Introduction: Keeping Your Chickens Safe at Night With Those Little LEDs Oh So Bright

Picture of Keeping Your Chickens Safe at Night With Those Little LEDs Oh So Bright

Most of us like to eat chicken, but even if you don’t this may come as no surprise: everything else out there does. So, if you’re like me and like to keep a small flock of free-range chickens around just for fresh eggs (and the occasional fresh, chemical-free fryer) I have no doubt that keeping them off the drive-thru dinner menu for every fox, dog, hawk, mink and ferret that you run into can be an exercise in futility. And if you live out in the country like me it can be darn near impossible. Don't belive me? Just ask my chickens:-).

Several flocks later I have learned that the only way to keep the daytime cruisers from grabbing a quick feathery snack is to keep them in an enclosed fenced in area, preferably underneath a large shade tree (so the hawks don’t swoop down and grab one). This way every morning I can let them out of the coop and let them poke around a few hundred square feet of grass without worrying about the four-footed variety of hunters. But I’m not here to tell you how to protect your flock against those daytime Jonny-come-lately’s; That’s easy…no ‘ible’ needed there. Nope, I’m here to help you against those really sneaky creatures…the ones that keep you up at night. Hopefully this ass-kicking ‘ible’ from Kentucky Bum will give you some piece of mind by showing you how to cut down the number of night-time snack raids to your coop and give you a few more peaceful night’s sleep.

I engineered this solution from a fact that I read somewhere that most of the really nasty things that sneak around at night are freaked out by blinking LEDs (I had a problem with ferrets and minks [the nastiest of the nasties]). It said the lights appear to them as other predator’s eyes. (Authors note: I have found that they don’t work so well against raccoons, but most coops aren’t that unprotected.) With further research I went on to find a company that makes a solar-charged blinking red LED light and that you are suppose to surround your coop with as many of them as you need, but at $25 a pop I don’t think so. Besides, what good are they if you can’t use them inside the coop to keep things out? Here’s how I made a good work-around solution.

Tools you will need:
-Multi-meter that can read DC volts and show polarity
-Wire snips and strippers
-[Maybe] a soldering gun & solder.
Parts you need:
-Blinky LED lights (I have red ones, but if other colors work let me know)
-AC-DC transformer/charger
-10’to 30’ of light weight, low-voltage 2-strand shielded wire
-A handful of small wire nuts (the kind you get with any ‘wire-it-up-yourself’ light fixture).
-A handful of thumbtacks

(Another Authors note: Read Step 1 and then Step 2 before you do anything; you probably already have some of these parts laying around, and since they tend to be voltage specific it may behoove you to buy those parts that operate at the same [or nearly the same] voltage of the parts you may already have.)

Step 1: Buy Some LEDs!

Picture of Buy Some LEDs!

The first step is to buy some blinking LEDs; grab about 3 or 4. Most of the circuit boards that run LEDs can run on any voltage from 6 to 15 volts DC (battery power) but try to find some that run on 9 volt batteries because it’s easier to get access to the wires that the battery plugs into [unless you have a soldering gun or don’t mind replacing batteries every other week]. A while back I got on eBay and found somebody selling a bunch of surplus 9-volt circuit boards with blinking LEDs; 25 boards for $8 + SH&H (Sweet!).

Step 2: Grab an AC-DC Transformer/Adapter

Picture of Grab an AC-DC Transformer/Adapter

The second step is to get your hands on an old AC-DC transformer, the kind that you plug into the wall to power (or charge) some other electronic device. If you’re like me chances are you have a box full of ‘em laying around in the garage from all of those ‘toys’ you long-since discarded but decided to keep the wall charger “just in case you needed it someday”. Well, today’s that day. Find one that uses 115 Volts AC INPUT (like I said, the kind you plug in a wall) and has somewhere between 5 and 15 [or so] volts DC OUTPUT. Most of these AC to DC plug in transformers will fall into that range, just make sure it’s AC to DC and not AC to AC (some are). It will be labeled somewhere on the charger.

