Friday, October 31, 2008

Cheap tricks

I've been contemplating how to best insulate the coop against the coming cold weather. I have heard good things about Foil-Bubble-Bubble-Foil insulation and was planning on purchasing some. Then I remembered I have a garage full of thick, multilayer corrugated cardboard! The stuff traps air, so it should be good for some insulating properties and it's free, so it cost nothing to try. I lined the ceiling and East & West walls of the coop with it. Since the coop is on the East side of a hill, it gets a fair amount of shielding from our Northwest winter winds, but every little bit helps.

I can't say how it compares to "normal" insulation, but on one of the nights last week where the outside freshwater tub froze over, I had put the bird waterer in the coop and it emerged frost-free the next morning! So the inside is definitely above freezing when the outside was in the upper teens/low 20's. My next experiment will be to line the inside of the cardboard on the ceiling with cheap aluminum foil so it will reflect radiated heat back down. I also plan to line the inside of the North wall with plastic film and fill the space with shredded newsprint for more insulation. Need to set up some temperature sensors so I can see how much difference all this is making. That's something I can do tomorrow if I have time.

I'm still keeping the fresh air vents, but I need to block them from direct wind, or there will be strong, cold drafts inside come winter since they face North-South.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Keeping up

A month ago I wondered when they'd start laying. Now I wonder how we're going to get through all these eggs: we have about 4 dozen, of which 18 are store-bought! My five RIR hens are laying on average three eggs per day. Today I found four. Time to break out the souffle recipes, I guess.

I finally found time to start building my LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting system. There are three 1 Watt LEDs mounted to an aluminum heatsinking block that is screwed into the ceiling of the coop. I'm using a surplus 12Volt Lead-Acid battery from an emergency light that I got for about $6 (yay Ax-Man surplus!). Tonight I tested it and it's bright enough to get the birds off the roosts and looking around for something to eat. Next will either be a timer that will run the light for four hours every day, or depending on how much I get done, my Bluetooth remote monitoring system will be ready so the computer in the house can turn the light on and off as necessary. It would actually work right now, but while the Bluetooth module on the monitor hardware has 300' range (Class 1), the one on the PC only has 30' range (Class 2), so they can't "see" each other over the distance between house & coop.

But first I have to get other chores done: like getting my Xterra roadworthy again after the accident in August. Snow's coming: gonna have to stop driving the car soon.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

About flippin' time!!

The first egg was actually laid two days ago, but I held off saying anything to my (now) 8 year-old so he could think the chickens were waiting for his birthday to lay eggs :-)