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In this Instructable I'll be showing how to make an easy automatic chicken coop door opener.

For anyone who keeps chickens, the ever present threat of predator animals like foxes is always a worry. We recently had all of our chickens (4 of them) killed by a fox and as you could imagine it wasn't a pretty sight. Usually when something like this happens its due to human error, like leaving the coop open. I wanted to ensure that this didn't happen again and so started investigating automatic coop doors. There are quite a few on the web, many expensive or just plain complicated. After much searching I finally stumbled across one which seemed like pure genius.

The door is lifted and closed by an electric car antenna which is activated by a timer. Simplicity itself! Electric antenna's are easily available from any car wreckers for next to nothing, and it's a great way to re-use something that just going to be land-fill anyhow!

There are a few versions on the net on how to make this door opener. I noticed though that they all used a couple of computer charges to power the antenna which made it complicated. My version uses a timer and battery and keeps everything simple.

The reason why I have included the word "simple" in the title is this really is an easy build. If you do a quick search on the net you'll see a bunch of builds which either cost a heap or seem really complicated. This project can be done for as little as $20 if you use mains power.

The following Instructable will take you through how to wire-up the timer and antenna and also how to mount to the door.

Your chickens ill thank you!

I've also included a short video of the door in action.(if you are using a mobile, try this link)

Enjoy

Step 1: Things to Gather

Parts:

1. Electric car antenna - you can get these from your local wreckers if you have one. Alternatively you can get them on eBay

2. Timer - I used this one from eBay

3. Power supply. You can use either a 12v battery or a 12v power source. I went with a 12v battery so if there were any power outages then it would still keep on going. The battery I scavenged was also from the wreckers and only cost me $10

4. Various wires

5. Terminal Strip - eBay

6. Screws.
- Small ones (they need to fit into the C channel
- Larger ones to screw everything together

7. Aluminium C channel - Hardware store

8. Voltage Meter - eBay (optional)

9. Small switch (optional)

10. Solar Panel - eBay

11. Solar regulator - eBay


Tools:

1. Bench Saw

2. Hot glue

3. Soldering iron

4. Super Glue

5. Drill

Step 2: Testing the Antenna and Timer

Its a good idea to first test the antenna and timer to ensure that everything works

Steps:

1.  Use the schematic below to help you with the wiring.

2.  You can use either a 12v battery or power source to power your antenna and timer.  You need to make sure though that the antenna has constant power.  When the power is active the antenna retracts and when the green wire (usually green but it could be another colour) is attached to the red wire, the antenna will extend.

3.  if you have everything hooked-up correctly, then when the timer is on the antenna will retract, and when the timer is off it will extend.

Step 3: Planning the Door

So now you have tested the antenna out and if everything is working, you’ll now have to think how you are going to mount it inside your chicken coop. 

There are many types of coops and most people will probably have a unique arrangement.  Your door should be located in a spot where there is a lot of room and at a high spot in the coop.  The reason for this is so the antenna has enough room to move up and down.  Also, the battery etc can take up a lot of room, so you need to be wary of where this will go in the end.

Once you have decided where to put the door, you need to then design exactly how the door will work.  Depending on how your coop is made, this could be easy or really challenging.  As you can see from the photos below of my coop – I had a large area where the door to my coop is and decided to use this section to add the chicken door.

Step 4: Making the Door - C Channel

The C channel is what will keep the door in the right position.  For those who don’t know, C Channel is usually a long piece of aluminium shaped like a “C”

Steps:

1. Cut 2 equal lengths of wood.  Mine were 1500mm by 80mm.  I used fence palings for all of the wood that I needed.

2. Next grab your C channel and drill some holes aprox 300 mm long the inside of the channel.  Use a larger bit and drill out the top of the hole so the screws you use sit flush in the channel.  Do this twice.

