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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

<p>Will a 10amp Solar Panel be ok to use with this project?</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><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/ocRCSlM8-H0" width="500"></iframe></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>
<p>How would you go about hooking this up to grid power? Could you just use a 110v AC to 12v DC converter like this one. <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Schumacher-PC-6-120AC-Power-Converter/dp/B0012BL8LG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1444142136&sr=8-1&keywords=110v+ac+to+12v+dc+converter" rel="nofollow">http://www.amazon.com/Schumacher-PC-6-120AC-Power-...</a></p><p>That one outputs 6 amps DC, would that be too much for the parts you used??</p>
<p>I'm pretty sure you're OK if the amp is larger than the required device needs, just so long as the voltage matches. And this looks like the voltage (12v) does match. The motor only requires about 1amp, so it won't draw but 1amp. </p><p>I've always thought of it as: Volt Power is pushed and Amps are drawn. So, pushing too many volts can ruin your motor. And drawing too many amps from your power supply can ruin your power supply. </p>
Howdy,<br>Yep there would be no problem using that AC adpater. The battery I use is 7amps so 6 will be fine. I'd probably just use a 1 or 2 amp one though just to be safe.
<p>What is the power requirement for that programmable timer? Some milliamp value? I see it says 'Power consumption:7.5VA (MAX)' on the amazon page.</p><p>I wonder if just an external hard drive adapter would work like this - http://www.amazon.com/Wall-Adapter-Power-Supply-12VDC/dp/B006GEPUYA/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1444323242&amp;sr=8-4&amp;keywords=1+amp+ac+dc+adapter</p>
<p>Timer clock operates on self-contained batteries. </p><p>The switch will operate using 12 volts (might even operate on lower voltage, but mine is setup to run off a 12 volt battery).</p>
<p>I don't suppose you would consider building this (minus the door itself) and shipping it??? </p><p>This looks like a GREAT plan. I just have to get up my nerve to give it a go.</p>
Hey there,<br>It's a little tricky me building one as I don't know your set-up. I'm happy to help you if you get stuck anytime though. If you follow the ible' you shouldn't really have any issues. Check out the comments too as there are a heap of good ideas other members have contributed.
<p>Awesome instructable!!! Do you have a final schematic for the voltage meter and button? I look forward to constructing this soon!!!</p>
Howdy,<br>No problem - I have updated the original schematic and have included the switch.
<p>Great instructable. Here's my take on the design modified to fit a small coop with horizontal sliding door. It's quite neat and tidy. The solar panel will be fitted shortly to keep the battery charged.</p>
<p>Great design! Well done. </p><p>Did you run into any problems? How did you attach the antenna to the door?</p>
<p>To attach the antenna to the door, I first drilled through the metal 'knob' on the end of the antenna. This was hard going as it looks like it is stainless steel. A screw was then fitted through the hole into the new handle mounted on the left side of the door. I left the full size antenna in place even in this tight space - it sorts itself out opening and closing.</p><p>The other 'gotcha' was I initially mounted the antenna towards the bottom of the door, but the door kept jamming when moving. Re-mounting the antenna in the middle of the door fixed this.</p><p>The other thing I noticed was that the timer I bought (which looked identical to yours) had the power (+ &amp; -) and relay connections (NC &amp; NO) swapped over. Also, timer instructions were terrible and took a lot of trial and error to work out.</p><p>Overall, I'm pleased with the way it's come together. Thanks for the idea. :)</p>
Hello I was wondering what the demand on the power display/charge was with or without the small switch you have set up. What were the search details on the switch you have for ebay? Thanks
Hey there,<br>I believe it's about a 10-15mA draw so very minimal. If you really wanted to you could have the LED display on all of the time and it would hardly make a dint in the batteries power reserves
<p>Will this battery work and will it charge with the solar panel? </p><p><a href="http://www.homedepot.com/p/UPG-12-Volt-SLA-F1-Terminal-AGM-Battery-46015/204816565" rel="nofollow">http://www.homedepot.com/p/UPG-12-Volt-SLA-F1-Term...</a></p>
<p>Yep - you shouldn't have any issues with this battery.</p>
<p>I would like to integrate a photo cell, if that can be done. Does any one know how that can be done and how to wire it? Thanks in advance.</p>
<p>I just made mine today. I have no electrical background and I used everything you had with the exception of the voltage meter. I did modify my mounting and built it to be within its own cabinet. I need to mount on the outside of my coop to get the height. The cabinet then will be closed with a door to allow access from the outside (not shown in the photo, not attached yet). I also had a few odds and end bracket clamps and an old kids gate screw with the foot to attach to the door (door not attached). My husband had electrical wire extenders to allow more length to attach to the timer. My antenna wires were very short. The white board that I have the timer and regulator attached is removable to allow future modifications or maintenance. Thank you so much for the photos and ideas. My hens will not be much safer since I occasionally forget to close them up. Oh, also, when I need to override and open and close the door, I just cycle through with the manual button. Again, thank you.</p>

About This Instructable

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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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