beats fresh eggs in the morning from your own mini farm. Home automation is all about simplifying daily tasks, and the same applies to your chicken coop. In MAKE Volume 22, Alan Graham showed us how he made a automated henhouse in his garage with an infrared motion detector, automatic lights, heater, and automated door.
My system runs off a Mac Mini with home automation software, but what I’ll describe here is a system you can build without a computer, using components from the online retailer Smarthome My coop kicks on supplemental lights 2 hours before sunrise to increase egg laying in winter months.
At 45 minutes after sunrise, the automated door rises (and I receive a verification email/text), allowing the girls to venture out into the yard for a little free-range foraging. To go in or out of the coop, the 2 chickens must cross a motion detector, which sends me a notification that they’ve left (another email/text).
By counting the notifications, I also know when they’re done laying their eggs in the morning. Then the supplemental lights and a waterproof heating pad both turn off. The door remains open throughout the day and the girls will sometimes wander back to grab a bite.