Open Source Projects

Here at BOTL Farm, we are big fans of open source projects. We mourn the loss of the now-defunct but well-intentioned website Farm Hack. Technically, the website still exists but it is no longer maintained and rarely gets new items added. As a result, it did not feel like a good fit for us to document our open source projects on that site, so we put this page together instead. We also post our farm hack projects on GitHub, but if you know of another place that’s more appropriate, let us know.

Chicken Coop Controller

Nobody likes dealing with chickens first thing in the morning and last thing before dark, so someone at some point invented the automatic chicken door. It’s designed to open at first light and close in the evening to keep predators out of chicken coops. Automatic chicken coop doors are off-the-shelf devices made by a few different companies. We bought a few over the years, but had bad luck with them not opening, opening at the wrong times, cutting chickens like a guillotine, losing time faster than we could update them, and generally being a pain to use. Bleck, we struggled with them for years because no one had a better option available. Once we decided to pursue our Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) Certification, the automatic doors we had were not big enough to meet AWA standards. We needed a new solution, fast. Off-the-shelf doors were no longer going to work for us, so we did what enterprising farmers have been doing for centuries: we made our own.

After jumping feet first into this project, we quickly realized neither of us knew enough about coding to get it done. So Primary Farmer stepped up and with some help from a software engineer in our life (Eric), learned enough coding in Arduino and astronomy to write the needed code (did you know the sun rises at a different time each day? Same for sunset? So the chicken coop doors need to open and close at a different time every day! This is a hard problem to solve and we developed the tiniest bit of sympathy for those companies that were making automatic door controllers that didn’t work well). We assembled a custom-built 62″ wide solar powered door. After the door was opening and closing on time, we added controllers for lighting and for nesting box releases to let chickens into the boxes first thing.

Auto Coop Door

This is a hardware and software project that we now implement in all our chicken coops. The code is ready for anyone to use and a parts list is available on our GitHub Account.

Animal Shelters

We’ve noticed that many folks, when first beginning to farm, end up doing a thing that a lot of craft beer breweries also do in the beginning. They look at a problem, find the easiest/lowest-hanging/cheapest solution, and run with it. Then it breaks and they have to rebuild. If they do choose the next easiest/cheapest path forward, they’ll probably end up with a broken thing again and rebuilding it again. When we were getting started farming, we tried to go slow on key infrastructure projects and find a long-term, build-it-once solution, even if we had to move slower because the solutions were more expensive and more time-consuming to implement. Our perimeter livestock fence is our classic example of this principle in action (we nicknamed it The Fence That Will Last Forever), but anyways, we’re talking about our animal shelters here.

Portable animal shelters

So, when we saw other livestock farmers rebuilding their portable livestock shelters several times a year following bad weather, frequent damage, and falling apart from brittleness following UV exposure, we wanted to do something else. We were focused on finding a shelter that would last for years, would work for all of our larger species (pigs, goats, sheep and sometimes chickens), would hold up to the rigors of weather exposure, and somehow provide scratching posts for the pigs, climbing opportunities for the goats, shade during the summer, warmth during the winter, and dryness during precipitation. No problem-o.

After a few prototypes, we quickly settled on our ideal design, which we’ve been using each time we build more shelters in order to expand our operation. The shelters are built out of wood (from our own sawmill), designed to be moved with our tractor forks, and pass over fence lines without having to open gates! We share full drawings, specs, pictures, and build document here in order for other farmers to be able to easily resize for their own operation.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

As we make SOPs for our farm we will share them on this GitHub page.

Clipboard Flow Chart

farmOS

farmOS logo

OK, this one is not ours, but it’s an open source farm database and farm data management software that we use and support. We use it as our main recordkeeping software, so we log things like daily activities, how much we feed the animals, how many eggs the chickens lay every day, etc. We have an install guide and a few sub-projects in our GitHub account. If you’re a farmer who is not keeping track of your records yet or are interested in changing to a very powerful open source record keeping software, we highly recommend farmOS.

The Fence That Will Last Forever (we hope)

Livestock fences are like cake recipes. Some have an old cake recipe in their family, and it’s the best cake recipe. Others search the internet for “the best cake recipe,” look at the first two results, and go with one of them. Others go to the store, buy a box that has a picture of cake on the front, then get home and wonder why they don’t have cake. Here at BOTL Farm, we don’t actually like cake. So.

About fencing now — because we don’t like cake (?), we were able to think outside the box on fencing (??). At some point we’re definitely going to do a full write-up about cake livestock perimeter fences and unusual designs thereof. For now, you’ll have to watch an awkward video of us talking about the fence design.

fence gate system

Page Last Updated on 2024-03-10

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