Brothers M. Mondays in May 2022 – Brooder Series Week 3

Brothers M. Mondays(on Tuesday this week) is our way of sharing our excitement  about our chickens.


We have a 3 1/2′ x 7′ wooden trailer, which became our next brooder.  I added a lid to it so we could use it to take the chickens to our processor.  It doubled as a pretty good brooder.  My biggest concern was that predators would breath through the lid, it’s made out of a 1×3 frame and 1/4 inch hardware cloth.  It’s pretty sturdy for travel when it’s locked down, but not really meant to keep something from chewing and pulling at the corners.

Trailer2Turns out I should have been more concerned about how secure the heat lamps were attached via the squeeze handle.  One fell off and burned a hole in the floor of the trailer.  Fortunately the conditions were right and it only smoldered a hold the size of a basketball instead of starting a fire.  Unfortunately I cannot find my picture of the hold.  After that I fastened the lights securely to the lid, which looked pretty ominous from outside the tent.

trailer3The down side of the trailer was running off an extension cord, how deep the trailer was for reaching onto it, and we outgrew it once we started raising more than 100 birds at a time.

Since I was worried about predators, I setup a trail-cam during one run.  Here’s a bonus video I made out of it, hope it makes up for the delayed post.

Brothers M. Mondays in May 2022 – Brooder Series Week 2

Brothers M. Mondays is our way of sharing our excitement  about our chickens.

Crate1Our very first brooder box was thrown together with a lamp and a plastic tote for 20 guinea fowl we bought.  But for the meat chickens, I needed something better and bigger.  I converted a pallet crate into a brooder.  I enclosed the crate on the outside with 2×4 wire fence to keep predators from breaking in.   I used some scrap composite wood flooring for the floor, I was a little short so there were a couple places I filled in with scrap wood. The crate didn’t have a top or lid, so I used a regular pallet with 2×4 fence attached for the top.  It wasn’t attached, but was heavy enough critters couldn’t move it.

Crate2I lined the inside with pink 1/2″ foam board insulation.  On the sides I attached some scrap Formica sheets to protect the foam board from being pecked and eaten, it didn’t protect all the way to the top, but that was only a problem when I temporarily hosed a grown bird in the brooder.  I had a piece of foam board that covered almost the complete top, then I sat the pallet top/lid on to of that.

Crate3An attached light to the side and a waterer and feeder and it was ready for chickens.  This worked pretty good.  But we quickly outgrew it, I think the max was about 30-35 birds.

Brothers M. Mondays in May 2022 – Brooder Series Week 1

Brothers M. Mondays is our way of sharing our excitement  about our chickens.

I’ve recently received a couple questions about starting chicks, so this year for Brother M. Monday’s in May I’m doing a Brooder series

One of these things

Starting out, here’s some general brooder basics I use:

  • Length – In general, the chicks can leave the brooder as soon as they are feathered out.  Anecdotal wisdom is that the sooner the chicks eat pasture grass, the sooner they build immunities.

Starting in early spring, mine usually go out near the end of 3 weeks.  After that they start crowding the brooder.  When raising them in the summer, I like to get them out around the end of the 2nd week, assuming we’re having warm weather, during a cold spell, I’d still wait another week.

  • Heat – I subscribe to a “normalizing” heat method using heat lamps.  This means I supply the heat and rely on the chicks to self-regulate their temperature by moving closer if they’re cold and further away if they are hot.  This method means you have to be observant to what the chickens are doing.

In the spring I use 250w bulbs and switch to 120w in the summer.  When the temperature drops low enough that the chickens are crowding the light, I use foam insulation and some blankets to cover the tops of the brooder, leaving appropriate space around the lights to prevent fire and allow air flow.

  • Bedding – I use the deep bedding method of bedding the chicks.  This means I layer in bedding as it gets soiled.  This method results in several inches of bedding, which gets sent to the compost pile when the chicks are done.

