by Rebecca Nickols from the garden-roof coop
This month's "Cool Coop" is a great example of a DIY project, but it also has a unique feature that definitely puts it in this series of creative, inspiring chicken coops. The electricity supplied to this coop is not from a power line or extension cord, but from the sun!
Similar to many of the readers of our Community, the Elliot's like to take on projects that not only challenge them, but also increase their self sufficiency. Continue reading as Tina shares her family's first experience with chicken keeping, the construction of the coop and the installation of the solar power system:
We moved to this property in November of 2010 and it had never been used as a farm with animals. The back land had been farmed for hay and twenty-five years ago (before the house was built), there were horses kept on the property, but when we bought the place it was not set up for homesteaders.
The first animals I purchased were day old chicks; 14 Buff Orpingtons and 13 Barred Plymouth Rocks. When they arrived, of course. I had no coop and it was freezing outside anyway. We set up an area in the basement with a heat lamp, some wood chips and some hastily screwed together pieces of wood to make a rectangle shaped enclosure. We then got to work figuring out what we wanted for the coop. I still to this day have a terrible habit of buying the animals that are part of my plan BEFORE I have their enclosure or fencing done, but I suppose that is another post for another day.
Mr. Food Farm used two pieces of clear corrugated fiberglass in the roof to let light in and made Dutch doors so that we could check on the birds without letting them out if we needed to do so, or to leave the top half open for ventilation without leaving the entire coop open to would-be egg eaters. The floor is solid plywood with some leftover linoleum from our old house on top of the plywood, so that the plywood wouldn't get wet and rot.
Being interested in self sufficiency lends itself to wanting to be off grid and we thought a small project to begin with would be a good way to learn. We decided to install a solar system on our chicken coop - to run a light during the days when sunlight is in short supply. A hen will lay eggs based on the number of hours of sunlight during the day, which is why they traditionally lay more in summer and less in winter. If you keep a light in the coop, it tricks them into laying almost all year round.
Inside the coop is the light on the ceiling, the switch next to the door that is hard wired to the light and an outlet that is hard wired as well. The light fixture is a standard fixture that you can get at any hardware store, as is the electrical wiring, the outlet and the switch. The only thing that is different about a solar system is that the wiring goes to a plug, rather than a fuse box. The plug is inserted into a 400 watt power inverter, which we purchased separately. The inverter is hooked to the battery, to the positive and negative posts. The voltage regulator is wired to the battery and to the solar panels.
Read the reviews of the Harbor Freight solar panel kit here: (Solar Panel Kit), - loads of helpful information from others who have set up this kit for all sorts of uses. This link: (Getting Started in Solar Power) shows a simple solar system - great to watch if you have never used solar. I know there are more knowledgeable people there who have left comments that might answer any questions you have about how this kit works, although I will try to do so as well.
Thanks Tina for sharing your coop construction and first hand experience installing the solar power system. I would bet that every chicken keeper has some sort of electrical power supply to their coop and probably a large percentage of that power comes in the form of extension cords ran from the house, barn or an out-building to the coop. This might be another option of supplying power (for a water heater, light, fan) and I'm sure a lot of our readers will be interested in your set-up and will appreciate the information you provided to the Community!
You can view more of the Elliot's homestead by visiting these sites:
Billy Joe's Food Farm (website/blog)
Billy Joe's Food Farm (facebook)
Click on the link below for previous entries in the "Cool Coops!" series...
Do you have a "Cool Coop" you'd like to share? Email me at: RNickols@communitychickens.com
To view what else is happening at our Southwest Missouri property visit: the garden-roof coop