So I have two short term plans for the coop.
1) Solar lighting
2) Temperature monitoring
On the Solar front, I confirmed tonight that I can get bright light from a 1W white LED (Light Emitting Diode -- a high-efficiency solid-state light) from about 3.6V at around 200mA. For the non-electronically gifted, this means that I can get a lot of white light from three Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd) rechargeable cells in a manner that doesn't require sophisticated control circuitry. If I just connect the battery to the LED, I will get clean bright light that easily beats fluorescents for efficiency. LEDs are rugged, efficient, last essentially forever and are easy to work with. They're just not cheap compared to incandescents!
I have already stripped two solar-powered driveway lights of their solar cells and they put out about 4V in the light coming in the room. It should be trivial to build a solar battery-charger and just put a switch on the coop for light as needed. The battery should run a single LED (bright enough to illuminate the entire coop) for about six hours. That'll be enough light to see inside after dark and I'm hoping that two or three will be enough light to continue egg production in the dark winter months. If I'm so inclined, it's a simple matter to build an automatic switch to turn the light on when it's dark outside.
So that's this weekend's agenda.
The more exciting news is that I have a working wireless module. For the past month or so I've been learning about Bluetooth. I built a small industrial computer (like 2.5"x3" small!!) that can be powered by a little battery I have charging right now and I can communicate with it wirelessly. Why is this exciting? Well, I can add a few temperature sensors to measure inside & outside temperature and I should be able to put this unit in the coop where it can be battery powered and relay temperature data to a host computer 300' away in the house. No wires needed!
Hope to get that up and running within a week or so.
Should make it much easier to run all my planned experiments with solar and geothermal heating.