3. Screw the C channel into the wood as shown.  Make sure that the wood is as straight as possible when attaching the C channel.  You will probably have some bend in the channel once it is screwed into the wood, but once they are attached to the coop they should straighten out.

4. Next attach the wood and C channel to the coop.  Make sure that when attaching the C channel that the distance between both of them is the same from top to bottom.  Remember, the door needs to slide up and down along these channels so they need to be straight or it will jam.

Step 5: Mounting the Antenna

Once you have the C channels attached to the coop, you will then need to work out how to mount the Antenna so it is directly above.

Steps:

1. Out of some thicker wood, create a bracket like the one below. Having 2 sides on the wooden bracket will help give it more strength.
2. Attach the wooden bracket to another piece of wood. This will be the backing. I just used a piece of fence paling.

3. Decide where you want the antenna to be mounted on the bracket. Once you have worked out the best spot you need to screw it into the top of the bracket. The best way to do this is as follows:

a. Use a piece of masking tape and put it across the 2 holes in the bottom of the antenna.
b. Mark with a pen exactly where the middle is.
c. Remove tape and stick it to the top of the bracket.
d. Drill where marked

You should now have 2 holes in the top of the bracket perfectly lined up with the antenna.

4. Bolt the antenna into place

5. I also added a cable tie by drilling a couple of holes into the backing and using a cable tie for extra support around the antenna.

Step 6: Attaching the Wires

So now you have the antenna attached to the coop – the next step is to wire everything up.

Steps.

1. Cut a piece of wood the same length as the one you mounted the antenna to.

2. Decide where you want the timer to go.  Remember, this bit of wood will need toget attached to the wooden bracket that the antenna is attached to so make sure you choose the best place to locate the time.  Glue on with hot glue.

3. Drill 2 holes in the wood at the top of the timer and 3 at the bottom.  These will be for the wires to go through

4. On the back you need to attach a wire terminal.  This should go pretty much behind the timer.  Screw into place.

5. Add the wires to power the timer.  These are the ones that go into the top of the timer and attached them to the terminal. 

**There is a schematic below which should hopefully help you as to how this is done.  It’s pretty easy really; just make sure that the positive and negative wires are in the right positions!**

6. Attach the board to the wooden antenna bracket

7. Lastly, attach all of the wires from the antenna to the timer

Step 7: Attaching the Antenna to the Coop

Once you have The antenna mounted in thew wooden bracket, its time to attach it to the coop.

Care must be given as to where you mount the antenna as you will need it high enough so the door fully opens, and also it will have to be straight.  The good thing about most of these antennas is they do have some play in them so if you happen to have it a little crookedly, it shouldn’t matter too much.

Steps:

1. Use some bolts and nuts to mount the antenna to the boards that the C channel is running along.  When mounting the antenna try and have it extended fully – this will help you mount it straight.

2. When mounting, if you find that the antenna is too long you can do a couple of things.

a. Superglue the first length of antenna to the second length.  This way the antenna won’t fully extend.
b. Cut the antenna.  You will need to be careful when doing this as I’m pretty sure that the antenna will have issues extending again if it is fully retracted.  You can cut it, just don’t retract until you have added the nut to the end (more on that later)

Step 8: Making a Door

Steps:

1. First measure the gap between the C channels and the height from the ground to where the door needs to end.

2. Cut out a piece of plywood to fit the gap.  You might have to trim 3-5 mm off one side of the plywood (I did)

3. Slip the door between the C channels making sure that the door moves smoothly up and down the C channel

Step 9: Attaching the Door to the Antenna

Now you are ready to attach the door to the antenna

Steps:
1. First – you need to find a way to attach the antenna to the door. He is how I did it and I have also suggested a couple of other ways.

The Way I did it Initially
1. First find a long, thin bolt. The door will be screwed onto this.

2. Next find fastener which has an insert screw in the side like the picture below. Use a small blow torch and solder the head of the bolt to the fastener.

