Tiny baby chicks need consistent feed, water and warmth. A brooder must be set up to provide these things. The Chick Brooder project is an Agronomo project to create an open-source, high-tech brooder to make the process better for small-scale farmers.
Using an embedded micro controller, such as the Particle Photon will enable a brooder to automatically control elements of the brooder environment and provide better care for chicks, while simultaneously reducing the burden on the farmer by providing alerts when things are not going right - this will improve the results and profitability of small-scale chicken rearing and improve the viability of sustainable, high-animal-welfare, alternatives to destructive CAFO confinement operations.
- 1 Background/ Client Info:
- 2 Technical Background:
- 3 Before beginning
- 4 Design Requirements
- 5 PHASE ONE: Consistent source of warmth
- 6 PHASE TWO: Consistent source of water
- 7 PHASE THREE: Feed monitoring
- 8 Team Members
- 9 Timeline
Background/ Client Info:
Our client is Andre Houssney who owns Jacob Springs Farm which is an organic, modern-day subsistence farm outside of Boulder. Mr. Houssney focuses on the whole ecosystem involved in farming rather than specialization which is the trend in industrial farms today. The problem with subsistence farming is that it is very labor intensive for the farmer so Mr. Houssney has implemented various technologies throughout his farm to eliminate many of the mundane tasks such as checking temperatures and water levels. He expressed how important it is that other farmers have access to the technologies he is using to make his farm more efficient and to make subsistence farming a less daunting task in the modern-day.
Mr. Houssney asked for a brooder box for his chicks that monitored the temperature and adjusted the heat lamps automatically to maintain a constant temperature. The problem he is having is that the chicks have to be in a constant temperature and if they are not they die which costs him every time someone forgets or is late on checking the temperature of the brooder box. The problem with most brooders is that the farmer or whoever is raising the chicks has to adjust the temperature manually. This is a very inefficient use of time and could be made much simpler by incorporating temperature sensors and adjustable lights. This image shows a home made brooder box with a simple heat lamp which also has to be adjusted by hand.
The Universal Box Brooder  is a chick brooder that costs $238 and can fit 48 chickens. The problem with this is both the cost and the capacity. Mr. Houssney needs a cheaper and more efficient way to monitor his chicks and be as productive as possible.
Although this product primarily focuses on the transfer of heat in order to protect and raise chicks, it also will require the incorporation of multiple sensors to not only measure the current temperature, but also measure the water levels within the pen and also read the motion of the chicks. This requires prior knowledge of heat transfer and specific heat formulas, ex: Q=mc𝚫T ,to ensure that no parts of the product begin to heat the water or the chicks, therefore, it will be wise to use materials with higher specific heat capacities. Prior to construction of the product, we will research the liveable temperature for chicks, in order to monitor the system and automatically track the temperature so that it does not exceed the extremes.
Research temperature requirements for young chicks. and record the findings in an article you will create called brooding for future reference:
During the initial design phase, we considered two main ways of heating the chicken area: surface heater and heat lamp. The temperature of both would be recorded and adjustable through a mobile application.
- Pros: chicks may roam throughout brooder and find spot with most desirable temperature, most common heating method for chicken brooders
- Cons: uneven temperature distribution throughout brooder makes it difficult to measure temperature,
- Pros: even heating throughout brooder, easier to measure temperature
- Cons: difficult for chicks to adjust if set temperature is not to their liking (no variation),
App for Phone
Connects to a photon that measures the temperature of the brooder. It periodically sends temperature recordings to the app so the user can remotely check on the chick’s status. If the temperature is not at an ideal setting, the user can also remotely adjust this to their liking.
- The product must be able to hold and maintain at least a few hundred chicks
- The size will be at least a 4' x 4' plywood
- Plywood should contain light fixtures and hang from the ceiling of the brooder room
- Structure should be circular shape in order to properly distribute the heat evenly and to prevent certain regions, such as a corner, from not receiving proper heating
- The hanging element should be curved so that the light resides at the apex of the curve to distribute the heat throughout and force it to the edges of the ring
- The device must also be remotely controlled through a phone app so that it and other similar devices can be monitored from a distance
- Insulative & reflective skirt to protect board from heat
- Connected to a power source
- Utilize two different power sources in case of a circuit break overload
PHASE ONE: Consistent source of warmth
In Colorado during the chick-brooding season (typically spring) temperatures can vary WIDELY over the course of a single day. Chicks need a consistent temperature. The ChickMagnet (or whatever clever name you come up with) should be able to measure the floor temperature and adjust the heat by turning on and off heat lamps.
Measuring temperature could be done a few ways - normally farmers do this visually - by observing the chicks behavior, chicks that are cold will bunch very tightly together under the heat source, chicks that are hot will be clustered in the corners away from the source - just right is a loose bunch.
ALERTS should be developed to notify the farmer if conditions get outside set parameters (such as in the case of an equipment malfunction - like where bulbs burn out or a circuit-breaker fails or if cold overwhelms the system - like if a door were left open.
Electrical Design Components
- IFTTT (If This Then That): does user-specified actions according to events
- Particle: connects the particle photon to your phone
Coding for Photon/Arduino
- Brooder Arduino: turns lights on and off according to certain temperature parameters, but is not capable of connecting to a phone app.
- Brooder Photon: same functionality as the Arduino but is capable of connecting to phone app.
- Note: The filled in red circle spaces indicate heat lamps that are always on. Unfilled circles indicate lights that will turn on and off according to temperature.
Creating the Light Fixture Holding
We purchased a 4'x4' plywood with a 5/8 thickness. The hole placement was done based off the schematics above and the hole size is dependent on the size of the light socket.
PHASE TWO: Consistent source of water
If the heat problem is addressed, a water dispensing solution could be integrated that keeps the water supply full and alerts when water has run out.
PHASE THREE: Feed monitoring
Simple feed dispensing solutions already exist although alerts could be contemplated when feed levels drop to much - perhaps using ultrasonic distance sensors.
- Shelby Buckley
- Julia Sakiewicz
- Trevor Wilson
- Tanya Leung
- Mohammed Alrashed
- Expo - April 29, 2017 (need to have chicks available)