Why You Should Automate Your Homestead

Our Garden with Automated Irrigation
Our Garden with Automated Irrigation

If you need to get away for a week, how will your homestead get along without you? Do you have so many tasks to do that leaving for a vacation sounds like more work than simply staying home (having a staycation)? Even if you do not foresee going on a vacation, unexpected events can come up such as the birth or death of a loved one, getting busy with non-homestead tasks, or becoming ill enough that you cannot complete your list of chores.

You should automate as much as possible on your homestead. As your homestead grows, you can then keep up with the same quality no matter how large or busy you get.

With chickens, this means having the ability to give them food, water, and shelter for at least a week without any input from you. You can accomplish this with 5 gallon feeders/waterers (multiple depending upon the size of your flock – 1 5 gallon feeder and waterer is plenty for a 7 chicken flock in my experience). Depending upon their shelter, if you currently manually close their coop door, you can automate this with an old car antenna motor and a couple of 12v power adapters (and extension cords or a 12v battery instead of the power adapters). If your coop and run are secure enough without a door, you have already automated this task. The only task difficult to automate is collecting eggs. In an emergency, you can simply let the eggs pile up and get broken, but otherwise you will have to add this to the list of tasks that a relative or neighbor does. We let the person who collects them for us when we are gone keep the eggs for free as payment for collecting them.

With cattle, do they have access to enough food or water for a week? If not, you can look into an automated waterer in a large trough or old bathtub. These are fairly cheap, and could be even cheaper if you use the float mechanism from an old toilet you may already have access to. If you have some shelter, you can leave extra hay under this shelter for rainy days while still giving the cattle access to their food. Make sure they are branded or have a collar to identify them as yours in case they escape while you are gone. If you have milking cows, this cannot currently be automated without expensive equipment (here is a business opportunity for someone to figure out).

Do you manually water your garden, orchard, flowers, or lawn? Save yourself hours of time by purchasing an automated timer. This can be a hose shutoff timer connected to your house or an electric timer such as for christmas lights if you use a pump for irrigation. Mulch greatly helps cut down on weeds.

Set a bucket under your gutter or where it can get rained directly on for water for your dog. You can also purchase or create an automatic feeder, but make sure it is sturdy and reliable before you set this up. The automatic feeder can either always allow feed for your pets, or if they eat too much, you can buy ones that give a set amount once a day.

If you tend to still worry about your animals or garden, you can set up a few cameras around your place that you can check on every once in a while. But try not to worry about edge case scenarios. If things go well while you are there for weeks, why would they not as soon as you leave?

Test all of your automations while you are home for extra peace of mind that while you are away, all your livestock and property are being taken care of. This will also cut out the more mundane chores from your day freeing up time to get more done or give more attention to your favorite aspects of your property.