3. Cut the end of the antenna off and thread on the fastener / Bolt. Tighten up the insert nut.

4. Now you should have a horizontal bolt sticking out from the vertical antenna. Make sure that the fastener is done-up tightly.

A Better Way
Recently I had to replace the bolt as it failed at the solder point. So, instead of soldering, I decided to just drill a hole through the neck of the bolt and threaded the antenna through it. To keep the bolt in place, use some drill stop collars like in the images below. These are great and will keep the bolt in place.

Step 10: Adding a Solar Panel and Voltage Meter

If you go down the battery route you'll need to ensure that the battery is kept charged. You can just add a drip charge if you like but this means it will need to be plugged in the a wall socket and kind of defeats the purpose. The easiest way to keep the battery charged is to use a solar panel to keep the battery charged.

Steps:

1. Attach the solar regulator to the wall of the chicken coop. Make sure its close to the antenna and battery

2. Add wires to your solar panel and if necessary make a frame for the solar panel so it sits on an angle. You'll only need to do this if the sun doesn't directly hit the panel.

3. Add the wires from the panel to the regulator.

4. Next add the wires from the battery to the regulator.

5. Lastly I decided to attach a voltage meter to the battery so I could easily check how much power the battery has. All you need to do is to add a switch to the meter and attach the wires to the regulator where the battery connects to.

Step 11: Testing and Running

Hopefully you now have a function, automatic chicken coop door!

So what’s next? You should now test it and make sure that everything is working as it should. Set the time so the antenna retracts (door opens) for the morning and have it shut at night. Keep an eye on it for the first few times and check the voltage level of the battery regularly.

Timer -

When using the timer it should be set on “auto”. This will mean it is using the times set to open and close.

If you do need to lower the door for any reason, then you can change the timer to “on” and the door will lower.
Raising and lowering can also be done by hand – all you have to do is carefully push the door up and down. Don’t go too fast or you will could possibly wreck the gears in the antenna.

Power supply -

You could easily run the antenna off the mains by using a 12v DC plug. It would all depend on how long your battery stays charged for. You don't really want to have to charge it every couple of weeks (kind of defeats the purpose of having an automated door!

I will be adding a solar panel soon to the battery so it is being charged each day.

Things I learnt
Initially I thought that all of the C channel would have to be perfectly straight and that the antenna would need to aligned up just right. Turns out that the antenna has quite a bit of flex and there is some room for error - not much room mind you, but enough to enable you to install the antenna by sight.

The important thing about the C channel is to have the same distance between them from top to bottom. Also to make sure that there are no bends or curves when mounting to the coop. If you can do this then you won't have any issues. The don't even have to be vertically straight - as long as everything else is mounted at about the same angle.

Also, when you attach the door to the antenna there is some movement that the antenna can absorb. This is a good thing, especially if the antenna is not mounted perfectly straight.


Thanks for looking and I hope this has inspired you to make your own automated chicken coop door.

