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£100 for lie-ins: to get an automatic chicken door or not?

Posted by on Friday 17 September 2010 in chickens, frugal | 2 comments

Since we got the chickens in June, I’ve been thinking, on and off, about getting an automatic door for their pop hole. Light-sensitive, it’ll open first thing in the morning and close again after they’ve put themselves to bed when it gets dark. It’ll allow the chickens to live to natural rhythms rather than our rhythms, and in the winter, it’ll mean they get the maximum daylight possible.

But we don’t really need one.

Left to our own devices, we stay up late and sleep late. I list “sleep” as an active hobby: I like the feeling of lying down, of being snuggly warm, and my vivid often lucid dreams are engrossing, often interactive, movies personalised for an audience of one. And nothing beats a lazy morning in bed, surrounded by animals, and reading a good book. Sadly that sort of lifestyle isn’t conducive with having a dog, let alone chickens and while I’m quite adept at running down to the coop in my robe, then jumping back into bed for a couple more hours of snoozing, it just isn’t the same. To be fair, we do get up in good time during the week but to not have to get up that early on weekends or days off, that would be great. An automatic door opener would allow us to wake up in our own time then go down to check on the chickens after breakfast.

But we don’t need to have lie-ins, we just like them.

The winter sun argument is more compelling as it’ll benefit the chickens rather than lazy us. At the moment, not getting to enjoy an hour or so of daylight at the start of the day is fine because they get nearly 12 hours after that, but in the winter, when it’s getting dark at 4 or 5pm, every hour missed in the morning is going more important. The door closing behind them when it’s dark will also help keep them warm at a time when heat will be precious indeed.

But still, we don’t really need one. Again, it’s down our unwillingness to get out of bed and being distracted (with this annoying little thing called work) later in the day.

Finally, having an automatic chicken pop-hole means it’ll be easier to find people to look after the girls when we want to go away for a weekend. We’ve got people willing to pop around to feed the felines and check on the chucks – but not many who’d be able to do it first thing and last thing. An automatic door would do the hard work, and our lovely kind friends could just pop around once a day when it was convenient to them.

But STILL, we don’t really need one. We don’t go away much at all, we could probably organise something with our neighbours, and if push came to shove, with a bit of foreplanning, the girls could be left in their coop if we thought it was necessary. A longer holiday might be a problem but we don’t really do those – just the odd night here and there.

An automatic door wouldn’t stop us popping down in the morning and evening to check everything’s ok – it would just make it more convenient – to enable lie-ins and nights away. But is that extra bit of convenience worth £100? For us, being frugal is about forsaking a lot of things we don’t *need* and we don’t *need* this expensive bit of kit. But still…


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  1. Alice

    I’m afraid I think I’d pay even more than that to keep my lie-ins.

    How long will the door last without breaking – do you know anyone else who has one? Does it come with a guarantee? If it lasts a year then that’s 27p per lie-in, if it lasts 3 years that’s 9p per lie-in. Well worth it!

    I only work two and a half days a week so I only have to be up three mornings out of every seven. Even during phases when I’m not sleeping very well, this gives me a chance to catch up on my sleep so I’m not a complete zombie.

    Being sleep-deprived is awful – you’re less productive, more likely to make mistakes and have accidents, and more likely to be in a rubbish mood.

    I also think that working less gives me more time to spend on relationships – it seems obvious to me that the less rushed I am, the more time I have to spend with people or do things for them, the better the quality of my relationships is likely to be. And early morning still-in-bed time is some of the nicest time to spend with someone..!

    Is there anything else you could give up or change to save the equivalent of £100 in a year to compensate? For instance I’d go a whole year without a takeaway to pay for being able to lie in all year, and that’d probably save me enough money over the year (as well as probably compensating somewhat in carbon/environmental terms). Can you “trade” anything else in your life that you don’t really need, motivated by knowing that the sacrifice is “paying” for the lie-ins?

    Just one thing – how does the door know when all the chickens are in? Could they get locked out?

    P.S. Teach dog to jump out of window…

  2. louisa

    Hi Alice,

    You’re definitely right about functioning better when we’ve had adequate sleep – and in a grumpy, sleep deprived state, I think we’re more likely to start resenting the chickens and feeling like they’re more work than they actually are.

    Our friend John B has one of the doors I’m looking at and they seem pretty simple – not that much to go round and basic enough that we could probably fix it if it did break.

    I’m going to think about a trade like you suggested – or perhaps two trades, one to compensate for the monetary side of things, another to compensate for it as a task.

    Re: them getting locked out. The door works on a light sensor, which we’d probably set to only closing when it’s properly dark. The chickens are very good at taking themselves to bed at dusk – a wonderfully in-built evolutionary trait — we had to show them where to go to bed on their first full day here but after that, they’re always tucked up by the time we go down there, so I imagine if they hadn’t taken themselves to bed, there would be something else going on. We’d still go to check on them, just not necessarily when it first goes dark.

    (If the slowly closing door experiences a blockage — a hen on her way in or out — while it reopens then waits a couple of minutes and tries again.)

    Re: the dog. When we first got her, she wanted to go out for a walk at 7am every day and we spent the first week in a comatosed state – getting up earlier than normal and walking miles and miles every day. We hadn’t expected it but accepted it in a “it just has to be done” way — which is how I imagine we’d feel about the chickens if there wasn’t another option. After Lily’s initial “new home” adrenalin surge wore off though, she turned into a lazy girl who is now happy to stay in bed until past 9. And even though she’s a pretty chunky springer, she fits through the (large-cat) cat flap – so she can take herself out into the garden for a wee if she really needs to go!


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