I use medium wood chips for bedding, don’t use cedar.  Fine chips will work, but you use a lot more in this method and there’s more dust which isn’t great for the chickens.

  • Water – I started out with plastic 1gal waterers, then switch to metal 3 gallon, well actually I started out with a couple quart waterers, but we outgrew them really quick.  I used the one gallon waterers because I initially sectioned off my big brooder into 4 sections and the 1gal worked well in that space.  I removed the dividers so I had 2 larger 3×8 brooders and switched to using the same 3gal metal waterers I use in the chicken tractor.

In the future I plan to switch to a nipple water system.

  • Feed – I started out with chick feeder troughs and quart feeders, but they didn’t hold enough food and were too cumbersome to keep up with.   I switched to using the same 7lb feeders that I hang in the chicken tractors, just sitting on the bedding.  I also set them on a piece of scrap deck board to help prevent wood chips from getting into them.
  • Space/segregation – I’ll mention the capacity of each brooder as I post them.  Initially I subscribed to more separation, 50 per brooder, but today feel that 100 per brooder works well.  The reason for separation is to prevent crowding, as chicks will trample each other.  However, my problem with separation is the lack of redundancy and the loss of brooder space for the equipment.

In my personal experience, with the brooder divided, I could only have one heat lamp per brooder.  When a bulb failed one night, I lost almost a dozen chicks due to cold and crowding for warmth.  After removing the divider,  there are two lamps offering redundancy in a failure, I experience a similar failure, but only lost a couple chickens due to the redundant light.  FYI, I think I got a bad batch of bulbs that year as I had several new bulbs fail.

Plus, using the one 3 Gallon waterer in the center instead of the two 1gal waterers gives the chicks more room.  It’s not necessarily about the actual space the waterer takes up, but the placement in the center.  In the divided brooder, the waterer always ended up near a corner which uses up more space.

I hope some of this info on how I do things is useful.  Stay tuned for the rest of the posts on the various brooders I’ve tried.

Brothers M. Mondays in May 2021 – Week 5 – One of These Things

Brothers M. Mondays is our way of showing you how excited we are for the first Seymour Farmers Market.

It was awesome to see all the smiling faces Saturday at the marker.   A bit cold, but awesome.

One of these thingsSince the last Monday in May is a bit of a sneak and just snuck in on the last day, I thought a I’d post this picture.  One of these chickens is a sneak, it’s not like the others.  Due to a shipping issue we received a few layers this year with our regular Brothers order. Can you find the layer in this picture?

Winter egg laying – 2020

Winter Night LightI’ve been very pleased with ISA Browns.  They are gentile, except we don’t seem to have good luck with Roosters; I’ve been told meanness is common in the light colored roosters.  The egg production has been great.  Longevity seems to be on par with what I’d read, 2 years being the peak for egg laying.

But what about winter laying of ISA Brown chickens, especially supplemental light?

In my review of the Buff Orpingtons and the Rainbow breeds as Dual purpose birds, one of the things I mentioned was that artificial light was needed to keep these breeds laying in the winter.  From what I’ve read, breeds that are bread for egg laying will lay through the winter without additional lighting.  I’ve even heard first hand of Rhode Island Reds laying through the winter without additional light.

I’ve not had that luck with my chickens, including the ISA Browns.  Last year I did not provide extra light and they stopped laying.  I could not pin down for sure if it was the light, stress, cold, or water conditions, detailed in my solar tire saga.

This year, winter 2020/2021, when egg production started dropping off, and basically stopped, I was again having  predators stressing the birds, including even losing some birds.  However, cold and water were not an issue, see best solar water.   So I went ahead and introduced artificial lighting in the mornings and evening to ensure the birds were getting 12+ hours of light.  To my satisfaction, egg production not only increased, but our egg production returned to normal.  Of course, the predator situation was also taken care of; however, after a couple more months of good production, I really think it was the light.

The down side to this is that I didn’t size the solar panel and battery to accommodate running the light this much.  The solar panel does help, and for now I’ve ended up adding an additional deep cycle battery and swap batteries every 5-7 days if it’s been overcast, not as hands off as I wanted.  I haven’t done any calculations, but I’m considering a larger solar panel, but in the summer it would be extreme overkill just to run the automatic door.   In the meantime, it’s still better than how frequently I had to change batteries without a solar panel.

Another note about the cold.  Our chickens don’t seem to be bothered by the cold.  The research I’ve done indicates that if you’ve chosen a cold hearty breed, which I have, then as long as you provide a dry area that’s out of the wind, the chickens will be fine.  The worst thing for them is to be wet in the cold.  Our coop has an open floor, but 4 solid walls and windows to let the sun in.  The lowest roost is a foot off the floor, which allows for wind blockage.

Portable Chicken Coop / Tractor – Feeders

This really doesn’t need to be a separate post, but I didn’t want to combine it with my solar tire tub post since I consider that a failure.

My father-in-law gave me these feeders, so I decided to use them in the initial phase of the coop build.  My thought was to build a PVC feeder system that we could add feed from outside the coop.  This was because roosters are mean to little girls.

Now, we no longer have a rooster and I’ve grown to like the door feeders.  Having to open the door to feed the chickens is a bit more work.  And a time or two a chicken has escaped, as referenced in my aviary post; however, at this point I’m no longer interested in perusing a PVC solution .

As a bonus item, here’s my solution for providing calcium for the chickens.  I like the idea of providing a second feeder that they can get the calcium at-will instead of adding it directly to their feed.  For this I repurposed a broken brooder waterer and an old brooder feeder base I picked up.  The plastic waterer was cracked and not holding water, so I cut open the top to be able to fill it from the top, and drilled two holds for the hanger.  A scrap piece of house wire inserted into two drilled holes acts as a hanger.

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Portable Chicken Coop / Tractor – Solar Tire Tub Waterer

Recently I realized I didn’t  do a post on my solar tire waterer and that it’s on the outline for my initial build.  In my opinion it was a failure and I guess why I overlooked it.  But, I want others to be able to learn from both my successes and failures so here goes.

I researched ways to keep water from freezing and the tire idea intrigued me so I built one.  I thought I had an ace up my sleeve, I’ll explain.

So I got a tire and put a board across the bottom for the pan to sit on.  This was to insulate the pan from the ground.  The instructions said to fill the tire with insulating material, plastic seemed to be the most common material so I filled the tire with old tarp scraps.  I got a black plastic oil pan that fit the tier pretty well and I was off to the races.

And my ace in the hole?  One of our small blue-ice bottles, unfrozen obviously.  I saw people putting a dark ball in the water to move the water and attract heat, thus helping to keep it from freezing.  If figured if my “ball” was also partly filled with salt water, which freezes at a lower temperature, it would help keep the water from freezing even more.

The results.  The chickens roosted on the tire during the day, frequently butt side toward the water, and made a mess in the water.  It was hard to keep the water clean.  The tire setup did help keep the water from freezing, a little.  It was fairly easy to dump frozen ice out of the pan or to melt it with hot water.  The blue ice bottle seemed to help, but I’m not sure if or how much better than just adding a ball.

Marshmallow seems to be my common companion

The end result was I finished the winter with it and moved back to a standard ground waterer as soon as I could.  The tire was thrown in a corner, pan and all, and I didn’t touch it until I grabbed a picture the following February for the solar water post.  It’s still sitting unused.

For a better solution, check out what I used last winter.  This is the best solution I’ve found.

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Portable Chicken Coop / Tractor – Aviary

This was a part I didn’t plan out in great detail, but I’m used to that.  Even the well thought out plans I made for this coop got modified as I built.  Typically I’m building with various material, used and new, and I incorporate what I have to make what I want.  I like to think I’ve developed pretty decent system around this building process.

