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Automated mobile chicken coop

June 6th, 2012

Automated mobile chicken coopMany small farmers use mobile chicken coops called field pens or chicken tractors that require daily repositioning to provide chickens with fresh grass, soil, and air. The system spreads nitrogen-rich droppings that naturally fertilize the land.

James Cassidy, founder and leader of the OSU Organic Growers Club, proposed an automated system, and mechanical engineering students Tanner Alberts, Kelsey Fisher, and Brandon Haley accepted the challenge to create a modular unit suitable for egg-laying chickens. Their design takes chicken tractors to a whole new level.

The team’s invention is a solar-powered, self-moving system that features automatic watering and feed dispensing in addition to temperature reporting and flock monitoring by webcam. The nesting boxes are easily removable for cleaning, and an automatic security door shuts the chickens in at night to protect them from predators.

Theoretically, an operator could stage the tractor at the beginning of a field and trust the program developed by the team to initiate the tractor move at night when triggered by a photocell, after the chickens retire to their roosts. “Once it gets dark enough, at a certain threshold, the tractor waits 15 minutes before moving to ensure the sun isn’t simply blocked by a passing cloud, then closes the security door, lifts up, moves forward, then lowers back down, and eventually opens up the security door again, to return the chickens access to their run,” said Alberts. Monitoring feed and water levels and repositioning the tractor from time to time, collecting eggs, and periodic cleaning would be all that is required daily from the operator.

The prototype must be field-tested to determine how chickens will react to living in the automated tractor. “The only field testing that we’ve performed is movement related,” said Alberts. “The tractors will be truly tested in mid-June when the chickens arrive at the Organic Growers Club farm.”

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5 responses to “Automated mobile chicken coop”

  1. Jayne Miller says:

    LOL! I can just see my automated chicken tractor lodging itself against my fence and running all night! Or running into a sleeping cow! It would be fun to test it out here however!
    http://www.GrapeLanePoultryFarm.org

  2. Peter Spalding says:

    Is there a place I can go to see more pictures of your Chicken tractor.

    I am, of particular interest in the design of your security door. Is the time delay before closing the door controlled by software or just a time delay mechanism

    Thanks
    Peter Spalding
    BSME ’66

    • Kelsey Fisher says:

      Hi Peter,

      Unfortunately we do not have pictures of completed version of the door. My laptop hard drive crashed last week and I did not have a backup of the pictures. This picture of the incomplete door shows off the mechanism. http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7191/6860728149_31671c77e5_b.jpg

      The final door used two hobby servos with long arms to slide the door open and close. The servos rotate the arms and it pushes on the door to slide it left and right. The door was mounted with set tracks salvaged from a keyboard tray. They mount on the back of the door. We used hobby servos because we had them on hand. It might be simpler to use a high torque, low RPM DC gear motor, and limit switches instead of servos.

      The door position and timing is software controlled. The entire system is controlled by an Arduino Uno microcontroller. Attached to the top of the coop is a photoresisitor to measures light. Once it has become dark enough (the level is set in the software) the security door will close and move the tractor. How long the door stays closed after movement is customizable to any desired amount of time, or it is possible to have it open once the sun has risen.

      Cheers!
      Kelsey Fisher

  3. Mark Knudsen says:

    How interesting! I hope to have chickens someday, to try this automated mobile chicken coop of yours. I wonder if we have a chicken coop tour in our area?

  4. Amy says:

    I am wondering where I can find out more information about this project – I am coaching an elementary robotics team and they want to learn more about this specific project and would love to read about this or get the contact info for someone who might answer a few questions about the project. Please drop me a line if anyone knows more info about what became of this coop project. Thanks

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