Aircon for the chook run.

It gets hot here in Oz in Summer, so I thought I’d give the girls a little treat.

They like sitting under the rain tank next to the chook run on hotter days, so I helped them out by placing a fan under their house that would blow cool, moist air through their run.

It’s a very simple job, just a 12V box fan salvaged from a wrecked computer wired straight to a spare 5W panel that we had lying around. No need for regulators or switches, it runs when the sun is shining.

How to wire it up

Wiring a small solar panel to a fan is really easy –

  • make sure you have a 6V or 12V fan
  • use as low a wattage (W) solar panel as you can. Too much power will be wasted. Small panels are relatively cheap and easily available. We use a 5W here but a 3W or even a 1W can do the job.
  • connect the + (red) wire from the panel to the + (red) wire from the fan
  • do the same for the – (black) wires
  • make sure you know which way the fan blows. There is usually two little arrows on the fan casing which show direction of air flow and direction of blade rotation

Now, mount it safely, making sure the blade rotation and air flow are unimpeded. I put mesh around the fan case to stop things getting stuck in the blades (like chook beaks!) and I mount the fan somewhere slightly outside of the run to make doubly sure so that curious chooks don’t get their beaks hit by the blades.

Make it an evaporative air conditioner

An evaporative air conditioner essentially blows air over a moist surface. The evaporation of the water from the surface cools the air.

The most basic way to convert your chicken fan into an evaporative air conditioner is to make wet the soil in the path of the air flow. That’s the easiest and it works but lets not stop there.

We can make the setup more elaborate by introducing another surface into the design and a way to keep it constantly damp. There is an Aussie invention called a Coolgardie Safe that works on this evaporative principle.

What we need to do for our chook air conditioner is to place a deep tray above the level of the fan and from this tray, suspend a piece of fabric (old hessian sacks work perfectly) down into the path of our airflow.

We fill the tray with water and make sure that a few inches of the sack are submerged at all times. This will draw water from the tray and throughout the fabric.

Now, as the air flows through the sack, it is cooled by evaporation and you have your chook evaporative air conditioner.

An additional step is to place a pan or tray at the bottom of the sack and add some water to that. This addition isn’t necessary but helps to keep the sack evenly damp.

Of course, you’ll need to top up the water in the trays from time to time and as a special treat, you can add ice to the top one.

It takes the chooks a little while to become confident with the setup but on hot days they will love you for it. This Summer I’m experimenting with keeping a drink tray for the chooks to drink from in the area, hoping that that will keep their drinking water a little cooler.