coop door maiden run

Our door prototype assembled from scavenged materials is running in the wild with great success!

door prototype

At first, the chickens were not wild about the whole thing:

But after a few weeks of that little gear motor cranking away twice a day, they could care less. Now onto new hardware and cloud stuff…


boulder’s first maker faire

Boulder Maker Faire banner



UPDATE: Our booth was voted “attendee favorite” in the responses to the Boulder Maker Faire survey! Woohoo!! Apparently, we aren’t the only fans of chickens and gadgets, LOL.

What a weekend! 5,000+ people attended the event and our booth was so busy that Nathan and I forgot to eat or drink anything from 10am to 5pm on Saturday. Oops. We are completely exhausted but we feel honored to have been included.

Hey Chicken! was a hit with young and old alike. Our rubber chicken assistants kept the itty bitties entertained and made great stand-ins for demo’ing the roost bar pressure sensor. We put the light sensor in a shoebox with a removable lid to create a night and day simulator. Our goal was to create an interactive exhibit where folks could modulate the sensor inputs and observe their effects on the automatic door operation. Since operating the flat panel heater wouldn’t be very exciting, I repurposed the PowerTail to control the lights, including a globe light dressed up to look like a sun. It turned on when it was “day time” and off for “night time”.

yarn and pin block diagram

One of the biggest insights we gained from our experience was that this project really bridges the gap between generations. There were young people who brought their parents and grandparents back to our booth to share it with them. We heard stories of life growing up on the farm, even a woman who used to get in trouble for spending so much time in the hen house with her beloved chicken friends that she caught lice! There is a humanity to this project to which people are drawn. It appeals to the longing many of us have for connecting with the natural world in our increasingly impersonal, digital lives. Engineering appeals more to people, especially women, when it involves other things they care about in life, and for many, this includes backyard chickens!

lots of wires

Since we only had a week and half notice that we were exhibiting, it was a mad rush to get our model done for the Faire. We pulled some late nights but thanks to my husband Nate’s mechanical prowess, the motorized door was completed just in time. Go team! 🙂


we’ve got data

3 bedtimes

Here is what three chicken bedtimes look like.

The green stuff is pressure sensor data collected from under the roost bar which roughly corresponds to the weight of the chickens. It is a little inconsistent when the roost bar is empty during the day. We may need to rejigger the rig that is transferring pressure from the roost to the sensor.

The purple stuff is light measured in the run. The little blip during the night is when the Christmas lights turn off, hehe. 🙂 Looks pretty solid! It is very easy to see the transitions from night to day and back again. Haven’t had a cloudy day yet though. Ah, Colorado!

The temperature data isn’t necessary for operating the door but will come in handy when we automate the heater. It is interesting to see the coop and run temps flip between day and night. During the day, the run is warmer because of the greenhouse effect but at night, the insulated coop warms up with chicken heat.

Might need to do some smoothing but I think we’ve got what we need to figure out when we should open and shut the door!