In the fall, the days get shorter, the weather gets colder and my chickens stop laying eggs and eventually mother nature freezes their drinking water. To combat egg laying and freezing water by way of a off grid DIY project, two birds with one stone.
Using Solar Panels, inverter, deep cycle battery, outlet timers, extension cords, and a few spare parts I managed to find a way to increase egg production and help in keeping the chickens water drinkable.
Step 1: STEP ONE: Parts and Materials
Solar Panels no less than capable of 15w.
Deep Cycle Battery
Metal Lunch Box
Light Bulb (2)
Chicken Water Bucket
Step 2: Assembly
Drill a 1/4 hole on one side of the metal lunch box.
Drill a 1/4 hole on the opposite side to allow extra heat to escape.
Run power cord through one of the 1/4 holes and attach to lamp socket and insert light.
Hold the lamp socket in place with washers and nuts on both sides of the box where the cord enters.
Second light with power cord (shop light or something).
Attach solar panels in position for most direct light.
Attach Solar Panels to Charge Controller.
Attach Charge Controller to Battery.
Attach Battery to inverter.
Attach two outlet mechanical timer to inverter.
Set timer for selected time you wish to wake the birds up.
Set timer for selected time you wish for the light to go off.
Attach light #1 to the timer via extension cord and place light inside of coop.
Attach light #2 that is inside the metal lunch box to timer via extension cord.
Place water bucket on top of metal lunch box with light.
Make sure all is on, connected, and there are no fire hazards present.
Step 3: See If It All Works
The next morning, the timer should allow the light to function waking the birds up, tricking them into thinking it is a longer day thus positively impacting egg production after a few days or weeks. Secondly, cold nights the chickens are not likely drinking much when the sun is down thus conserving power. When the lights come on, the heat in the box should begin to melt some of the water in the water bucket allowing the chickens to get some water with in a half hour or so after waking up.
This system loses effectiveness when it gets very cold and the panels are covered by snow or the panels are simply not strong enough to keep up. However, you can maximize the effectiveness by adding panels, using HE bulbs, or simply smaller bulbs. It does not take much to heat up a small metal box and that half hour or so may be just enough to break the ice enough for the chickens to drink.
This is more of an DIY off grid project but you can plug up directly to the house via an extension cord and timers to come on and off during the day as to conserve power. Also, much of the country is in areas where it may be 30 degrees in the AM and for the first few hours in the morning but 45 by mid day melting any remaining ice in the water.
I will add pictures of this system in the coming weeks when I finally get around to putting it back together this year as I forgot this time and only realized it when they quit laying eggs.