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Counting chickens with a webcam?

stepper motor being used for chicken coop door opener and counter
I've sometimes wondered if there was an easy way to automatically count your chickens at the end of each day.


A little bit of searching today turned up an exciting project that is working on using an ordinary webcam to identify and count chickens in a coop.



Most of the time chickens stay in a flock and when one goes in they all follow, but not always. This system would be a nice addition to an automatic coop door opener if the software could actually deliver on such a lofty technical goal. 



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I only have 6 laying hens, but I do find myself counting them when I go out to their pen. Ha! Ha!

If I am short 1 or 2 hens, I listen to the air. I can hear them scratching through the forest debri.

I call them to me and they will come running for food. they allow me to pick them up and put them back in their Pen.

I love my hens.

Comment by Mona Sun Aug 12 17:41:09 2012

If you can arrange it so that all the roosting spots are visible from the camera, and none of them can mask another, it might be a question of counting the white blobs on the infrared image. But that is already a couple of prequisites that might not be easy to match.

But there are a lot of other things that can go wrong. A chicken that has been sitting in the hay and walks off leaves a residual IR image for some time. That could be a false positive. In the summer the walls might become warm enough to mask the images of the chickens. Then there is the fact that chickens grow. So the system has to be smart enough to count both chicks and mature chickens correctly, which seems like a tall order. How do you count a flock of young chickens huddling together?

It seems that the project you linked to is nowhere near finished, even though it the contest it was part of was in 2008.

Comment by Roland_Smith Sun Aug 12 18:05:04 2012

Mona-Sounds like your chickens are better behaved than our have been lately. We've got a couple of hens that sometimes like to roost outside on the fence and no amount of feed noise effects them at that point.

Roland-I also thought of some of the same problems along with dust being kicked up onto the camera. Maybe if our Homeland security made their face recognition software open source it might be a jumping off point for projects like this.

Comment by mark Mon Aug 13 09:08:17 2012

Have you thought about using RFID tags? We've been mulling over banding each of our hens with a small tag, then installing a sensor inside our coop to trigger the door once everyone is in for the night. You might want to check out Make magazine or one of their Maker Faires; they have lots of great ideas and exhibits. Here's a coop project they featured recently...this guy used a motion detector to cue the door, and rigged it to notify him via text when the hens were inside: http://blog.makezine.com/2011/11/17/how-to-automate-your-chicken-coop/

Comment by Brittany Mon Aug 13 14:59:33 2012
Brittany --- Not a bad idea, although I hear that RFID readers are quite expensive (thus the backlash from small farmers against the requirements to use them in the livestock industry). I'm sure Mark will love that link!
Comment by anna Mon Aug 13 16:23:39 2012

What makes you think that software for human face recognition would work on chickens?

Or has the Poultry Liberation Front been bombing farmers using semtex chickens? ;-)

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Aug 13 16:30:31 2012
Roland --- :-) Those crazy chicken bombers!
Comment by anna Mon Aug 13 18:47:46 2012

for your info

http://www.sunspot.co.uk/Projects/RFID/Chickens_RFID.html

Comment by Graham Thu Mar 13 12:12:12 2014

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime