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Arduino Chicken Coop Controller

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Over the last few years my family has been keeping ex-battery hens - they are about 18 months old and have had a horrendous life kept cooped up in small cages in large warehouses.  As much as we love these little bundles of joys and eggs it can be a drudge getting up in the early morning letting them out to roam the garden because the sun is up and bright at 5.00am!!

It would be great if we could have an automated door that could open just after sun rise and close half an hour after sunset where hopefully they are all cosying up to each other in the coop.  Sadly there have been times we have forgotten to lock them safely away and discover the horrible consequences when a fox has attacked and killed some of them.

This instructable brings together a number of ideas I have seen on the web to create an Arduino Chicken Coop Controller (ACCC) to automate a chicken coop door and where possible I will give direct credit to those people designs/code I have adapted to create this personal sleep saving device.  Many thanks to those who have shared their great ideas which has spawned this device.

The main features of the ACCC:
  • Based on the Arduino architecture for easy prototyping and adaptation to your coop requirements
  • Uses common parts easily found at you local DIY/hardware store/shop such as cheap electric screw drivers
  • Uses a real time clock to maintain time even when the device is temporary disconnected from power
  • Adjusts the opening and closing times of the door according to the current month - you can set it to your own timezones
  • Provides a manual override just in case one of your lovely darlings misses sunset!
  • Provides a min and max temperature reading inside the coop from midnight so you can keep an eye on your brood's welll-being
  • A display which can be switched on and off to read out the current ACCC status  and will not disturb your feathered friends sleep at night
Most of the electronic components were sourced from eBay and I estimate the whole device excluding the wood was under £30
 
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sethm6039 days ago

Hi love the build. Do you think it could be done with a photo cell to trigger open and close instead of the timer ? That would be an ideal setup in my opinion.

iyusnita1 month ago

Hi may i know all the components used in this project?

RentonZ7 months ago
Great instructable! I'm just finishing my coop and will be giving this door and controller design a go.

With the experience you've gained, which arduino board and shield(s) would you suggest I use? I'm not very good at soldering so I'll be looking at constructed components when available.

Thanks!
Robot-Chicken (author)  RentonZ7 months ago
Hi I am probably about a month away from publishing ver2 which uses a rotary switch and a 4 x 20 LED screen. All the components are modules except for the Arduino board which is a modified prototype board - which you could use an Uno v3 if you don't fancy any soldering. I have attached a some of images to show you the new hardware layout and screen. As such I didn't use shields just discrete modules with interconnect wires which you can do with the ver1 design.

Any motor module that can deliver 2-3amps usually has an LM298n chip with the 2 channels linked together will do. There are some very cheap 1302 RTC modules with battery holder. I used a cheap 20x4 LCD in 4bit mode with the standard crystal LCD library. There are some shields to fit the UNO with integrated analogue keyboard and screen you can use. Hope that helps
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very good job .

your project let start me learning arduino.

we wait for v2

thanks

Thanks for that, I'll look forward to seeing your v2!
freewheel6 months ago
Wow. I just love this idea! Great execution.
ackman218 months ago
So how much would you charge for one to be built and sent to the US??
Robot-Chicken (author)  ackman217 months ago
Honoured that you would buy it from me but unfortunately I just don't have the time. There are at least 3 folks in the US who have built it so perhaps they might be able to help you without putting them under too much pressure!! I suspect it will be a lot cheaper as well - happy persuading!
ianmi10 months ago
Love it!! But how does the door stay open, is the motor engergised all the time the door is open? if so why the top micro switch?
Robot-Chicken (author)  ianmi10 months ago
Hi glad you like it. The planetary gearbox is stiff enough to keep it open once the top limiter switch is triggered. So it only needs 2 amps of battery juice for about 1 second - very efficient
Orngrimm11 months ago
That lock is really smart! And well made 'ible!

If you think about it and add a long spring to replace gravity, you can use that idea even in horizontal direction for other projects...
Robot-Chicken (author)  Orngrimm11 months ago
Well I can't take credit for the design - only the reverse engineering of it. I like the idea of the spring. I have another follower who is in the process of making his own. Really looking forward to seeing how he has improved the design - I think he is using draw runners for a smoother action.
Scheffield1 year ago
i built a 10x10 shed for my two geese. i really like your plans, i am going to use them with some modification.. it will have a steel plated door because i live in the middle of the woods and foxes and other such animals are common. to heat my coop i have a forced air propane heater. the unit is also a a/c so in the summer the vents are blowing nice cool air. all the walls and doors are insulated, do you have a suggestion for insulating the automated door?
as a final comment i would like to thank you for caring for the ex-battery chickens. in a unrealted way: one of my geese broke is femer (which is inside its body, not accessiable by topical cast) so i went to the only place i know crazy enough to do sugery of a pet goose (cornell universty vet hospital) it cost me close to $2000 in medical bills, and a entire summer vacation inside caring for it.
VelzevulGR1 year ago
Hello R C,

I need first of all to congratulate you for this great design and implementation!

