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Chicken coop project turns high tech for East Texas students

September 27, 2018

LUFKIN, Texas (AP) — Students at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal School are thinking up new and improved ways to care for their chickens and gardens.

The Lufkin News reports over the summer, environmental science teacher Michelle Haney said she was working in the garden when she saw a bobcat approaching the chicken coop. It was then that she decided the class had better find new ways to protect their chickens, so she tasked sixth-grader Alex Tiu with a project.

“Alex had finished a project he was working on and did some online research for us to come up with this automatic chicken coop door,” Haney said.

The chickens tend to round themselves up in the coop around 7:30 p.m., so the door automatically closes at 8:30 p.m. Any stray chickens that didn’t make it in will have one minute to come back in the coop at 9 p.m.

“I looked up some ways to make an automatic door, and we were going to use a car antenna,” Alex said. “I’m glad I designed it and it was actually put into place.”

The car antenna ended up being too long to fit inside the coop, so Haney ordered a different one. Alex then came up with the idea to have the door open vertically and be powered by solar panels attached to the coop’s roof.

The students also installed cameras that they will eventually be able to observe the chickens with using linked iPads. They will even be able to communicate with the chickens.

“All the kids are going to get the app so they can log in and have a live chicken feed,” Haney said.

With the app, the students will be able to watch and speak to their chickens. Presley McWilliams, Kate Trevathan and Halle Devore said they’re excited to be able to talk to their chickens, but the chickens might be a little creeped out by their voices.

“They won’t know where the person is,” Halle said.

“If you yell in the camera, they’ll all jump up and try to figure out who’s making the sound,” Kate said. “It’s kind of funny. After a while, they’ll get real calm, and you’ll do it again, and they’ll jump up.”

The students take care of the chickens together. Their jobs rotate so they can all get experience doing the different jobs. Presley said the chickens have laid two eggs since they’ve been back to school.

“I have a lot of chickens at home, and I really like them,” Presley said.

Halle said her favorite job is watching the chickens, especially the one named Moonpie because it lets her pick it up. In the next few weeks, the chickens will have new ways to travel.

“We’re currently building a chicken run where they can run all through the yard,” Kate said. “They’ll be spaced all over so they have a nice, even space to run through.”

With the chicken run, the chickens will be able to run and get exercise while still being protected when the students can’t watch them. The students are building the run out of wood panels and wire. They also are working on creating a chicken orb.

“The chicken orb is a ball that you can put the chickens in, and they can run freely,” Halle said.

The ball is made of wire, and it still allows the chicken to peck at the grass while it runs.

“That way, when we’re gone from school, like winter break, they’ll have a way to run around,” Kate said. “And another thing, it’s just funny to see them in the orbs.”

The class will be starting its own farmer’s market of sorts on Fridays to sell their eggs and vegetables to learn about budgeting and to raise money to buy chicken feed. Elliott Winston said she thought it was neat that the students could help things grow in their garden and sell them.

“I like whenever they’re fully grown, so we can pick them and eat them,” she said.

Haney said it’s good that the students learn to do these things.

“If they can imagine it, it’s good for them to learn how to make it,” she said.

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Information from: The Lufkin Daily News, http://www.lufkindailynews.com

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