Sunday, January 2, 2011

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Awful quiet around here

Yeah, it's been a while since the last post. Lost a couple of chickens: they have figured out that they can fly over the fence and I guess two of em decided to fly out close to night and didn't make it back in time. Rooster's still around tho (peeking around the back of the old garden tractor).

Going to add about another half dozen chicks this summer.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Common Sense

This is a completely chicken-free post. Honest, it's vegetarian friendly!

From time to time people ask me to build stuff. Normally it's some kind of electronic device: something to control LED lighting, pan a videocamera, monitor the server room from their computer and print a schedule of when the door was opened or closed, whatever.

The thing is, I always go through the same process: what's the basic requirement? What are the subtasks to build the product? How long does each task take? How much will parts cost, etc. and out comes the notebook and a pen.
Then last night, during the latest iteration of this, it occurred to me that I should just write an application to let me play with the numbers and then spit out an estimate along with a schedule for the client, and a task list for me.

Sure, I can do it in Excel (side note: is there anything you can't do in Excel?), but a specific program to do this will be much more flexible. So I'm writing one.

So, dear readers, those of you working in job shops, painting houses, constructing barns, owners of janitorial service businesses, what are your quoting needs? If I'm going to the trouble of building this, I may as well make it useful to more than yours truly.

So please post or email with your suggestions. I will consider each seriously.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Going lean

I've been doing a lot of reading about Lean Manufacturing and Lean Processes in general. As I was digesting some of the information it occurred to me that I've already been practicing a Lean approach to managing my small flock. I have a day job (yeah, I know you thought I was independently wealthy and this is my form of "slumming" but you're wrong!) and in the morning I need to save time as much as possible.

If it's been freezing or below the previous night, the waterer is already by the door, ready to go. Otherwise I leave it hanging in the run and just fill up a gallon jug of water instead. I head over to the coop and hang up the waterer.

While I'm still bent over, I reach under the roof of the small lean-to -- it's only about 3ft. tall -- where I keep feed and scoop out a big cup of scratch grain and throw it into the nearest sunny area, or in front of the coop if there isn't one. Doing this all but guarantees the next few steps aren't interrupted by "someone" coming over to see what I'm doing.

Next step is to walk to the coop, unlatch and open the door and grab the feeder and place it on top of the lean-to to keep it out of the way of the curious birds. Now I can lean over, get a big scoop of feed (enough to fill the feeder) and dump it in.

Close up the feed bin, put the feeder in the coop and I'm done. Cycle time under two minutes!

Then I waste the next ten minutes watching the antics of my birds. Sigh!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Go doggie

It's been a long, cold winter and even now in mid March, barely a week from the vernal equinox, old momma Nature ain't giving up yet. To those of you in happily warmer climes that may have never seen anything like this, these are sundogs. They're caused by reflection of sunlight in airborne ice crystals and are a sign that Baby, it's cold outside!

Today should hopefully be the last subzero day (I think we were at about -2F at 6:00 AM) before next December (hopefully!!) as the forecast shows a steady, rapid warming trend for the rest of the week. The birds have fared well through the winter; I doubt the ducks even noticed.

Both roosters and two of the hens have some frostbite on their combs from back in December when the temp. plummetted. At the time I had all the vents open and experience showed me that I only needed one. I think the roosters got the frostbite because their combs were tall enough to protrude into the wind from the north vent that I subsequently closed off.

Tossed my share of frozen eggs, but by and large everyone looks OK. I'm averaging 3-4 eggs/day since the "shutdown" in January and the eggs are getting larger. When it warms up I will probably let them hatch a clutch.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Let there be light

In between my experiments with an automated coop door, I made a simple LED coop light. Now, I dropped the plans to extend daylight since the chickens are still laying even with the short days. They're a bit inconsistent: some days three eggs, today only one, but I want to see what their natural response is before I try to change it. And to be honest, with almost 5 dozen eggs sitting in the refrigerator (even after giving lots away!), I don't really need to increase production.

Anyway, I do need a light when I go out there after dark to lock things up and check on them. Since there's no AC power out there, I rigged up an efficient light using six standard white LEDs and the 12V lead-acid battery that will eventually also power the auto-door. Works great! There's more than enough light for me to see: in fact when I turn it on, the ducks usually come over to see what I'm doing and the chickens start getting down from their roosts. Back of the envelope calculations are that it could run continuously for about 3 days on that battery, so the 2 minutes/day I use it should be no problem at all. It'll be interesting to see how the battery fares when the temp consistently drops below zero!

I'm considering making this a standard product over at the site so let me know if you're interested. Tentative price is about $15-$20 for the 6-LED light fixture, just needs a 12 volt battery to run.


I can't believe it's been a month since my last post here. I've been spending a lot of time over at forum (I'm that CedarLake guy :-) that I've been neglecting my own readers.

It's past Thanksgiving, which means Winter is well ensconced here in Minnesota. Lows tonight should be hovering a bit above zero, and the birds seem to be doing just fine. They don't like the snow much, but they do eventually come outside. I'm working on providing them with liquid (as in not ice) water since the coop/run is too far from the house to run power. I'm still taking the 1 gallon waterer inside at night, but I have a water supply in a 6-gallon tub buried in the ground. With just a 6" thick flat of wood chips sitting on top of it for insulation, the water remains liquid except for a thin skin of ice on top. I use that to refill the water supply for the ducks each morning.

Two things I want to try:
1) Building a solar heater for the water: this will just be a mini-greenhouse that houses the water supply that the birds can walk into to take a drink.
2) Since I know that the underground tank will probably stay liquid, I would like to try an automated waterer using it. Only problem is I haven't found a battery-powered submersible pump yet. I have lots of aquarium pumps, but they run off 120VAC.

The greenhouse I'd like to try building this week sometime, but I have too many projects...

As a former co-worker used to say "got more balls in the air than a giraffe!"