I've been planning for some time to implement for my own coop an automatic door but with the use of an LDR (we have no lights where the coop is), so now that I found this I will certainly start building it!

As I have almost no knowledge of electronics, just good soldering skills and good "follow instructions" skills I have probably a couple of rather "dumb" questions (English is not my native language so you may have already answered this in your instructable and I just didn't get it!).

Is the output of the trickle charger connected on the power input of the H-Bridge? Is the battery connected in the same power input of the H-Bridge?

Does everything work with the main power supply and charge the battery at the same time and when the main power fails the battery kicks in?

Thank you very much and once again thumbs up!!!

Regards,

Apostolos.
Hi R C,

Firstly, a great instructable - I'll definately be basing my set up o it in the spring.

One suggestion That would be good is some form of timed switch to trigger an LED light in the coop that would increase the light-hours - to ensure decent egg production in the darker winter months. NOT on a battery level!!! But I've read it can be better for the chickens to have a minimum of about 11hours light a day.

I'm not an electronic/programming buff, so there's every chance it may not be possible, but would be good if it was.

I look forward to version 2. Any ideas when it will be ready?

Regards,

Matt.
Robot-Chicken (author)  mdavenport31 year ago
Firstly many thanks to those who have given me some great feedback and have built their own chicken coop controller.

I am currently working on version 2 which has:
- a visual indication the door has closed successfully,
- ability to turn on a low power heat lamp when the temperature drops too low
- Improved display and time setting
- those who would like to keep the lights on for a little while to keep their egg production up. Chickens normally needs10 hours of light to produce a single egg

It is likely to be a couple of months so watch this space. Further improvements for my fine feathered friends serious or funny are greatly welcomed - R-C
jmaahs11 year ago
Thank you for a great Instructable! The door instructions and measurements really helped me build my own.

I decided to use a remote control to open/close the door from the house. This way I could make sure no predators were around first. If you wish check out the short video - http://youtu.be/UXNF4LRmzik

Again, thank you for a great Instructable. :)
Wazzupdoc2 years ago
Also Chicken lover. Nice project. Very clever all round. Three thumbs up!!!
Michael_oz2 years ago
Nice job, !! <- two thumbs up.

From that last photo, one improvement that the hens would like is to add a heated towel rail for their roost ;)
Don't for get the heated floors too :) A 30+ meters of insulated wire and the 12v power source and these guys will be loving it.
Robot-Chicken (author)  Michael_oz2 years ago
That is so funny - it is almost true. The reason for the temp measurement was to turn on an infra red lamp to warm them up if it gets too cold!!

Version 3.0 will be the automated turn the straw down before they go to bed!!
lford42 years ago
" I wouldn't trigger the door opening or closing on light detection alone as it could be volatile to poor weather or the garden flood light as the fox enters our garden!"

I was thinking that you could skip the arduino and go just with a photodiode and a few mosfets, but that is a good point. The fox walks near the security light, the light goes on, the door opens, and the fox gets a snack.

All around great instructable. Lots of good details..

Perhaps there is a photodiode out there that senses a wave of light that isn't emiited by the flood light but is still emitted on days with alot of overcast, maybe UVB light around 350nm. Then a temp sensor to control the heat lamp.
MartyMart2 years ago
Well done Robot-Chicken! Nice to see you giving those hens a better life. And I will be taking some aspects of your door design!
Robot-Chicken (author)  MartyMart2 years ago
Feel free - using any aspect of the design would be the greatest form of recognition - have fun with it
hsteinbe2 years ago
chickens create tons of dander (skin and feather dust) that coats everything, make sure all electronics and working parts are protected. Otherwise your door is going to gum up in short order. Also wood swells when damp, which means in the high humidity of summer, rainy springs and falls, depending on where you live, the door may jam. Especially when you mix the water with the chicken dander! Make sure there is plenty of free space in the slide mechanism. And, either build a sufficient overhang to keep the door completely dry, and/or better, yet prime and paint all of your wood pieces.

Roosters (plural) make a heck of a lot of noise. They have to compete with each other. A rooster (singular) makes less noise then a bunch of hens.

I've been raising free range (no fencing), chickens in a wooded area (and in the past in an open area) for more then 30 years and only one thing works to keep chicken predators at bay - a good farm type dog.
Robot-Chicken (author)  hsteinbe2 years ago
Your are right I had to create a wooden defence mechanism against the dreaded poop. Every week the door gets a good inspection to make sure everything is in order and the wood is treated so hopefully it will last a while but know doubt will need replacing. I had the manual door fitted for 6 months during autumn and winter and it seemed to fair well.
ekardell2 years ago
Your "before" and "after' pictures of the hen says it all. Great job with the rescue. It's wonderful to see how they can recover from that experience.