Just so happens, I watched this video on being more productive the morning I was going out to work on the Aviary.  It made me feel better about building the Aviary from just an idea in my mind.   Early in the video,  I like when he said “I think it’s easy to stand around and talk about how to do something better, when if you simply put your head down and went to work, it would be done, and well done, when discussion on the best possible method was just beginning to slow up enough for somebody to begin to pick up a tool.  Now I’m overstating that, but productivity is important.”

I also, I enjoyed the Frost poem, and finally CS Lewis’s quote,  “Two of a trade, never agree.” and his interpretation that Everyone does it different, so learn new things from that.

What’s Up? Chicken Butt. Laugh when you see it.

But on to the Aviary…

Building a coop on a trailer meant coming up with an aviary that can be lifted for movement.  I don’t have permanent perimeter fencing around the pasture to keep and protect the flock, so an aviary is necessary.

The aviary is easily detachable at the pivot/hinge, made from a caster with the wheel removed.  This is for three reasons.  I may use the coop with portable fencing as some point and not want the aviary attached.   The corners of the aviary drag when moving, so if I’m moving over large distances, removing the aviary makes the move easier.  It’s also necessary for me to use the windows as access portals to remove chickens when they are roosting in the middle, removing the aviary gives me access to the windows.

Nice to have a friend around when you work

Most of the frame is made out of some scrap aluminum wire track I picked up.  This helps keep it light.  The wooden pallet boards are for extra strength at the corners and pivot point, and to make it easier to tie everything together.  Chicken wire is zip tied to the frame and stapled to the wood where appropriate.

I turned one corner of the frame into a hatch.  This mainly allows us to water the chickens.  We’ve been using ground waterers in the warm months and my new solar heated waterer in the cold months.   I recently setup a PVC nipple system, but the weather turned cold before I could try it out; more to come on that.

My helper with running the cable.

The initial plan was to use a pulley system attached to the aviary to raise and lower it like a drawbridge and attach a motor or winch to raise and lower it.   Even though it’s pretty light, it a pretty hard pull to raise.  This is due to the shallow angle of lift I have from the roof and that I used cheap pulleys.  Even with double pulleys, it’s a struggle to lift by pulling the cables.

Currently, I raise the aviary by hand, prop it up with a bucket, then pull the slack out of the cable and tie it down, using a cleat hook on the inside.  I’m thinking I may scrap the whole pulley system and just have one cable on each end that is right length to hold the frame up once I’ve raised it on the bucket.

I’ve been told I should have designed the coop so that the aviary drags behind the coop when I move it.  This sounds like a good idea; however, it doesn’t make backing up easy and I’ve already built the coop.  I do think a redesign is in order, I have some ideas, so more to come when I’m finished.

Yes, she’s outside. The devil escaped while filling the food.



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Portable Chicken Coop / Tractor – Solar non-freezing chicken waterer – Best design yet

frozen water previewProviding unfrozen water in the winter can be a challenge and time consuming.  Since we pasture the chickens “tractor” style with the portable coop, power to heat the water is the issue.  I believe I’ve finally figured it out.

First year we started with multiple plastic waterers that we swapped out multiple times a day.  This works decently, but the water still freezes, it’s labor intensive, and someone needs to be around during the day to swap waterers.

The next year we steped it up by heating the waterers with a light bulb.  This worked pretty good, but required us to keep the coop within extension cord distance of an outlet and periodically water would freeze in the top  of the waterer.

I did not do a post on the tire waterer.  It was disappointing and it was easy to find info on it.  However, I still had the tire and pan laying around so I threw together a quick pic for reference.

Last year I built a tire waterer to try and keep the chicken water from freezing.   I put a board inside the tire on the bottom side, stuffed the inside of the tire with old tarps for insulation, and fitted a plastic pan in the tire.  My experience with that was poor and I do not recommend it.  The biggest issue was that the chickens would stand on the tire and mess in their water all day.  By the time I got home to change it, it was pretty bad.  It did help slow down the freezing process; however, being open air, it still allowed the water to eventually freeze solid, especially overnight.

