While most of us are aware of the latest and greatest technologies available for our homes, such as Wi-Fi thermostats and video doorbells, would you believe that a lot of this same technology is available in modern livestock barns? When we decided in 2016 to build a pullet barn and begin raising baby chicks from day-old to 16 weeks, we quickly learned how new technology would make our job less time consuming, provide better comfort and environment for the chickens, and provide a great deal of verified information for anyone working with our flock.
To be honest, at first it seemed like a big investment to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a computer system for a chicken barn. It did not take long for us to see the benefits, however. The most obvious is the control panel that resembles a tablet. Because this panel is connected to the internet we can see its display remotely on a smart phone, tablet or computer anywhere we have cell service or internet. It’s like you are standing in our office anywhere in the world. You’ll see how handy this is soon.
For starters, we can monitor nearly everything that is going on in the barn. Just like the Wi-Fi thermostats in homes, we have control of our barn temperature through our sensors located there. There are 12 individual sensors placed throughout the barn placed at the same level as the birds. These sensors control our heaters in the winter and fans in the summer. We can see which heaters and fans are running. However, we can see much more than just the temperature. We can see how much water the birds are drinking and feed they are eating broken down into 15-minute increments. We can see which feed lines the chickens are eating more from based on history of when they ran and for how long. All the while the system is recording this info and sending out email summaries every day. This ensures that we know our chickens are comfortable with plenty of feed and water 24/7.
Now you know we can track and record tons of valuable information. What happens if something goes wrong that could be detrimental to the chickens? Because we can track all the previous info, we can also be notified when something is not right. This is much like a door chime security system that calls if a door opens in your home. It starts with an alarm that immediately sends an email and text, usually to me and my husband. If we don’t acknowledge that alarm remotely within one minute the system begins making phone calls, usually to me first, then to my husband and on down the line – usually family members nearby who can be backups. While there is nothing worse than getting a phone call in the middle of the night, it is such a blessing to be able to get up and fix a problem before it gets worse. What a relief it is to know we’ll be notified about an issue hours before it would be discovered during normal chore times. It could be fixing a water leak to save a mess, fixing a heater to make sure birds stay warm, or knowing a feed line has run too long and may be running out of feed too soon.
The other awesome thing about the connectivity of our system is that we can set up a program before the chicks arrive that will automatically make temperature changes by controlling the heaters and fans. Temperature will adjust daily based on the program. It will also control lights and store all the parameters that will trigger the alarms. It really allows us to spend our time at the barn concentrating on the comfort level of the chickens and just make small adjustments. This also helps for diagnosing problems. I can call my husband, we can both look at what is going on in the barn in real time, and then talk through what the issue may be. A change can be made easily to the program, and we are back in business.
This may sound funny, but one day early on I was doing chores and the lights quickly shut off and came back on several times. I headed to the office to see what the heck was causing this and saw my husband had tried calling several times. The feed truck was trying to deliver feed and I had parked in the way. The only way they could signal me was by my husband shutting the lights off on me–and my husband was sitting in a meeting in Denver at the time!
I am so happy we made this investment in our building. This system gives us peace of mind as we raise our chickens and ensures they will grow in a consistent, comfortable environment.