How-To: Automate Your Chicken Coop

How-To: Automate Your Chicken Coop

Automatic Chicken Coop from MAKE Volume 22

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.

Automtic Chicken Coop MAKE Volume 22

We’ve shared the build with you on Make: Projects. Check it out and build your own. For more great ideas on how to automate your life, pick up a back issue of Volume 22. Bok bok!

16 thoughts on “How-To: Automate Your Chicken Coop

  1. Anonymous says:

    OOH! I so want chickens, but I don’t think my landlord would let me keep them on the roof!

    1. Luciano Moretti says:

      Have you asked?  Be sure to have reasons/counters to common misconceptions (noise, dirt, disease, etc) as part of your pitch.

  2. Daniel Kim says:

    I would love it if someone could breed silent chickens. I used to have them when we lived in Los Alamos. I once made a coop out of the crate that an ABI DNA sequencer came in. I called it my $140,000 chicken coop.

    1. Tria MacLeod says:

      Have you tried ducks?  I have a small flock and they are much quieter than chickens.  While they enjoy water they do not require it (I use a kiddie pool during the summer to keep them cool and happy) and several variety of ducks, particularly Khaki Campbell lay an egg a day as long as they have sufficient light.  The eggs are tasty and are much nicer than chicken eggs for baking, about the same for frying/boiling. 

      I like this idea of an automated door for the Quaker Box, especially on those cold winter mornings. Would be nice to have a cup of coffee prior to facing that brisk air.

  3. Backyard Chicken Coops says:

    Backyard Chicken coops is Australia’s trusted chicken coop supplier of chicken house, chook house, hutch, shed and cages. We offer Australian approved safe and smart custom designed chicken coops with cheap delivery and money back guarantee

  4. Chicken Coop says:

    Great info. Thanks look forward to seeing more.

  5. Emma says:

    Hi Goli, thanks for a great a post. As a newbie to raising backyard chickens, I found some really useful tips here. It’s almost winter in Australia, definitely install the light to increase egg laying production :) I purchased the coop form My Chicken Coop, their product is very affordable (it’s even cheaper than DIY) and they deliver Australia wide. I thought some of your Australian readers might find this useful.
    Thanks and looking to see from more!

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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