I’ve been playing with an idea of an enclosed PVC and nipple system.  Basically building an insulated box and filling it with 3″ tubes of PVC, shown in the graphic.  There would be a cutout of  frame and insulation in one top corner to allow access to add water. One bottom corner would have a smaller PVC tube that protruded through the box with a water nipple on the end.  The front would be Twinwall Polycarbonate glazing to let the sun in and the inside would be painted black to absorb as much heat as possible.

It was getting cold this year and I needed to get a waterer made for the chickens so I decided to not build the PVC waterer for the following reason.  One,  my chickens are not trained to a nipple system yet.  I’m having trouble figuring out how to attach the PVC box to the ‘Pequod’ chicken coop, especially since it’s going to be heavy and need decent support.  The 3″ PVC fittings are expensive and I have concerns the metal part of the nipple would still freeze and cause issue.

I was basing the PVC system on principals I learned from this solar horse tank.   Then it hit me, how about trying to replicate the horse tank at a chicken waterer size!  Since the amount of water would be significantly less, I wouldn’t want to leave the top exposed, but chicken heads are small, so I took a gamble that they’d stick their heads through a hole instead.


My first thoughts were to use a bucket, but I didn’t like the clearances nor dealing with bending and attaching the polycarbonate glazing.  So I decided to use a tote, black obviously  so it will absorb the heat from the sun.

Using similar principals as the solar horse tank. I first put 2″ foam on the bottom to have an insulated base to sit the water on.   I measured from the top of the foam to the bottom of the lid and subtracted 2 inches for the foam that would be attached to the lid.  This gave me the height for the foam sides and Twinwall Polycarbonat glazing

Next I added the 2″ foam to the sides.  I looked at the shape of the tote and measured across the end where I could fit a straight piece of foam.  The bottom of the tote is narrower than the top, measured top and bottom and cut sloped pieces of foam.

I measured from the floor to top and between the insides of the sides to cut a rectangle out of the front of the tote for the window.  I cut a piece of polycarbonate glazing slightly larger, about 1/2 to 3/4 inch, than the hole on the sides and bottom so that the foam could help hold it in place.  I used duct to hold and seal the polycarbonate glazing in place; this also sealed the tubes.  I put the scrap piece of plastic from the side on the floor in front of the window to try and suck in more heat.

On the other side, I placed the water bowl in the tote and used the top of the bowl to mark the bottom of the drinking opening.  Using a hole saw, I cut two overlapping circles to make the oval shaped opening for the chickens to sick their head in to drink, cleaning up the oval edges with a utility knife.

I thought it would be better to use a thinner foam where the hens stick their heads in, so I cut a piece of 1/2 inch foam, from scrap I had, to cover this side, removing the same oval.  I used duct tape to hold the foam pieces together and seal the seams.  I also used several pieces of duct tape to secure the foam to the hole and prevent the chickens from rubbing the foam.

Next I cut the 2″ foam for the lid making it fit snug when placed in the tote, but not too snug as it’ll need to be opened and shut frequently.  With the foam in the tote and the lid on, I drilled 4 sets of 2 holes so I could use zip ties to secure the foam to the lid.   I also cut some small squares of plastic from something in the recycling to prevent the zip ties from digging into the foam and pulling through.

From the drinking hole, I wanted to minimize  the surface area of the incoming air over the bowl.  I used 2″ foam to make a bridge over the bowl, then added 1/2 foam on either side of the hole to create a smaller cavity where the outside air had direct contact with the water.

At this point I put the waterer into action; however, I forgot chicken peck.  I’m not sure why I thought they wouldn’t peck the foam bridge, but I did and they did, effectively destroying the bridge.

So… I redid the bridge.  I used corrugated plastic from an old ‘For Sale’ sign I had on all the pecking sides of the bridge and plenty of duct tape to hold it in place.  The 2″ foam was replace with 1/2″ foam over the bowl.  I didn’t account for needing to remove the bowl to clean it and the 2″ foam made it so I had to tip the bowl to get it out.  Now I don’t have to.