You’ll also need to get your hands a few feet of low-voltage, light weight double-strand insulated wire. Any kind will do, even old interior grade extension wire (but that’s over kill because we are talking milli-amps here). You will need enough wire to string along the inside of the coop so that when wired in series you have enough blinky LED lights to be seen from every part of the coop. If you have a few blind spots in the coop you may need more lights and more wire, but usually 3 or 4 blinky LEDs cover the ‘kill zone’ adequately. I have a big, walk-in coop so I needed about 30’, but you may need more or less. I used some old excess wire I had saved from an electric garage door project. It was the small, white wire that went from the door open/close optical sensors, perfect and easy to tack into place.

Step 3: Plan Your Run.

Picture of Plan Your Run.

Determine where you can get power from (my coop has an outlet in it for heat lamps in the winter) but you may have to run an extension cord from someplace. If you do, make sure it’s an exterior grade cord and the plug ends up inside the coop undercover and out of the weather; most AC-DC transformers are not weather proof so you’ll need to keep that undercover. Pick a spot where you want to tack your first board into and start from there. It is ideal if you can locate them to be visible from the outside AND inside at any potential angle of entry; the goal is to scare them off before they get inside the coop. But if they do sneak through a hole in the wall you want them to see the blinking LEDs just as they peer into the coop and look around. That’s why it may take more than 2 or 3. (Authors note: I tacked a few LEDs high and a few LEDs low, but all of them are out of reach from the chickens so they don’t ‘play’ with them when they are bored or fly into them when they leave their perch in the morning.)

Step 4: Last Step: Start Splicing and Tacking in Place

Picture of Last Step: Start Splicing and Tacking in Place

Cut the end of the AC-DC adapter off ([usually] the round plug) [see Step 2] but leave the entire power chord attached to the transformer. If it makes sense you can splice the wires from your first board right up to those wires and locate it near the plug. If not, splice a run of 2-strand wire to the cord from the transformer and connect up a board by matching the Positive Output of the transformer to the Positive Input of the circuit board. Important: wire them together along with the next run of extension wire long enough to get to the next location in the coop so make a T-wire connection at each board for each power lead so that if the board fails the others will keep blinking. If you use boards that don’t have wire leads on them you may have to solder a couple on each one.

You’re done! But before you tack them in place make sure they all blink away after you plug them in. It’s easier to replace them on the bench than up in the rafters of a coop. You can also plug the string of lights into a timer so they only come on just before dark and turn off after sunrise but I didn’t. They use so little power that a timer doesn’t pay for itself, and beside that way I don’t have to keep track of the changing hours of daylight year round.

Comments

lucio.narducci (author)2014-10-18

Hi,

nice project! I have just a doubt. I don't understand whether the led lights have to be placed in couple in order to simulate predator eyes, or it is sufficient to place a light once in awhile? Thanks!

Disc Dog (author)lucio.narducci2014-10-20

I think it is ok to just us a single led blinking light instead of a pair. I just used a pair because that is what I had. Another trick I have learned is to move them around every few weeks so the predator does not get use to them.

lucio.narducci (author)Disc Dog2014-10-24

Hi, thanks, for your kind reply. And what is the suggested height? I'm thinking to place led lights directly on the chicken-coop fence, but it could be difficult to change their position every few weeks. How did you place them to facilitate their moving?

Disc Dog (author)lucio.narducci2014-10-24

I had mine powered off speaker wires spliced to an old AC/DC transformer. I used a thumbtack to pin the wire near the LED board to the wooded coop wall and just let them dangle there. I left enough wire to move them a foot or so every so often. The real trick is to think like a predator and place them near the ground but where they could be seen by the predator as they snuck up on the coop. The further away they could see the lights the better.

J-Five (author)2012-12-18

OKAY?????

HarveyH44 (author)2010-09-02

What got a hold of that rooster? Looks kind of scrawny for the 'fighting' kind. Definitely looks like it needs protection alright.

That's definitely one scary looking bird - I'm gonna be having some bad dreams about that guy tonight.

Dr Qui (author)Mr. Potato Head2010-09-10

If our chickens looked that bad I would report myself to the RSPCA.

Disc Dog (author)Dr Qui2010-09-13

Not my chicken...that's some image some one sent me from a local article a while back. I keep it around to remind me that even on my 'bad' days others may have it worse.

Dr Qui (author)Disc Dog2010-09-13

You should see my semi ferrel tom cat, he's got a face only a owner could love.  One eye missing cauliflower ears, lets you pet him when HE wants to let you. 

The kind of pet that requires welding gloves to pick up.  So tough I've seen him sleeping outside in snow.

He always has cuts and welts from fighting with the other local tom cats, we just patch him up if he allows you to (and that's only if he gets a real beating).

It would take a brave person to try and put him in a cat box to take him to the vet, It would be an even braver person who would let him out of a cat box.

He is just pure solid muscle claws and teeth.

And to top it all off he is called Buffy, yes we though he was a girl,  Oh how wrong that turned out to be.

I lost the eye to a local jet black tom, a bout a week later he returned the damage and now they are both one eyed freaks strutting their stuff on equal terms.

I asked at the vets, if it was worth trying to ring him in, they said that the shock would probably do him more damage and if he seemed happy just let him mend himself.

9w2xyz (author)Dr Qui2012-04-05

good grief.

Dr Qui (author)9w2xyz2012-04-12

Yup, call a cat Buffy before you find out its really a boy and it will become an alpha male and end up like this, Since i read the discworld books i now think Greebo would have been a better name.

He is an absolute joy to watch if you happen to catch him swaggering of around his territory, that is as long as he don't know you are watching him. If he don't know he is being watch he is king of all he surveys. When I see him strutting around I always think of Tommy the Cat by Primus

Disc Dog (author)Mr. Potato Head2010-09-03

I recommend looking up an 'ible' on Dream Catchers then :-)

HarveyH44 (author)Disc Dog2010-09-03

Zombie rooster, going to peck your brains out....

triumphman (author)2011-07-18

Shotgun!

DIY-Guy (author)2010-11-01

Red lights are a nice touch for a couple of reasons. Your own night sight remains intact. Color-blind predators don't care what color the light is, but it might make a two-legged thief slow down in fright!

In my own scrap pile there are some LEDs with integrated flashing circuits. They all are red. In USA we buy them at Radio Shack stores as single components. I've connected one blinky with one standard LED in series and had them both blink. (Sorry I don't have a schematic on hand or I'd share it.)

Have fun and enjoy those chickens!

Dr Qui (author)2010-09-10

I don't get how red LEDs will confuse a predator as most nocturnal animals don't see in colour.

A predators and some vermin species  eyes DO glow red and cattle and sheep will glow green if you shine a lamp at them in the dark, I know this from experiments with lamping rabbits

I very much doubt that any amount of LEDs will keep your chickens safe from hungry predators. We have had foxes attack a goose right in our yard only a few feet from the house.

If you have a problem with mink and ferrets you should get a slate or cage trap and keep it set beside your run at all times.  we use a slate trap and regularly catch rats and have on occasion caught the large black rats that will kill young birds.  The slate traps are good as they don't kill the animal so you can release any harmless critters that wander in to them.

If anyone is interested in building a slate trap i can take a series of pics of the one my Dad made.


Disc Dog (author)Dr Qui2010-09-13

Dr Qui,

Like I wrote, I have no idea why red blinky LEDs scare them, but [like I also wrote] there a few companies that make a business of selling them as anti-predator defense. Like I also wrote, my problem with minks and ferrets seems to have abated (for now). I put them up about 4 years back and haven't been raided since so it seems to me that they are working as advertised. That's not to say they just haven't moved on, or that I may have to eat my words come mid-winter (when I have the most problems) but for now they are the only thing that seems to have worked.

I too have had foxes show up in broad daylight and snatch chickens just off my front porch (that's why I built a run for them and don't let them wander around out of a fenced-in area).

I would interested in seeing the pictures of a slate trap. I have not had much success with live traps other than the occasional racoon so a trap that can catch a mink, ferret and/or rat is of interest to me. You can send them to me at mike.brace@emerson.com.

Dr Qui (author)Disc Dog2010-09-13

No probs, ill try and remember to take a set of pics of it, It would just surprise you as to the number of undesirables that pass by you coup and run.

I will take as series of pics to do a Ible on how to build one.

mr.incredible (author)2010-09-03

Ooops. I forgot to add... Day time, a couple of fishing lines stretched tight chris-crossed across the top of the coop area will keep most predator birds away. They hate those.

mr.incredible (author)2010-09-03

Why not just a string of blinking or chasing Christmas lights? Ifn you wanna get fancy you could even get them thar LED ones.

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