The coop looks great too. I love it, but I am very lazy —

Alternatively, a very, very simple solution is what I've been experimenting with this past year – totally free range-ing my chickens (small flock with two very big and very mean roosters, that is essential to the plan). Anyway, mine have branches for roosting high (about 5') in a run-in shed, and several modes of escape in the event of four legged predators. It's working so far. Hawks are another thing though, but that's a daylight problem.

The beauty of 24/7 free range for me is of course not having to get up early.

There isn't a chicken enclosure made that some predator can't get in, alas, and the carnage when they do is heartbreaking.
Robot-Chicken (author)  ekardell2 years ago
I agree total free range is clearly best route - I live in a town so Rosters are a no-no hence the small size garden and coop - Still worth it though just for the fresh eggs
Well---it's not necessarily "best" the way I'm doing things. There are a ton of variables to each persons setup. I live on and surrounded by mostly open farmland, so while we do have predators, maybe not as many as someone in a wooded area. I may have just found what works well HERE, but most people go the route of shutting them in at night, and that's probably safest in 90% of the cases.

Roosters make a hellava racket :)
miguipda2 years ago
Hi,

as I still did not used arduino could you please consider this idea :
http://www.treehugger.com/gadgets/diy-solar-powered-bird-house-tweets-when-birds-arrive.html

to allow solar power battery charging / or directly to power DC motor (may be change the current motor you used due to the voltage).

I ask you this because my backyard is too steep I though to use solar powering with those cheap small photovoltaic panels :
http://energybible.com/solar_energy/outdoor_solar_lighting.html

Or may be given the perfect photovoltaic solar panel that must be used to get the arduino power.

Sincerely thanks for your help and have a nice day,

Miguipda ;-)
Robot-Chicken (author)  miguipda2 years ago
Hi Miguipda

I very much like the tree hugger link. I am seriously considering reviewing the design so I can light-weight components and reduce the Arduino power consumption so that everything can run off rechargeable batteries and solar power. I think I will need to invest in a high quality motor instead of being thrifty with my £5 motor assembly
I'm wondering if the arduino is required at all for a simple version that merely opens the door at sunrise and drops it after sunset. A solar panel, a motor and gearbox, a photoresistor, big capacitors, and some glue components are all you'd need. But the arduino certainly allows for adding on functionality like monitoring temperature or even detecting a fox or thief disturbance should one want to so I'm not saying that it doesn't have its coolness too. The minimalist in me just went down the other path.
Robot-Chicken (author)  mgalyean2 years ago
I think you are right you can get away with something simple. The only issue I have with a photo resistor are false readings opening the door in the middle of the night. In my garden we have a PIR light which comes on even when a fox is in the garden. So I didn't really want to present Mr Fox with an opening door to a late evening lunch!! In a big open space without spot lights you are spot on - pardon the pun.

However if you stripped the design down to the bare safety levels for my little ladies then everything thing you said plus a simple pwm arduino board would surfice.
Ok. I was envisioning no batteries or external power and the actual presence of sunlight on the photovoltaic would power the motor to open the door. In the middle of the night there would be no power for the motor to open the door. The photo resistor would just be to detect darkness and trigger a solenoid to drop the door in the evening. The solenoid would be powered by a large capacitor charged from the panel when the sun was still up. Another capacitor combined with a resistor would be used to delay the door closing 30 minutes.
Hi,

@Robot-Chicken : I do not remember wich kind of motor did you used to open the door but I read somewhere that a motor used to open a car window could pehaps be enough to do this job.

Have a nice day and with pleasure to read the last update instructable arduino open door.

Miguipda ;-)
further simplification: the photovoltaic itself could probably do double duty and replace the photodiode.
Robot-Chicken (author)  mgalyean2 years ago
Nice idea - would be interesting to see how much current can be produced in moderate light I suspect that would be the main challenge. A little rechargeable set of batteries could be used to store all that sunlight energy to give the short current burst needed when opening and closing the door.
I had exactly the same idea. Wonderful how someone can play with Arduino, but is it really necessary to make it so complicated?

I was thinking of something like when your solar panel gets lid by sunlight it gives a certain voltage that might trigger a relay (or transistor?) which acts like a switch to make the motor run in any direction depending on in which position the door is. eg. When the door is open a micro-switch makes the motor run clockwise and vice versa when the door is closed.

Just a thought :-)

thanks for the instructable!
Hi,
this could be useful : http://www.instructables.com/id/Self-Sufficient-Arduino-Board/?ALLSTEPS

The first way here : http://voltaicsystems.com/blog/three-ways-to-power-an-arduino-off-grid/

http://www.cooking-hacks.com/index.php/solar-module-for-arduino.html

Sincerely thanks for the attention you will have to this request. I seriously appreciate.

Have a nice day,

Miguipda ;-)
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