Some folks were interested in my coop webcam so I thought I’d share our setup. My husband is the techie, but I’ll do my best. I’ll give a short version, then more detail (probably WAY more than anyone is going to want ).
We’re using what’s called an IP camera (or internet camera, network camera, etc). Those cameras send video over a data connection, whether that’s via wi-fi or an Ethernet cable. (If your computer has a cable plugged into it to connect it to the internet, that’s Ethernet. It looks kind of like a telephone cable.) They can send the data to the internet, so you can view it from the web or on your phone. They’re often sold as security cameras. I have an Android phone and use an app called tinyCam Monitor PRO. Here's a photo of our first egg snapped from the app while I was at work!
Note that there are VERY few of these cameras that are battery powered. They either need to be plugged into an electrical outlet or are “power over Ethernet (POE),” meaning they get power through the same Ethernet cable that they connect to the internet with. Those that are “wireless” mean that they use wi-fi rather than Ethernet, NOT that they’re battery powered. (There are some hacks for hooking one up to solar power and a car battery, so you could DIY it if you wanted.)
There are lots of different IP cameras with lots of different features. We have the Foscam FI8910W model. It’s indoor, pan, tilt, has infrared for night vision, microphone, and speaker. You can also take photos and record video. Foscam has a nice web interface with a lot of features. You can even set up a number of different logins, so you can give some people a password that lets them move the camera and give others one that only lets them see it not control it, while keeping full access to all the settings to yourself. It’s likely that other brands can do this too; I only have experience with this one so far. This model is also POE.
OUR SETUP—SHORT VERSION
The coop is behind our garage, which is about 175 feet from the house. We had to set up a wi-fi repeater to strengthen the wi-fi signal in the garage, then ran a cable from there to the camera in the coop, which provided both an internet connection and power to the camera.
Note that we have a particularly complicated situation. If you have power in your coop and a decent wi-fi signal, it should be pretty straightforward—all you’d need would be the camera. If you have power but no wi-fi signal, it should still be pretty easy with something called a Powerline adapter (explained in the long version below). If you don’t have power but could get internet out there by stringing an Ethernet cable (less of a danger than running an extension cord or something), you could use a POE camera like ours. There’s probably a way to do it for every situation—just depends how badly you want it!
At the time we set the camera up, we didn’t have power in the coop. We felt better about running an Ethernet cable out through the weather than an extension cord, so that’s one reason we went with POE.
The other reason is that the wi-fi signal in the garage from the house wasn’t great; in the coop, through the garage walls, it was non-existent. It would have been awesome if we could have used something called Powerline adapters. They essentially allow you to run your internet through your electrical outlets. Simplistically: you plug in one adapter in one room (e.g., your house, where you have internet) and the other in another room (e.g., the garage, where you don’t have internet) and presto! Internet in the garage! However, this only works if the house and garage are on the same meter circuit. I’d imagine that this would be true for the vast majority of households. But not ours, of course! For some reason, our garage is on a separate electric meter (i.e., we have two separate electric bills). Maybe the previous owners were planning to run a business out of the garage and wanted to have a separate bill. Whatever the reason, it meant the Powerline adapters wouldn’t work. But they probably would for most people.
SO we first had to get a wi-fi repeater to get a strong signal in the garage. That still wasn’t enough to get through the walls to the inside of the coop, so we couldn’t use a wireless (wi-fi) camera. We had to string an Ethernet cable from the repeater, through the garage, out the back of the garage wall, into the coop, and connect that directly to the camera in order to connect it to the internet. Since we were running that anyway and didn’t yet have power in the coop, we decided to go with the POE camera. (Again, that means it gets its power through the Ethernet cable instead of having to be plugged into an outlet.) There were a number of other switch thingers inside the garage that we needed in order to make that POE thing happen, but I won’t go into that unless someone wants to know even more detail.
We almost gave up, but I’m so glad we didn’t! It’s so much fun to watch the girls while I’m at work during the day. We’ll eventually set up another camera in the run (which should be relatively simple now that the complicated stuff is already done).
Edited by Peeps n Bees - 1/9/16 at 1:05pm