Eggs are really expensive right now, and we need more. Fortunately, with a solar powered chicken coop that should be possible.
If you are like me then your chickens aren’t laying well in the middle of winter due to molt, weather, predators, they aren’t first year hens, and many other combination of factors.
One way to get those hens laying again is to get them more light. If you can get them 14 to 16 hours of light a day they should start laying more. However, you don’t want to over due it and stress them out. So we need a way to be lazy about it, but not over due it.
The other problem, for me, is I have mobile coop I move around for the benefits of rotation grazing so I can’t run electricity to it permanently. And running an extension cord isn’t really safe or feasible.
So lets build a solar powered chicken coop!
The following is the YouTube video. Or if you prefer to read the transcript and pictures.
Building the Control Box
The first thing to start off with is to get the plastic ammo can and the battery measured for a board I want to use as the place to mount all of the components to.
Basically just measure width, height, and depth of the container with the battery inside. I went with it standing up on end, similar to what premier1 does in their energizers. This opens up space and helps keep it compact.
For the wiring portion of this I am not going to detail all the wiring because depending on the timer you have it will vary how it is setup. Most timers come with a wiring diagram so make sure to follow that.
Instead I want to go through what I did and why for the decisions on this project.
First the project cost about $170 all in. Some of that was because I bought extras so I could have stuff for future projects. So you can probably get by cheaper especially if you research and wait for sales. I needed to get this project done quickly’ish.
The components I am using are:
- 2 Bus Bars
- 12 AH battery
- 1 watt trickle charger solar panel
- 16 AWG wire
- Spade conectors
- JVR timer
- AMPPER 12v Van LED Light Bar
The entire system is 12v because I didn’t want to deal with changing volts or getting an inverter to convert from DC to AC. I wanted everything to just work.
I especially wanted everything to “Just Work” because this is my first foray into doing a solar project at all. I’ll get back to the solar panel here in a bit so lets talk about what is on the board.
First, I have to two bus bars, positive and negative. I wanted to use them so that I could keep everything secure and easily laid out. I especially didn’t want to do this all with wiring nuts as I feel like that would have been really confusing. So bus bars make life a lot easier to keep organized.
The first thing I wired up was the cable that goes directly to the solar panel, and that is closest to the camera. My concept was to do things in a flow.
Start with the solar panel. The electricity flows from there into the battery. So the next thing on the bus bar would be a custom wire I created with spade connector to the battery.
A quick note on the battery. I went with a 12 AH because the light consumes .8 amps. So to run it for 3 hours means 2.4 AHs of usage. I thought about going with a 6 AH battery to give me a couple of days. However, for safety, and not much more money I went with the 12 AH. This should give a couple of days easy. I know real life doesn’t usually workout like math does so this gives buffer as well. So we shall see how it all works out.
Anyway back to the flow of the power.
The idea is it flows out of the battery to the timer. So the next sets of wire was wired up how it is needed for the timer. For the case of my timer I have a negative wire with a spade connector that we will hook up later. Then I run everything to the timer.
Coming out of the timer is a positive cable with spade connector. This means the positive of the light will connect to the timer, and the negative will connect to the bus bar.
I also waited until I got out to the coop before making a custom cable to go from the light to the control box due to not knowing the length I would need.
Now I know electricity doesn’t flow like this. Once it hits the bus bar it goes all over, however, I just wanted something mentally to follow for wiring it up. And again I want to stress this is my first solar project, heh.
A couple of final notes on wiring. Take your time. I spent a lot of time staring at the diagram that comes with it and double checking all of my connections. There were many times where I re-walked through the connections.
As you might have seen one of the things I had to do was mark down the number of the connection on the device to correspond with the diagram. This helped keep things visually easier, but also because I was wiring it with the timer point up, and the diagram was with the timer pointing down so it was in reverse.
One final thing I did end up doing was soldering in the spade connectors to the wires for the lights. The wires are pretty thin and I just wanted that extra assurance they stayed connected.
Now getting to the solar panel it is really just a trickle charger. It is a 1 watt charger with the MPTT charge controller built in. You just wire in the cable and connect it, and you are good to go. The charge controller takes over so it is fairly plug and play..
The setup was easy as it is just take the base bracket and put the black rubber swivel on it. Then mount it to whatever, In my case off camera I mounted to the top of the chickshaw.
Then you do the bracket on the back of the panel itself and you are basically done with setup.
I originally wanted to mount it flat to the top of the chickshaw, but I realized it probably wasn’t a good idea as I turn the chickshaw in various directions and I should really take the extra few seconds to make sure it is always pointed well. Besides I think it looks cooler.
The next couple of steps are easy and straight forward. Connect the light to the coop wherever you want to put it. In my case I wanted it closer to the back where the chickens sleep.
After that put the control box in and feed the wires from the solar panel down into the box and hook up the connector. I also drilled a couple of holes off camera in the side of the case so I could actually close the box with the wires going in, nothing fancy.
Once the wires are fed in I was ready to measure, roughly, how long of a wire to create to connect the control box to the light, and then just add the spade connectors for hookup.
Once everything was hooked up the light came on since the timer was changed over to manual mode for testing.
Again your timer may vary, but if you buy the timer I have, above, you might want to know how to program it. The instructions are funky.
First hit the C/R button 4 times to get it in edit mode. Then hit the P button for program to go to the timer setting you want. There are 16 settings possible with an on/off for each. So just hit the program button to cycle through. In our case we want 1 on. Then we hit hour and minute to get to our desired time. After that we hit program again to get to 1 off. Then you can cycle through the rest. Like 2 on and 2 off etc.
With that the timer set, the solar panel is mounted, the cables are connected we just need to close it up and the chickens can enjoy some early morning light.
Overall this project was a lot of fun, I learned a lot and I am hoping it works out to help increase the egg production from the chickens. We will see.
Overall this project was a lot of fun, and super useful. It has been a couple of weeks since this has been done, and we have seen a slight uptick in egg production. We are more consistently getting eggs which is a success at this point.
The other great thing is it has been a good learning experience with solar power projects, and given me the confidence to tackle the next one project I want to do: The Almost Perfect Chicken Waterer.