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The Ultimate Eggmobile

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Hi fellow farm hackers, I am in the process of building and designing "The Ultimate Eggmobile". I thought I would try posting the build on Farm Hack forum as it progresses. I have posted a few other projects as wikis and find there isn't much participation, so if you have anything to contribute to this build / idea I would like to hear it.

First, a few constraints. Here in Quebec, Canada, the quota system will only allow me to have 100 laying hens without a quota. So I have 100 laying hens on order. I also want to follow Canadian Organic Standards, which means I can't have more than 6 hens per square meter (about 1.8 sqft / bird). I plan to move the birds every couple of days behind my small herd of veal cows (inspired by Joel Salatin), so it has to be mobile. I would also like it to be self-sufficient for 36 hours (this would allow me a night off the farm sometimes), so I want to include a lot of automation.

Housing I went out and bought an old 24' foot camper, which is about 8 feet wide, which gives me 5.6 birds per m2. Should I make part of the floor mesh or slated? This would make cleaning easier, but a solid floor keeps the heat in a lot better during our chilly winters. I can imagine parking the egg mobile inside a hoophouse in the winter, if we had the space. Our current greenhouse is usually full of crops year round. Other options?

Fencing I plan to use electric poultry netting in the style of Harvey Ussery, so I will need a power source. I was planning to use a 12v charger for the electric fence, a marine battery and a solar panel. This will also give me 12v power for other aspects of the eggmobile (e.g. I can turn on the lights in the camper!). I am looking for input on size of solar panel, size of battery and a good 12 volt charge. I am guessing I need a charge controller too. I also like the camper for this reason, because in the winter I can park it near the barn and plug it in and I will have 12 volt for the fence charger and 120 volts for heat lamps.

Water I have been using fountain style feeders for 2 years and really don't like them. I had success this past winter with the heated base to the fountain feeder, but this time I want to use nipple waterers, to keep the water cleaner. I ordered a 50 pack off amazon, and am thinking about putting them on the bottom of 5 gallon buckets, and then plumbing them to a central reservoir. Maybe put a toilet float valve in each bucket, maybe fill them on a timer with a 12 volt pump. I have also run water lines out in the fields for the cows, so maybe I can just have 200 feet of hose on the eggmobile and fill the buckets from the hose. I like buckets, because I think it is a nice place for chickens to gather, and I can use them in other applications easily (compared to a permenant pvc pipe style watering system. I am thinking I could have 2 buckets inside and 2 more outside each with 9 nipples to give me the recommended 3 birds per nipple.

Food Still trying to think of a good way to dispense the food. There might be part of the ration that is free choice (ie always present), but most of it will be a daily ration. I have been using hanging barrel feeders in the barn, and they work well, but I am wondering if there is something better. Also trying to imagine something that would hold a couple days supply and dispense it as needed. I really like any input on this.

Nest boxes I built standard nest boxes in my first coop, 3 high 5 wide, but find they only lay in a couple of the boxes. The hardest part is that they usually scratch all the straw out shortly after I put it in. I also need to decide if I want to make them accessible from the outside, so I wouldn't have to actually go in to collect the eggs. I will have to look up how many nest boxes I need.

Roosts Currently I have a caged off area under the roosts, which collects most of the poop, I like this idea, but am still a bit unsure how to do it to make cleaning easy.

Well that's a pretty good intro for the project. I will try and keep this updated. Hopefully things move pretty fast, the birds show up the 6th of May!


Louis's picture

Hi Jenna,

I just wanted to chime in and say that I've seen your previous tools and I like 'em! I realized that your temperature logger was intentionally a stripped down version compared to my Fido project and that idea struck a chord with me. A lot of the work that I'm trying to post-Fido is to try to make the communications part easier -- which is essentially what made Fido more complicated than your device.

Anyway, I just wanted to say, that I'd like to send you an Apitronics Bee to help you as a controller and as a charger for what you're doing (in reference to your italics Housing). Worst case, it's just a charge controller. But based on what I've seen of your previous hacks, you know how to write some Arduino code so you'll at least make a good local controller out of it. Plus, if I've done a good job, you'll also be able to figure out how to use the networking side of it and be able to monitor things remotely, but that'd be a bonus.

Amongst other things, the Bee might also help with food dispensing. If you could find some kind of motor or actuator to dump a ration, you could put it on a timer or on remote control. I've also used Bees to monitor water levels in tanks but that might not work with the buckets.

Let me know if you want to talk sensors or anything like that!


jennajane's picture

Hi Louis, thanks for the nice words. I have revamped the temp data logger I wrote about last year, it is now based on a mega board, controls heating and ventilation in our greenhouse, as well as the germination table I also wrote about here. I have also added a wireless doorbell as an alarm if the temps go out of range or if their is a power outage. I am hoping to add an LCD display in the greenhouse and am thinking about how to get another LCD in the house, it sounds like this would be perfect application for your bee.

I am curious about your bee, it looks like it has a lot of what I want in a board, but upon first inspection it doesn't look like there are many digital pins. I out grew my Uno in the greenhouse pretty quickly with just a few sensors, relays, and logging capabilities.

I am excited about the egg mobile, for sure I will have some kind of microcontroller in it. I like the idea with the food dispensing, make it kind of like a giant gumball machine.


R.J. Steinert's picture

Hi Jenna, Cool work you're doing there. Last year I had to calculate the size of a solar panel and battery required to support 30 tablets and a Raspberry Pi for 8 hours a day. Here's the calculations I came up with. It includes a couple of helpful links at the beginning for educating yourself on how to do the calculations yourself as well as some example technologies. Louis also helped out by verifying those calculations.

On the number of pins issue. I wonder if using a device like a Raspberry Pi or Beaglebone with USB capabilities would be a viable option. Plug in a USB hub and a couple of USB-to-Serial adapters and you could potentially have all the pins you ever need. I've never tried it myself so there might be some limitations there I haven't run into. The other option is more Bees/Arduinos talking to a central unit that is running the logic and sending commands back to the nodes. The Bee+Hive project Louis and I were working on has that potential but we have yet to build in sending automation commands from the Hive to the Bees.

  • RJ