How well does it work?  Great.  Basically, overnight at 15-19 degrees Fahrenheit I had about 1/8 inch of ice frozen on the top of the bowl.  Down in the teens is a bit thicker.   In the morning if the bowl was full of water, pull the bowl out and bang it upside down on the ground to remove the ice.  If it’s half or less, then fill it with warm water from the tap and melt the ice that way.

During the day, in the teens and twenties the water stays unfrozen, especially if there is sun, but even on overcast days, there should be enough solar to keep it unfrozen.  Unfortunately, we only had a few days this winter where it stayed below freezing night and day for 2 or more days, so I cannot give accurate results for long cold spells; however, given what I’ve seen so far it should work great.  The heat from the warm water in the morning in conjunction with the passive solar heat should keep the water from refreezing during the day.

With all my scraps, this was a pretty cheap build and worth every penny.  $6 for the tote and $10 for the rubber bowl, and $20 for the polycarbonate glazing. (the link isn’t the one I purchased, but this is a similar 5 pack)   I had 2″  and 1/2″ foam left over from insulating the basement and other projects.

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Portable Chicken Coop / Tractor – Electronics

Electronics were a must for me.  Probably the best thing I liked about keeping the birds in the chicken tractor was not having to open and shut a coop door each day.  Therefore an automated coop door was a requirement for this build.

When I started the electronics, it became a “give a mouse a cookie” event.  Automated door meant battery, battery meant solar panel, and since we have a solar panel, let’s do lights.  And for grins, I’m toying with adding a winch to raise and lower the aviary, so let’s add something for that.

I already had the battery, lights, and timer from the A-Frame build.  However I wanted to add solar to charge the battery instead of manually charging it 1-2 times a week.  I looked at some kits online and chose a cheep 20W panel and charger off Amazon.  The door automation took more thought.

I looked online and saw people using car antenna motors to open and shut the door.  I like this idea.  It would limited the amount of push pressure when shutting the door, which would prevent birds from getting caught, but this could also end up leaving the door open if the door got in a slight bind.  The biggest con for me not to use this was that, for my build, constant power would need to be applied when the antenna was extended, which would be during the nighttime when the door was pushed closed.  This would cause a draw on the battery; however, it would be a slight draw because it’s not running the motor.

Liner actuators are the other main way I see coop doors automated.  These are on when moving, then switch off once extended or retracted.  To reverse the direction, you reverse the polarity.  So they only draw power twice a day when opening or closing.  They also have a lot more push/pull torque.  This would prevent the door staying open at night because of a slight bind in the door; however, poses a danger if a chicken is in the way.  I was leaning toward the linear actuator when once again my father-in-law helped out and gave me one he had.

The actuator  requires a DPDT relay to reverse the polarity.  In the end, the power draw from the power antenna was probably a wash with the relay draw; however, the way I architected my door, the relay draws power during the day and the antenna would be drawing at night.  Theoretically there should be less draw on the battery as the solar panel will power the relay during the day.  Again, the draw is slight and probably not worth worrying about, but I do.

I’ll still have a constant phantom power draw from the photocell (circled in red in the picture of the solar panel) that’s used to trigger the door at morning and night, but that’s used for either method.  I like the photocell because it changes with the season and will be more consistent with morning and night than trying to use a timer.

I spent some time to determine the correct wire for the distance.   Based on this chart, the battery distance of 12′ with 5A puts me at 12 gauge.  I decided to use 12 AWG to the battery and 16 AWG to everything else to achieve a 2% voltage loss.  I save old appliance cords that are long, like from vacuum cleaners, and used these for the rest of the connections.  They are 16/17 gauge and should keep me in the 2% drop range based on a combination between the previous chart and this chart.   As with the power draw of the antenna, I may be over thinking/engineering this for a chicken coop.