<p><a href="https://www.instructables.com/member/lonesoulsurfer" rel="nofollow">lonesoulsurfer</a> thank you, this is a very useful and interesting project and I would like to apply to my coop, but I'm not skilled in electricity...</p><p>could you draw a scheme of the electric connections including the solar panel?</p><p>thank you!</p><p>Alessandro</p>
<p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/ocRCSlM8-H0" width="500"></iframe></p>
Tommy1983<br>How did you control how far the mast will extend and retract. Your video seems to show the antenna not fully retract or extending.
<p>That's the beauty of it, you don't have to worry about controlling it as the antenna will stop once the door is down. They are built this way so the gears don't grind if something stops the antenna from going up. same thing when retracting.</p>
<p>I've only just seen this! what a great design. well done.</p>
<p>Try a photo resistor set up</p>
<p>I am going to make door, but the timer you link to is visibly different than the one you have in the photos. The one you have in photo is much larger and it has posts on the front to attach wires, but the one on ebay has lots of buttons and no posts on the front ..... just want to make sure I am buying the right one</p>
<p>Hey there.</p><p>There is a small door on the timer that hides the buttons. I just had a look at the link and its bringing up the corrct timer</p>
<p>Great post! I used it to configure my coop door opener, but am also running into the battery drain issue, so I need to add another timer. In your second wiring diagram, I do not see a negative lead attached to the second timer. Is that connection not needed? Thanks for your help!</p>
Hey there,<br>That's correct. You are just using the timer as an on/off switch. <br>I'm not a 100% sure that this will actually work without testing it first though. I don't see any issues with it so it should. All you want to do is to cut the power to the antenna 5 minutes after it has gone down, shutting the coop door for the night. It then needs to return power 5 minutes before the other timer kicks in and raises the door. The only thing that may go wrong is cutting the power might make the antenna retract. Don't think t will though.
<p>Hello, great post, I really enjoyed reading it, but since im from holland english is not my best, from what i understand it is better to use 2 timers than 1. But where to place the second? Is there a final wire drawing that i can use for this? It is more easy to understan from drawing than words. Once again, amazing work and greetings from the other side of the ocean.</p>
<p>Hey Wally_world. Check out the image attached. I believe that this is how you would add 2 timers. I have been using 1 timer for over 2 years now and it's been fine. I have had to replace the battery twice during that period but that is just due to it being constantly drained and recharged. If you wanted to use a 2nd timer, it would need to turn the power off after the first has lowered the antenna. It would then need to come on 5 minutes before the first one so power is restored. </p>
You would also have to connect the 2nd timer to the battery positive and negative as well if you wanted to set-up your auto door with 2 timers
Thanks a lot lonesoulsurfer! Im looking forward to start building
<p>Hi All! I am not at all mechanically inclined and I don't have anyone around who can help me with this, but I need to make one of these openers because I am having to keep my chickadoodles at a different location, so it would be great to not have to rush out at the crack of dawn to let them out everyday. </p><p><br>There is a lot of discussion about a 2nd timer and ways to keep the antenna from draining the battery. Can someone give me the bottom line on all of this? The more I read, the more overwhelmed I am feeling. I can hook this up to an electrical source, but ultimately I'd like to do a solar panel. If you can help me with some step by steps on anything that was added, I would be very grateful. <br><br>Thanks!</p><p>Tamie</p>
<p>Hey Tamie,</p><p>Don't really worry about the info in the discussions. These are just some ideas that people have had to help improve the build. Honestly though, I have been using my original set-up for over 2 years and haven't had the need to change anything. Just follow the original instructable that i wrote and you'll have a great working chicken coop door. The only thing that I have to change every 6 months or so is the battery as they don't really like being charge and dis-charged every day.. Other then that, you won't have to ever worry about not shutting the coop door. </p>
<p>Great! Thank you. I'll start gathering the pieces. Wish me luck!</p>
<p>No problem. if you get stuck, let me know and i'll be happy to help.</p>
<p>Are you using a DC or AC Timer?</p><p>When you click on the ebay link it shows both. Thanks for the help.</p>
<p>DC timer.</p>
<p>love it. I'm gonna make one but would like to use a power supply. What do I need for the antenna power? 12volt, how many amps?</p>
