This summer, the heat was pretty rough on man and beast. During the worst part of the summer, two of our laying hens died in the same week. They both died in the chicken coop without any obvious sign of foul play. Neither had shown any signs of illness. The only thing that I could think might have caused it was the heat. I’m no ornithologist and I don’t remember any mention of it when I took Anatomy and Physiology of Domesticated Farm Animals, but I came to the conclusion that my hens had died of heat stroke.
Solar Power to Fight Summer Heat Wave
Our chicken coop and it’s attached run are in full sun from about 9:00 AM till around 2:00 PM. Moving the coop to a shadier spot really wasn’t an option that I wanted to consider, so I began thinking how I could improve the situation. I had been toying with the idea of adding solar power to some of my out buildings over the last few years, but I hadn’t taken the plunge. With that idea floating around in my head, I decided that I was going to create a Solar Powered Chicken Coop!
Although there are three windows in the chicken coop, which generally provides plenty of ventilation, I didn’t think there was enough air circulation going on during these hot summer days. So my main goal was to increase the airflow inside the coop. A small photovoltaic solar panel could easily directly power an electric fan during the time the chicken coop was in the direct sunlight. Since the coop was shaded after 2:00 PM , I wasn’t concerned with powering the fan when the coop was in the shade of the crepe myrtles. And if the day was particularly cloudy and the sun was obscured, I wasn’t worried since the air temperature would hopefully be lower. By qualifying the need for the fan to run, just when the sun was shining on the coop, I eliminated the need (at this time) of a battery for my solar power system to store power. The fan only had to run when the sun is shining on the coop.
This greatly simplified my system. Basically it is just a small photovoltaic panel , the requisite wiring, a junction box and my electric fan. Since I am powering the fan directly from the solar panel, the fan had to be Direct Current (DC) and not Alternating Current (AC). Since I live in the United States, most appliances are AC and would require a Power Inverter to convert the DC power that the solar panel generates into AC power. While Power Inverters have their place in larger solar power systems, it would have been a waste (as well as an added expense) for a system this small. There is an inherent loss of energy when a Power Inverter is used.
I had three other requirements for my Solar Power Chicken Coop project :
1. The project had to have a fairly low budget
2. The project had to be fast to implement
3. The project had to be easy to take down if needed
I began to research my needed materials. Believe it or not, there’s not a lot of data (until this post) about building a solar powered chicken coop. The only things that I figured I needed to buy were the solar panel and the DC powered fan. If you’ve read some of my other posts, you may know that I believe in stocking up on common maintenance and building supplies. I figured that I had all of the incidental supplies on hand.
After looking at the photovoltic panels that were available, I decided on a small 5 watt solar panel. I knew I wouldn’t need a lot of wattage and it’s small size meant that I could mount it directly to the South facing roof of the chicken coop. I then found a dashboard mountable DC powered 12v electric fan. These are the types of fans that people use for RV’s or 18 wheelers. The fan came with a clip on mount and it’s cord was designed to plug into a vehicles cigarette lighter. Once I had gotten the two major components it was time to get to work.
The first thing I did was to cut off the cigarette lighter adapter from the power cord of the fan. We wouldn’t be needing it. Of course I couldn’t just throw it away, so it went into my junk parts electrical box in the barn (waste not want not right?). I then split the unified cord and split out the two wires for about six inches to make it easier to wire together. The solar panel I bought had alligator terminal clips on it’s cord. I cut those off (saved them too!) since I wouldn’t be needing them. These clips are designed for clipping directly onto a battery and not for hard wiring the panel into a system.
I then realized that I need some mounts to attach the solar panel to the roof. I bought several inch wide “L” brackets that were three inches long on each side. I bent one of the sides of each bracket and formed them into a “J” shape. I sat the panel on the roof of the chicken coop and found a spot that I liked. I marked it and then attached two of my “J” brackets for the bottom edge and one on the upper right edge. This allows the solar panel to be slid in and out of the bracketing easily if I ever want to remove it.
I got my six year old to help me drill a hole in the back wall of the chicken coop just below the roof line to run the cord from the panel to the electrical junction box. The kids don’t always have the greatest attention span when it comes to my projects, but I try to get them involved when I can. I then mounted a 4 inch junction box inside the coup and ran the solar panel wiring into the box. I selected where I thought would be the best spot to mount my fan and then ran the fan power cord to the junction box. I used low voltage cable staples to secure all of my wiring both inside and outside of the chicken coop.
With the wiring run to the junction box, I simply used wire nuts to connect the solar panel cord to the fan’s power cord in the junction box. If you’ve never done any electrical work, you might want to ask a friend who has experience with this step, although just about anyone is capable of this basic wiring. I then positioned my fan (which had a clip on base) in a spot that would send airflow downward to where the hens lay. I then put on the junction box cover and used low voltage cable staples to secure my wiring along the wall of the coop.
The fan now runs from the moment the solar panel starts catching the morning rays until the coop is shaded in the afternoon. The hens have been fine since the fan was added, despite further weeks of daytime temperatures ove one hundred degrees. Since the fan seemed to alleviate our problem, we have since added two new hens to replace the two we lost in July.
I’ve been pleased with my first foray into the world of solar power for structures. I’m contemplating what my next project would be. I don’t think that we as a family are ready for the commitment that it would take to install an array large enough to supply our household needs. But I feel that with some planning and experimentation, we can add additional solar power to some of our other outbuildings. Another plan that I’m thinking of would involve a mobile, cart based photovoltaic setup that would consist of a few larger solar panels, a couple of 12 volt deep cycle batteries and an inverter. It would be a sort of moveable solar emergency generator.
Solar Powered Chicken Coop Parts List
- 5 Watt Solar Panel
- 12Volt Oscillating Fan
- Electrical Junction Box
- Wire Nuts
- L Brackets (long enough to bend into a “J” shape)
- Low Voltage Wire Staples