Thursday, February 14, 2013

Solar Powered AutoCreeping Lighted Hoop Coop - IT WORKS!

Finally Success!

Our new design for the turkey / chicken solar powered AutoCreeping, lighted, Hoop Coop Works!

I had to beef up the back bracing with 2x6, and design a new "stake system"  for the wench to pull against, and it works. The pictures below show the finished product in more detail.

Why spend so much time and money on this setup? Well, it should pay for itself in the first season.  The reality for our area is, the birds are in danger when loose, so must be locked safely away from predators most of hte time. In the past we have accomplished this by using hte hoop coop and pulling it around the pasture to gain access to fresh grass and bugs. The problem with this, is frequency. Turkeys are large and heavy. They can quickly compact down the grass in an area and run out of forage. When I say quickly  i mean QUICKLY! within a couple hours, there just isnt much grass left to eat. Moving the coop manually every couple hours just isnt practical. Eve if it was, we would mash down the grass from the tool used to move it anyway.

So, enter the self powered auto creeping coop.  Using only solar power, this coop can pull itself along a flat pasture with no outside help, for several days! IT gives a fresh patch of grass to the inhabitants on an hourly basis, all throughout the day.  Healthier, cleaner, and better fed birds result. In fact, the cost savings on feed should pay for the equipment in the first season. Turkeys prefer grass to feed most of hte time, so offering fresh grass constantly throughout the day should cut their feed consumption in half, while keeping them safe from predators.

Why not wheels? Well, have you been to our farm? There is one constant in the winter... MUD and lots of it. the ground here is mostly clay so as soon as a decent rain comes in fall, the ground turns to jello till it dries out in spring.  Wheeled coops are useless for about 6 months of the year. With this winch setup, we have a year round ability to move without causing ground disruption (ruts). More grass, more movement, less mud... its all good!

So, here are some details on the final setup:

The stake setup. Much like what is used in off roading for winch usage. The winch cable enters at the left and  hooks around the first pipe. These pipes are hard iron, driven about 2 feet into the ground at a 45 degree angle. The second pip is driven in about 2 feet behind the first. The S hook on the chain connects the top of the first pipe to the bottom of the second. Ther eis a bolt through the second, just above ground level, to keep the chain from riding up over time. The second pipe holds the first pipe at the proper angle using the chain. Together they make a very sturdy stake. 

You can see the distance able to travel without resetting the stakes. This is 150 feet of cable. We removed the stock winch cable for one size smaller to enable longer runs. this gives about 3 days of movement before it runs out of cable. 

Inside you can see the hanging 12v CFL tubes for lighting. The unit we start with has 5watt lights, but I can replace them with up to 25watt lights if necessary. 

Here is hte winch mounted to the winch plate and bolted with 6  lag screws to a 2x6 across the back (now front) of the coop. There is an additional 2x4 screwed to the end of the 2x6  to provide vertical stability as well as wide enough top area to mount he winch plate.  There is just enough room on the winch plate for the deep cycle battery and the electronics, all in a nice neat package.  the final step will be enclosing this into a wooden box for rain cover, and cutting the back panel so that it can fold down around hte winch assembly. This way, we can still safely open the entire back of the coop for herding birds in and out while not disturbing the winch. 

Heres a view of the assembly on the back of the coop..The 2x6 extends all the way to the outside of the runners so that it can be secured to all 3 runners on each side. 2 screws in each runner make a total of 12 screws holding the back brace to the runners. 
 For electronics there are 3 timers used. The 24 hour timer allows setting of 20 different on/off times per week or day with a minimum of 1 minute on time.  The other time is a event timer that can be set from 1 second to 60 seconds.  I use the one 24 hour timer for the lights, to provide extended daylight for egg layers. The other 24 hour timer is set to give a one minute on time at the top of each hour from 6am till 6pm. Each time it clicks on, the event timer is triggered giving the winch 10 seconds of run time. That pulls the coop about 14 inches. 

I discovered that moving for longer time was much more effective with less battery drain them more frequent shorter run times. Getting the coop moving at first is the bulk of the electric drain. Once it moves, keeping it creeping takes way less. So, we are seeing maybe half the battery drain with this new system. 

After a few days of verification, we will be ready to move hte turkeys to their new home on thicker grass, add the nesting box, and start collecting turkey eggs for the 2013 turkey harvest!

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