Howdy,<br>All you would need really is a 12v , 2amp wall adapter. The antennas will work off a 9v battery (just) so 2 amps will be fine
OK I was to impatient to wait a reply so I gave a try. I reversed the polarity on the aerial motor and on the limit switches! Now on is aerial retracted (door open) so what power the relays are using is being replenished by the solar panel. Why go to this effort when you could just use a bigger battery and a bigger solar panel? Well it would be more expensive so you may as well buy a ready made door opener. Plus like I said on a previous comment I wanted mine to be tidy and compact. My battery is the size of of a 9v battery about 1 x 2&quot;. I hope I was able to add a little something to an already fantastic design :)
I love this idea. are you able to take a couple pictures on what you have reversed? I'm going to do the same with mine and will add an extra step in the 'ible for anyone else who wants to do it.<br><br>Great job
<p>How about stripping the antenna down and swapping the plus and ➖ to reverse the polarity so in theory when the relay is energised the antenna will retract instead, that way when the relays are drawing power it will be day time and the battery will be getting replenished by the solar panel. Or am I missing something?</p>
<p>has anybody managed to get over the power drain from the antenna being extended? I made one myself but it didn't last through the night. I adjusted the limit switches on the antenna to just the right amount to keep everything tight and compact so I really don't want to use two timers or a larger battery.</p>
Thanks for the great instructable! It works great. I used a pulley system to reduce the travel distance and strain on the motor. The rope is attached to the tip of the antenna using a rope fastener. Is there any way to make it where the antenna stays up, but doesn't use any power?
Great solution! Yeah the antenna drawing power is a slight problem. There probably is a way for it not to draw power when it is extended but it's beyond me. Thinking back, I should have really have made it so the antenna extended to open the door. This way the battery would have kept charged during the day from the solar panel.<br>How are you powering your antenna?
<p>I'm using a solar setup for power. My battery is only 5Ah, I should have gone a little larger, but it work for now. I'm not the best at wiring, it took me a while to figure out my timer. Its not the same one you used. But I was thinking of trying to use a secondary timer to kill the power to the antennae after the door closes. Does that sound possible?</p>
<p>I don't think that would work. The &quot;signal&quot; wire on the antenna needs to have power to it constantly when it is extended, if you added a timer to shut this off, the antenna would just retract. It's kind of like when you start your car and the antenna extends. It stays extended as long as the car is on. Once you turn it off, the power is removed from the signal wire and it retracts.</p>
Probably crazy talk but... What if I ran the ground wire through the second timer? That way it kills the power to it and it stays up.
<p>Yeah it might work. If you did kill the power to either the positive or negative once it was down, then it should stay down. </p><p>Let me know how you go.</p>
<p>Londesoulsurfer &amp; KSpoon1....did you guys have any luck with the new wiring? I'm considering doing something similar with some sort of cutoff switch and another timer so I can extend my battery life, but I'm struggling with how to do it so my door remains in the proper position when it's not receiving voltage from the battery. </p>
<p>I haven't gotten around to adding my second timer. Mosquito's are HELL right now! My plan tough, is to have the second timer kill the main power lead. The timer now is connected to the wire that triggers the antenna. I think that should work. Sorry for the delay getting back to you. Flawless operation thus far!</p>
<p>Did you ever figure out if this would work or not? From my understanding, these antenna take 2 hot wires, one for the antenna itself and one for the motor to extend. What you are talking about is killing the power to the antenna while keeping power to the motor that extends?</p>
<p>I will have an answer this weekend about wiring up both a timer switch and a timer switch relay (like the one in this instructable). I just got my new timer switch yesterday and will install it this weekend.</p><p>My plan is to wire everything up as described in this instructable (except the solar stuff because i don't use solar) and simply put my new timer switch between the battery and the existing timer switch with relay. I plan to let power flow for a couple minutes in the morning and a couple minutes in the evening. With any luck, this will extend my battery life dramatically (hopefully i can go several weeks between charges instead of several days).</p>
