The idea of the bird box came about as a friends daughter is keen on wildlife and her birthday was fast approaching. As i have a 3D printer and considered the "Maker" amongst my friends i volunteered to look into making a bird box. I also like working in wood but had some particular ideas in mind which would mean quite an intricate design so opted for the 3D printed route.
This is a small bird box which i have designed, it is a modular design and can be fully printed without supports. I recommend to print the roof upside down so it prints successfully. I have made a small video showing the build as well as the software side which is here. I've also published all the files on the thingiverse
If you prefer a simple solution without the need for a raspberry pi and camera, the same design with a simple roof can be used.
I printed the parts at 0.3 as high resolution was not required and this greatly sped up print times.
Step 1: Design and Ideas
While researching I searched thingiverse and found some really cool bird box designs but nothing which jumped out at me and which could be modified easily for use with a raspberry pi and camera. So i broke out fusion 360 and begun to start sketching up a design based on the classic bird box idea.
I started with simple sketches and then extruding them one by one. I'm no fusion 360 expert so will not try and delve into a lot of detail as i'm sure it could have been done quicker and far slicker. I am however extremely happy with the design. I made the roof with a small groove in so it can sit atop the main body quite snugly so should not need any glue, as it shall be next to a wall or post the chance of it blowing off should be minimal.
Once i had the basic design done i published that to thingiverse for feedback which was positive so i took to modifying the roof of the box so that it could house an ir camera and raspberry pi zero w. The w is the important part as it means there is built in wifi which is crucial if you wish to check in real time. It's also important to use the no ir version of the camera so that it works in the dark, this combined with the IR LED's is what allows you to see in the dark.
The camera and LED's are powered directly from the Pi which in turn is powered from a micro usb connection.
Step 2: The Build and Parts List
I was very happy with the build and as can be seen in the picture the plate which shall house the raspberry pi and camera ended up quite intricate so i took the iterative design approach and ended up printing around 10 all with slight tweaks so the angles were just right. One of the tricky parts was the openings for the camera module and LED's as they are off center and difficult to measure.
The IR/camera module installs through the base of the roof and mine came with two screws on the main camera body that i was able to use to screw directly into the base to keep it in place. The pi then fits above using two 4mm m2 screws. I would install the camera cable first as once things are screwed in you will not be able to reach the connectors. I would then install the short usb extension cable which needs to be curled up to fit correctly. You could wire it up directly with no extension and plug up the gaps but then i think it's a little more tying and i like the small extension design.
As well as the main electronic components i used 4mm long m2 screws, be careful when assembling so that you do not strip the plastic in the holes, they do not need to be super tight.
The stand for the birds needs to be glued into place, i made this decision as there was no point in wasting a lot of material with un-necessary supports.
For those interested the parts i used were: -
The right angle adaptor i used was from ebay Link
No IR camera Link
IR LED units Link
Step 3: Software Setup
For the software component there was no need to reinvent the wheel so i turned to motioneyeOS, using this software the whole pi is dedicated to being used as a camera so things should be a lot simpler overall
The software the Raspberry Pi is running is motioneyeOS Link
For writing the image i used etcher as it makes life so much easier and you don't have to go to the trouble of unpacking the archive. Link
For instructions on configuring the wifi for headless operation there is a great guide at Link
I go into a little more detail in my video showing the imaging process. MotioneyeOS is really a great piece of software and can be configured to how you wish to use it. I think setting alerts initially would be best and you can find out if the birds are going inside then once they are nesting i would switch alerting off and it's something which you can check periodically.
Step 4: Final Thoughts
Overall i'm really happy with the design. I am hoping that with the small wing design the water should not make it's way in and damage any of the electronics. If water does make it's way in i have made small drain holes in the roof and base so it should not accumulate.
It would be great to see other people using the design.
Fingers crossed i should get a bird to nest and get some great footage.