Saturday, November 15, 2008

Off-grid Chickens

The weird thing about chickens is that they will lay more eggs during the long days of summer than during the short days of winter. But chickenologists have solved this problem. During the winter, if you stick a light bulb in their chicken coop at dusk, they think the sun is still up and continue to lay more eggs. They're kinda stupid.

A mobile chicken coop mounted on a trailer frame. The wheels are either obscured by the grass or they have been eaten by sleep-deprived chickens.

Our friends over at the World Hunger Relief farm have two mobile chicken coops mounted on wheels: mobile homes for chickens. And the floor of each chicken coop is mesh wire, so the poop falls through to fertilize the fields. That's why you have to move their coops around, so you can spread the fertilizer all over the field. Redistribute the wealth like only Obama and mobile chickens can.

Where is this post going?

Out at the World Hunger Relief farm, the chicken in charge of egg production likes to sleep-deprive his chickens with a light bulb to keep up egg production. So, they run a long extension cord out into the field and put a light bulb on a timer.

This is the light bulb they used to use. The very long extension cords laying in the field are not shown for clarity.

Well, the chickens formed a co-op (ha! get it?) and decided they wanted to go green. Their days of dragging extension cords all over the field and using electricity from coal-fired power plants were over. They made signs that said "Power to the Poultry" and marched around in circles. One of them shouted from a megaphone "BUCK BUCK!" and so on. It wasn't pretty.

They contracted with Engineers with a Mission to design a solar powered chicken coop lighting system. Off-grid chickens. So we found a light-sensitive timer that detects sundown and turns on the lights for a preset time. We mounted solar panels, charge controllers, a battery, and an tiny (100 watt) inverter in the chicken coop, and used high-tech, white LED Christmas lights that use less than five watts! We mounted the panels on the outside of the coop and put the other components in a five gallon bucket with a lid for protection and aesthetics.

This is David nailing up the string of LED Christmas lights. Turns out that if you hit one with the hammer, half the string goes out. Seems that half the string is connected in series, unlike traditional Christmas lights that are connected in parallel.

These are Anna inside and outside the coop, mounting solar panels and the bucket that holds the battery.

We left around 3:00 PM this afternoon and got lunch together. Jono, forever affectionate with the ladies, cuddled up with Anna while she and I discussed her future career options. She has an interview with a company in Chicago next week. She graduates in December. Exciting times.


The boys and I went home and I took a nap. Then when the sun went down, I simply could not resist the 20 minute drive back to the farm to check out our fowl handiwork. We drove into the farm and down the dark dirt road to the field with the chicken coops. It was even more hilarious in person than in my engineer's imagination!

The chickens were all bunched up and sitting in the light, presumably thinking about laying more eggs. I think they were reading the paper, but they may have just been doing sudoku, hard to tell. It was the confluence of two technologies, old and new, animal domestication and solid-state electronics. I was simultaneously amused and satisfied.

Buck buck.


Missionaries in La Ceiba, Honduras said...

I just love the choice of Christmas lights! I'm thinking you should have chosen multi-colored blinking lights - gives it a more festive look (although I guess that the chickens wouldn't like that though...)

Redlefty said...

Great point on the odd yet effective confluence of old and new technolgies. Fascinating!

Orangehouse said...

I feared using colored lights because I didn't want the chickens to lay Easter eggs.

Crabby said...

Nice work! That looks great. You guys rock!

Joy B said...

Reminds me of a camping trailer. Lots of people hang up Christmas lights on their awning. And they are both on wheels. I think the chickens are playing cards. That's what we use the lights for in our trailer.