Today, I am starting on a new project. I am going to automate my hen-house and I need your help to do it. I have never really been a gadget person. I have used the same personal computer at home since I built it from spare parts in 2003. I don’t own a tablet or a smart watch. I chop my wood with an axe, not a machine. It’s not that I don’t like gadgets, I just don’t see the business case.
But there is one exception. Home automation, it would be very nice to have some home automation. If I had a business case. So far, I haven’t had one. The equipment has been too expensive and honestly, I can just as well walk around and turn the lights on and off manually. Now I have found a use case or two where there might actually be a business case for automation. One of them is the pool pump, I could save both energy and money if I could let it run as little as possible to maintain the water clean and clear.
Automating the hen house
The other one is automating the hen-house. I have built my own hen-house using a simple design called an “A tractor“. A comes from the A-shaped frames I used and tractor because it’s possible to move it to new locations on the lawn. That supposedly helps against parasites and the hen always have access to fresh feed.
Autumn is here, the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. The hen need 13 hours of light and a minimum temperature slightly above freezing. To that end, I have installed a light and IR lamp. The light is controlled by a timer but the IR lamp has been on since the weather turned colder.
I would like to automate these two functions: light and heat. Light should turn on at 0700 and off when sun comes up and then on again when the sun sets and off at 2000 (=13 hours). It should be possible to turn it on manually for ten minutes or so to care for the animals. The heat should turn on when the temperature inside the hen-house drops below 5°C. Why the emphasis on inside? Because the birds themselves and their bedding generates heat as well. The inside is often warmer than the outside.
An aggressive environment
The environment in the hen-house is much more aggressive than in the normal home automation setting. Temperatures shift between -20°C and +60°C. The hen generate a lot of dust and the bedding emits gases such as ammonia. Add to that the very real risk of rodents chewing on cables. So the solution needs to be rodent safe, temperature resistant and protected against the intrusion of dust and water.
The logical blocks of a solution
I know roughly what the solution looks like. It has the following logical blocks:
- A temperature sensor
- A clock
- A daylight sensor – physical or calendar based
- A button or similar to turn the light on for 10 minutes
- A relay to control the light
- A relay to control the heat
- A control unit to integrate the sensors and control the relays
But what components should I use, in terms of hardware and software? Will you help me? Watch the video below and add your advice in the comments below or by tweeting. Tweet
- automating the hen house: Lotta Artmann