Finally, I had picked up an old electrical panel box somewhere and I used it to house all brains of the electronics. I added a board to help me mount everything in the box.   Here’s how it fits together.


First I bring the battery wires into the box to a couple of terminals.  This allows me to connect things directly to the battery and bypass the solar charger, which is rated for 3A.  My first add-on is a cigarette lighter that I mounted in the bottom of the box.


Then I attached the solar charge controller to the battery terminals.  The Solar panel connects into the charge controller.  Finally I take the load from the charge controller to two more terminals that I’ll connect everything else to.  Connecting solar is pretty simple using a charge controller, especially compared to the wiring for the lights and door.


As I mentioned in my previous post on the lights, I need a relay for the timer to power the lights.  I could not power my light directly through the light switch.  I also used 3 wires going to the light so I could add a flip switch to override the timer and turn the lights on.  These two items make the wire diagram look like spaghetti, but hopefully you can follow it.


**If you’re comparing the diagram to the photograph, the diagram has positive in red and negative in black.  That does not correspond to the wires I actually used so I list the color of the wire in the photograph in (parentheses).

Power(positive) comes from the load terminal to the switch side of the timer, a jumper wire goes to a wire nut that ties to the run side of the timer, which also jumpers with the power(black) wire to the light, and the switch side of the relay.  All these connections have power full time. The other side of the relay switch goes to the switched wire(green) to the light.  And the other switch side of the timer connects to the coil side of the relay.

Negative goes from the load terminal to the relay coil and run side of the timer, where it’s jumpered with the negative(white) wire to the light.  This provides the 3 wires going to the light as Black=always on positive, Green=switched power from the timer, white=negative(common).  Because I’m using wire commonly used for AC, I switched to AC Black/white color standards when I attached the wire or when I ran out of Red/black wire.  It makes sense to me since I’ve dealt with both.

At the light switch, negative(white) goes straight to the light.   Positive(Black) goes to one side of the switch.  Switched(green) goes to the other side along with a jumper wire to the positive side of the light.   So if the light switch is on, it provides power to the green side that’s jumpered to the light and the light comes on.  Turned off and the light is off, UNLESS the time is on and sending power through the Green wire, which in turn will power the light.


Hooking up the DPDT relay to switch the polarity for the actuator is fairly simple if you look at it in my diagram.  You have two COM posts that you hook positive and negative to.  Each one of those two posts will connect to 2 more post, one if the relay coil has power (SNO), the other if it doesn’t (SNC).  To reverse the polarity connect the 4 posts in a crisscross pattern.  The wire going to the actuator will connected to the 2nd pair.  If the direction of the actuator is wrong, just revers the actuator connection.

To connect the coil side of the relay you add in the photo cell so you are providing power to the coil in the day time and not at night.  You need 3 wires going to the photocell, power(black) and Negative(white) connect to the load termnals and switched(Green) will return from the photocell and connect to the coil.

To reduce the number of wires coming from the load terminals I jumpered the negative wire with the COIL and COM terminals on the relay and the (white) wire to the photocell.  I jumpered the positive wire between the COM on the relay and the (black) wire going to the photocell.

** To really confuse things, I accidentally jumpered in an extra (blue) wire with the positive connections.   I didn’t need, but didn’t want to re-do the connection so I just capped it off (white cap_.

Actuator and door

Due to the window, I wanted my door to slide sideways open and shut.  I had 2 keyboard tray slide rails which would worked perfect. They allow the door to slide 1.5 inches.  The actuator moves 10.55 inches, so I just needed to add a little play in the connections and all is good.

I started with framing where the door would slide.   I framed is so the actuator and most of the rails could be enclosed with a piece of OSB (red outline with arrow pointing to the OSB) to prevent dirt and droppings  from getting on them since the perch was close by.  I cut a door that’s wide enough to cover the door opening and slide behind a piece of wood that will prevent the rails from being bent back allowing a predator to squeeze through the door.   I attached the door and rails.

Here’s a video of the door opening and me demonstrating how to manually shut the door.

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