<p>OK...I'm pleased to announce that adding a new timer switch on the positive side of the battery terminal is working like a charm.</p><p>I have my 2nd timer switch setup to power on for 1 minute before my door is scheduled to move and it kills the power 1 minute after the antenna starts. </p><p>I know the car antennae do not use a lot of amps when idle, but now I will be using zero amps except for 2 minutes in the morning and 2 minutes in the evening. This ought to greatly increase the duration between battery charges.</p>
<p>Was just browsing through this. Since you have 2 timers running, would it be better to let each run the full operation? Run hot and control through one timer which would extend the antenna. Run just hot through the other timer which would retract the antenna. One runs for 1 minute in the morning, the other runs for 1 minute in the evening and you don't ever have to worry about syncing the two up.</p>
<p>Maybe so, although that sort of stuff is beyond what my lil brain can handle. The trigger wire and relay stuff throws me for a loop real quickly and I'm not sure how to work with the trigger wire using two timers.</p><p>As to the issue of syncing the two timers up...that's not really an issue. My main timer with relay is set to open the system at 3AM and close the system at 3PM. Clearly, those times are not when I want the door to open, so my new/2nd timer provides power at 6:45AM the main timer is telling my system to open the door. Then at 6:46AM, power from the battery is shutoff by that new/2nd timer (the antenna won't move without power, so the door stays open).</p><p>Then in the evening, the 2nd/new timer sends power into the system at 7:00PM. The main timer is telling the system to close the door, so it closes it. Then at 7:01PM, battery power is shutoff and the door remains in the closed position. Set your relay timer for 3AM open and 3PM close and let your new/2nd timer switch dictate the exact time you want the door to open and close.</p><p>This new/2nd timer is nothing more than a fancy, switch. I encourage people to not overthink this 2nd timer issue. It's just a cutoff switch.</p>
<p>I'm going to be building mine in the next week or so. The setup is a lot simpler than you're thinking.</p>
<p>kayakyakr...feel free to share the setup, because you are right about the syncing up part potentially being confusing (i'm good now, but the first few days that threw me for a loop).</p>
<p>Yes. Don't overthink this. Install a 2nd timer to function as a shutoff switch. </p><p>This 2nd timer would sit closer to your battery and serve as a switch. It supplies power to your system for 1 minute in the morning and 1 minute in the evening. This new/2nd timer doesn't even need a relay. </p>
<p>I might be completely wrong (correct me if I am) but could you just not mount the antenna at the top and have it need to extend when it closes, which yes will still consume power but will be less because chickens go to bed from sunset to sunrise and if you set the timer right for the shortest night you have it set open for the shortest amount of time.</p>
Yes you can do that (that's what i did), but when the antenna is extended (door closed), it's drawing power. If you're using mains power then this won't be an issue. If however, you use solar, then if you live somewhere where the winters a long, then you might have an issue. Having the antenna extend to open the door means it is drawing power during the day and you should have plenty of sun (hopfully!) to charge your battery.
<p>Loved this instructable. I'm sure my neighbours are happy too now that the chooks don't start calling for us first thing in the morning. Thanks for sharing.</p>
<p>Great job. Glad you found the 'ible helpful. </p>
<p>Great idea. I intend to use it on a dog kennel so I don't have to schlep outside when it's -20F. Does the antenna need to have power continually applied for it to remain open (or shut)?</p>
<p>No. Power is not continuously needed for it to remain in it's current position. This is true whether it is extended or not (open or closed). Think about it...if the power is shutoff to the motor, it will stop running and the antenna will not move.</p><p>I used this principle to hook up a 2nd timer to kill all power to my system so the battery lasts longer. That's because the antenna will continue to draw a very small bit of power from the battery even when it is not moving. Therefore, I setup my 2nd power as a shutoff timer to completely kill the power to my system (the 2nd timer provides 1 minute of power at sunrise &amp; 1 minute of power at sunset).</p>
Thanks for your reply. So, it sounds as though the motor is not damaged by being activated for longer than necessary to extend or retract -- since presumably your 1 minute is not exactly how much time is necessary, but rather at least as much time is necessary (and likely a little more). Can you confirm this?
Yes, that is true. <br><br>1. The antenna has a built in limit switch <br>2. Same as a car (it is powered the whole time the radio is playing).<br><br>

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Bio: I've always liked pulling things apart - it's the putting back together again that I have some issues with.
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