Solar Chickens

If you have spent any time here at all, you will know my frustrations with our chickens. From not being able to get the breeds I want to loosing all of them to the neighbor’s dog last year just after they started laying. This left us chicken-less until this spring.

I missed out on ordering the Black Java for this season, so decided to buy 12 Golden Comet pullets from our local Tractor Supply. I knew the day after I got them home they were not what they were sold to me as, I was not allowed to return them, so they are here happy in their pen.

Something has been getting them during the day. We went from 23 hens and 2 roosters to 6 hens and 1 rooster. Out of all of these I have only 1 Delaware hen left. The rest are the unknown white birds, I suspect are leghorns. How I ended up with roosters when I bought pullets I have no idea, ask Tractor Supply.

This spring I ordered a small solar panel kit-panel, controller, 2 lights and small battery from Northern tool. Which I see now is not available any longer…Anyway first went up the electric fencing. I ran 2 strands and used the long extenders to keep the electric wire off the wire of the chicken run.

The down side to needing to run the wire so close to the ground is I will either have to give up the idea of putting in raised beds to raise “chicken greens” or move the beds out a bit from the base of the run.

Dick built a frame for the solar panel so it would be at the correct angle for our area. A quick trip up in the bucket of the loader and it was on the roof. Next was to connect all the wiring and figure out a way to keep it and the battery from the weather and I also thought the “chicken dust” would not be good for the electronic components. So they went into a plastic bucket set on the ground for the time being until I can figure something better out.

A ground rod in the ground and a quick connection of the fence charger we are in business. So far it  seems to be working well. I installed a dc fan in the coop to help with the circulation that I turn on when the birds are in at night. By morning it is off because the battery is dead. I only run this on the hot and steamy nights, which seems to be every night lately.

We are still loosing birds even after the fence was connected. I think the birds are flying out the top and onto the ground where it turns into fast food for what ever it is that is taking them. Coyote, fox or who knows what. There are no signs of them just a few feathers on the ground.

Come fall when the day light falls below 8 hours a day I will change out the fan for the 2 dc lights. According to the instructions that came with the panel the 2 lights should stay on for up to 6 hours from the power in the battery. This will be enough to extend the daylight so they will continue to lay. I don’t expect the lights to provide any kind of heat for them, they are led’s.

We will need to get a larger battery for the system so the fence will stay on all night with the lights running. The solar panel should be large enough to fully charge a larger battery.

Next up on the list is to install the bird netting across the top of the run, put the vinyl siding on the coop and extend the roof in the run area to cover the roost from the sun and dripping rain off the roof. We also need to finish building the door to the run…The list is getting shorter all the time. Oh’ ya’ don’t forget the chicken greens garden beds.

 To answer a few emails about the coop and run. The coop is an old bob house we bought. It is roughly 4×8 with some insulation on the walls. We added a second layer of plywood to the floor and the inside walls to stregnthen the floor and cover the insulation. The roof I’m not sure what it is called but it is transparent and lets the light and heat in. It looks like metal roofing only it’s some sort of fiberglass (?) material. The heat from the sun this winter will help keep the coop warm in the day. Last winter when the sun was out it was a good 20 degrees warmer in the coop than outside if the sun was out.

We added some already built nesting boxes salvaged from an old hen house that was being torn down. I cleaned and bleached them first. I keep a small water and feed container in the coop at all times. I set them both up on bricks so they won’t fill with shavings, keeping the water cleaner. I change the water every morning and night. There is also a large waterer in the run. I don’t put the grain outside.

On the floor is a good 8-12″ layer of pine shavings. This is called the deep litter method. Every few weeks I take the manure fork and sift throught the shaving. They stay dry and there is no chicken smell in the coop. When they do become to dirty I shovel them all out and add fresh. This is usually 2 times a year. The old shavings go to the compost bin.

The run, the support beams are  8 foot long 4×4 landscaping timbers put in the ground 2 feet. We put one in the ground every 4 feet or so. Across the top and bottom are some old boards to attach the wire to. The wire is a single length 6 feet tall. The total size of the run is about 16 feet x 30 feet.

This spring the ground was covered with growing clover. The birds have since then cleaned all that out and I put down a good layer of mulch hay every few weeks, about 2 bales worth. The birds enjoy scratching through the hay and it keeps the mud away when it rains. I also think it looks nicer than bare poop covered dirt. The hay breaks down pretty fast and when it does I shovel it out along with any food scraps they didn’t eat and bring it all to the compost pile. After a couple of weeks there really isn’t all that much hay left, the birds like to eat it too.

And lastly, I do feed and water them twice a day. In the morning I fill their grain bucket and throw in cut greens. Around noon if I am home I toss them a bit of scratch grain and before I lock them in at night I top off the grain bucket. They get scraps from the garden as they are available so that could be any time of the day I happen to be cooking or working in the yard.


Posted on July 28, 2010, in Chickens, Homesteading, The Barn. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. You could be losing your chix to a hawk… I know for a fact that there are several osprey nests over your way too. They would happily help themselves to chicken dinner and birds of prey tend to be the most likely daytime culprits (aside from domestic dogs.) Especially if you are only finding a few feathers. There’s plenty of space in 16×30 to strike and take back off. Once you get your netting installed, I bet you’ll be a-ok.

    From your pics I would say with confidence that you ended up w/leghorns. Know it wasn’t what you wanted, but they’ll be laying machines…

  2. A chicken farmer down the road asked the same question. He also said it could be the fox in the area, if the birds are flying out the fox is grabbing them and taking off with them.

    Either way the netting must go up, now to find the time to do it. I have heard many good things about leghorns even if they are sort of dumb… Hope to make it to the chicken swap at the end of Aug. and bring home a few that are already laying, also a friend of mine has offered to loan me a few of hers.

  3. Well, the Tractor Supply people are jerks. I was thinking along the line of predator birds, too, but thought that the chicken run area would impede them somehow. Guess not, huh? I see the hawks take doves and small critters from the back yard, but there is not any fencing to interfere with their take-offs.

    The survivors look to be very happy at your place. In fact, all of the photos are so lovely and calm and farmy.

  4. I love chickens but share your frustrations in keep them “in” and safe. I’ll be checking back to see how the solar electric wire works to keep our predators.

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