Have you ever wanted to wake up late, have your coffee brewing and the chickens out of their coop? This could be a reality with a little help from technologies including solar chicken coop lights and more. With these nifty devices, you just might find that an Internet-connected coop is exactly what your backyard farm really needs.
Space Age Incubation
There are many electric, electronic and even non-electric options for incubating chicken eggs but have you ever used one with a USB connection? The Rcom USB 20 Digital Egg Incubator doesn’t pipe in Spotify for your soon-to-be hatchlings but it does provide a handy way to monitor settings and build a database for optimal incubation conditions. The USB 20 is the connected version of Rcom’s Pro 20 model and has all the same features — digital menus with humidity, temperature, egg turning and egg angle indicators, and others — plus a USB port and software for database management, alarms, and other functions. On their website, U.S. distributor Lyon Technologies calls this model “ideal for when you want to repeat specific incubation conditions” and “for small numbers of eggs where incubation control is essential for maximum hatch rates.” The digital displays have cute icons for a variety of birds (even pheasant and peafowl) and the simple setup menus navigate like old-school fax machines. Everything you need a piece of egg tech to do for you except make omelets … until the next upgrade, that is!
Rcom USB 20
Lyon Technologies, Inc.; Chula Vista, CA
Non-USB models start at $133.90 for the mini version (3 eggs)
up to $643.75 for the Pro 20
Solar Chicken Coop Lights Brighten a Hen’s Life
Every poultry owner knows the drill — as days grow shorter, egg laying slows down and, depending on the age, breed and other variables — your hens’ production rates will shrink considerably. To manage this challenge, some people leave the light on all night like an agricultural Motel 6 but that’s not the best solution.
The folks at Henlight would like to propose two chicken-friendlier options: The Henlight Lighting System, a solar chicken coop light that’s a mobile product, perfect for off-the-grid use, or the Henlight Plug-in System, a lower-priced version, where AC power is available. Both Henlights use “intelligent timers” which automatically provide the right amount of extra lighting you need each morning without fussy manual adjustments for time of year or location.
They also employ their own special blend of red and soft white LEDs that provide optimal color wavelengths to be both effective and supportive of your birds’ health. The Henlight only comes on in the morning, fading up gradually to imitate a real sunrise, and only adds the appropriate amount of extra lighting time to your hens’ day, never exceeding Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) guidelines. The company’s website says their proprietary combination of LEDs are energy-efficient and “will not break, do not get hot, and unlike CFLs, do not contain toxic chemicals.”
Henlight Lighting System
$480 + AC power supply (sold separately)
Henlight Plug-In System
Henlight, LLC; Davis, California
All Eyes on Hens
Last year I lost a couple of nights’ sleep when some varmint kept pestering my ducks and then disappearing as soon as I got out of bed to check on them. Luckily, I’d installed a new surveillance camera with internet access so I quickly figured out which chicken predator I was dealing with (opossum), assessed the threat (not with that pen) and decided to stop charging into the backyard unnecessarily. We had bought our setup through an alarm company but you don’t have to go that pricey route, now that there are choices like Nest Cam Outdoor by industry-leader Nest Labs, Inc. To choose the right online security camera for your backyard farm, you will need to consider how you connect to the internet, your budget, preferred features and your general handiness level.
First, your connection. Nest is designed to work off a Wi-Fi network so if one isn’t available, you should look at a hardwired system instead. Second, even though the upfront costs are reasonable ($199 per unit), if you want your video history, it costs an additional $100 to $300 per year for the Nest Aware service which provides 10-day and 30-day histories respectively. Without Nest Aware, Nest Cam only gives you a three-hour video snapshot — useful if you are able to get a phone alert but not so good if you miss that alert. In in my experience, it’s useful to be able to go back at least a few days, especially if you have to take trips out of town. You can run the numbers to see which concept works best for you.
When it comes to state-of-the-art tech, Nest Cam is pretty hard to beat. You get activity alerts, sleek design, night vision and other standard features as well as a two-way audio system that will either strike you as useful or creepy, depending on your worldview. Most importantly, though, Nest Cam Outdoor is one of the easiest systems to set up, which just might be the deciding factor for many of us. And with a name that’s so darn poultry-ready, Nest could be the perfect choice to watch over your nest.
Nest Cam Outdoor
$199 each unit, plus optional Nest Aware service
Nest Labs, Inc.
Palo Alto, California
Tender is the Coop
And, of course, what backyard farmer hasn’t had that moment when they thought, “Wow, I wish I had an app so that I didn’t have to go outside/rush home/worry about getting my chickens locked up tonight!” Ladies and gentlemen, such an app — well, software for an automatic chicken door opener with Internet Wi-Fi module — now exists. With Coop Tender, chicken owners can now monitor, control and configure their automatic coop doors from the convenience of their smartphone.
In addition to basic door operations, there are many thoughtful features. For example, you can check temps in the coop and even keep the door closed automatically when it’s dangerously cold outside. Also, you can verify the open or closed status of the door, even at a distance in the dark; watch your hens via webcam (not included); receive notifications including optional Predator Motion module alerts; and much more. There is a range of styles and different power supply options from standard electric to battery back-up and solar. A great system for you and your birds you can help protect them without leaving the house.
Coop Tender System bundle – From $249.99 unassembled to $629.96 for door with Internet, accessory control and predator motion detect.
ITBS, Inc.; Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania
Solar-Powered Auto Coop Door
Sunrise and sunset timer capability, metal no-warp door, battery backup. Special features include a “second chance” option for latecomer chickens.
Advanced Automatic Coop Door with Solar Kit
$260.00 plus $89.90 for solar kit
Ultrasonic Rodent Repeller
This device will annoy chickens so it must be faced away from them. This could be used in an environment where birds are not free-ranging or outside at night to keep mice and rats at bay.
Made for deer hunters, these trail cams could work for backyard poultry watching, too. Top-of-the-line models have impressive specs including out-of-the-box wireless connectivity, HD video, no-glow black LEDs and motion sensors out to 60 feet. Curious about what’s going on in the yard while you’re not around but don’t want to go all Big Brother with your surveillance? Try the non-wireless wildlife watcher versions.
Aggressor Trophy Cam 14MP Wireless
Nature View 14 MP HD
Note: all prices as of December 2016
Do you use solar chicken coop lights and other technologies in your backyard poultry keeping? Let us know in the comments below.