How I Accidentally Became a Factory Farmer in Minecraft

How I Accidentally Became a Factory Farmer in Minecraft

Image for postA Minecraft chicken coop. It is very crowded.

I needed arrows, that was all. In Minecraft, there are monsters that come out at night. I needed to fight them off, so I needed arrows.

In Minecraft, arrows require three things: flint for the arrowhead, sticks for the shaft, and feathers for the fletching. The first two are no problem. Flint drops sometimes when you dig through gravel, and generally you have a ton of it. Sticks are made from wood, and trees are everywhere, so that?s no problem either. But feathers are a bit more of a pain. Feathers come mainly from one source: killing chickens.

Image for postA lone Minecraft chicken in the wild

Chickens show up in the wild, but sparsely, so I knew I?d have to breed some. I built a pen, led a few wild chickens into it with some seeds, and started feeding them so they?d mate. It was a simple farm: feed the chickens so that they breed and make chicks, wait for the chicks to grow up (which takes 20 minutes) kill most of the chickens, get the feathers and breed the ones I didn?t kill.

And it could have stopped there.

But because I have a solid grounding in Minecraft machinery, I immediately saw how the whole process could be more efficient. There?s an item called a ?hopper? that sucks any item dropped on top of it, and pushes that item into a container. If you arrange a bunch of hoppers in a line, you can create a sort of pipe. So I figured, why not make the floor of the chicken coop out of a winding hopper pipe? When it?s time to slaughter the chickens, all the feathers and chicken meat would flow into a chest: automated collection!

Image for postA pipe of Minecraft hoppers flowing into a chest

And it could have stopped there.

But then I noticed how many eggs I was winding up with. Chickens lay eggs every few minutes in Minecraft, so as I was raising my livestock, they were producing quite a few eggs that got scooped up in the auto-collection system (Note: Yes, Minecraft chickens both spawn living babies and also lay eggs. I don?t know why. It?s a weird game). Suddenly, I realized that I didn?t need to bother breeding the chickens at all.

When you throw an egg, it has a chance of becoming a baby chick, instead of just breaking (again, this makes no sense, weird game). So really I could just let the chickens lay eggs, grab them out of the collection chest, and toss them back into the coop to make more chickens: even more efficient farming!

And it could have stopped there.

Maybe it should have stopped there. It?s already horrifying right? Here I am, picking up the eggs that these chickens produced and throwing them right back into the coop to make it more crowded. But again, because of my machining knowledge, I saw the chance to improve the farm even more.

Image for postA Minecraft dispenser set to auto-fire eggs

There?s another device in Minecraft called a ?dispenser.? You can load items into it ? eggs for instance ? and each time you turn it on it will shoot out one item. So if I pointed the collection pipe into a dispenser, it would save me the step of manually collecting and throwing all those eggs. All I would have to do is press a button to shoot each egg out. But then . . . there?s this other device called a ?comparator,? which measures the contents of a container, and outputs a charge if there?s anything inside. So if I just put in one of those, and wire it back into that same dispenser, it would fire on its own: no button press needed! And by ?would,? I mean ?does,? because I did it.

So now there?s a pen full of chickens, and as they lay eggs they?re collected into a single pipe. That pipe feeds into a dispenser, which immediately fires them into a wall. And to keep the baby chicks from getting in the way of the next egg being fired, I put a hole in the ground so the chicks fall into a second pen below. So the original coop is just an egg farm, and the lower one is for harvesting.

Image for postA ?don?t kill these chickens? sign

Since I share this Minecraft world with some other players, I needed a simple way to explain how this all works. I placed a sign by the top coop that read ?Don?t kill these chickens.? I placed a second sign by the lower coop that read ??but you can totally kill these chickens.?

At this point, it occurs to me that I?ve just recreated factory farming within Minecraft. I do not stop there.

Because of course now the lower coop needs it?s own auto-collection system, with sorters on the end that separate the feathers, chicken meat, and any eggs that they lay. It?s almost all automated. I can just go about my business, letting this gross machine run, and occasionally stop by to slaughter the chickens and make some arrows.

And at night, when the monsters come, and I draw back an arrow born from my dark work, I look into the eyes of the zombie coming toward me, and I wonder: which one of us is the real monster?

. . . and then I shoot him anyway. Screw that zombie.

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