Instructables
Picture of Simple Automatic Chicken Coop Door
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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

 
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rnewton67 days ago
I've had no success with the timer, I'm on my fourth, the switching is either freezing the circuitry or the relay, even with spark suppressor and diodes I've soldered inside.

Any ideas?
lonesoulsurfer (author)  rnewton66 days ago

man - sorry to hear. Are you using the same timer as me?

Is the battery 12V? I don't believe it matters how many amps it is (I have used a 40a and 7.5a and they both work)

Have you tried to just use a battery and antenna without the timer? Does it work like that? The antenna should go up and down fine when it is wired up correctly to the battery.

The only thing I can think of is it might be the antenna if you are using a 12v battery.

Let me know how you go with just the battery and antenna.

Yeah it's a definite pain in the arse! Luckily Betty is fine, it actually stops and it's not so powerful, the only problem is you cannot push it back so easily.

All the purchases of timers were all from different suppliers, most of them put cheep relays inside and wasn't rated 16amps, I also used diodes eventually which saved the relays from freezing. The problem lies I think with it all being on a shared negative / load carrying earth sorta speak, and blowing components further up the chain.

I've gone for the option of putting in an independent relay again like the PIR has. By operating the coil side of the relay from a dusk to dawn photo cell, hopefully this should work.

At present the birds don't get out of their run/coop so if Mr fox is here on those bright 4am summer days they are still safe in their run. Hence the use of the timer. However. I do have a free replacement on the way, maybe I'll try operating another independent relay from the timer, keeping the complete timer setup away from switching any kind of load and only activating the coil.

Thanks for the replies.
That works fine without the timer, I have the connections in a temporary terminal box and have to connect the wires manually until I sort the problem, it's a shame really as when it works it's great, I just think when switching the surge is doing something (my antenna is slightly different to yours in the picture but still low Amps etc) initially it was the timers internal relay blowing so I started soldering new relays inside, but the something else within the timer is now shorting and draining the battery. The relays are fine and the timer digital board works fine, it just isn't switching the load with the manual button. (It's the same timer as yours).

I now have 3 timers, maybe I can make a good one, then I will add an additional separate relay and only use the timer to switch the coil of the additional relay, that way I'm only switching the load. Unless you have more ideas, I'm ok with relay logic and wiring but when it comes to the tiny components it's beyond me. (I recon Cnc machines so have some idea ;) ).

I did have a few problems with the chickens when they were chicks, they didn't perch and used to settle in the doorway, I had to add some safety features as big Betty got her head stuck in the closing door, (don't worry it was only for a few minutes as we used to watch them in ever night.) I installed an additional relay, the switch side reversed the motor and the coil was energised by an external 12v alarm PIR, works great, it's only activated when the door is closed, also added an led so I can see from the house if the doors closed at night.

Thanks for your reply mate, much appreciated. Shame I can't seem to add photos on the iPad.
lonesoulsurfer (author)  rnewton64 days ago

What a pain in the arse! The only other thing that I can suggest is to try a different timer. I didn't have any issues with mine (still going strong), maybe it is a faulty batch that the supplier is sending?

Poor Betty :) I hopefully shouldn't have any problems with the door closing on one of the girls. it doesn't go down until its dark and by then their roosting in their nest box. If one of them did get caught though it wouldn't last too long; the door has some force behind it.

Congratulations for the very interesting and useful idea! I have just one doubt.

Is there the possibility that a fox is able to lift the door when it is closed?

It seems that there isn't a safety closure, isn't it?

What about your experience?

lonesoulsurfer (author)  lucio.narducci5 days ago

Nope - once the antenna is down it is held in place by the motor. You can lift it up but it takes some effort and there is no way a fox (or for that matter a dog) could lift it up. It's pretty much like a lock on the door.

Thanks! :) Next days I will try to make this project :)

jdfearl2 months ago

Since the antenna does not fully retract does it stay powered constanly or does it damage it?

lonesoulsurfer (author)  jdfearl2 months ago

Hey there,

Nope there is no issue with the antenna not fully extending. The motor will run through it's cycle and then stop. I've had it running everyday for nearly 6 months and it's still going strong. There pretty hardy things.

Congrats Mate :), Lot of glare in my eyes due to those two shinning medals on top :D

lonesoulsurfer (author)  Tarun Upadhyaya3 months ago

Thanks Tarun. right back at you!

lonesoulsurfer (author) 3 months ago

Thank to everyone who voted - means a lot!

Dorishen3 months ago

you are technical ,do you now how I get a small toy sailboat to go ,with motion detection ,? ,☺

Dorishen3 months ago

you are teknikal do you now houw I get a smaltoy boot to work ,by mosion ditektion ,

rnewton63 months ago
Sorry I have now seen he step on why you used it, I missed it as I have just been scanning the web for ideas, I did design a circuit with relay logic latching and limit switches, but having all this in an antenna motor just seems to cut out the hastle. Good post thanks!
rnewton63 months ago
What did you use the voltage meter for and switch?
dpruett3 months ago

I've lurked on Instructables for a long time, and I've seen a lot of cool projects I thought I might build but never have - this will finally be the one. Excellent job!

First off, let me say this definitely goes into my 'Why Didn't I Think of That" collection!

Adapting the antenna mechanism is a great idea - thanks for taking the time to share it here.

"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."

I've not owned a car with an automatic antenna, but have driven several over the years. My recollection is that, when you turned the ignition key off, the antenna would retract. I suppose this could be a function of a relay or other controller in the circuit so that the antenna is always powered, but that flies in the face of conventional wisdom. After all once in the retracted position, what need would there be for powering the device - it's at rest.

Now, I have dismantled one of these (just one - no idea which one or the vehicle it had been designed for) and it contained a flexible nylon (appearing, again no certain knowledge as to the composition of the 'plastic' part referenced here) part that appeared to be wound up (drawing the metal antenna mast down) and unwound (raising the antenna) by reversing the polarity to the motor inside that 'can' part of the device.

I mention this as the mast itself my be superfluous in this application - although there is something to be said for the protection it affords by sheathing the nylon 'rope' bit.

As to the power issue, are you saying that, the antenna you used came in the fully extended position and only retracted after you applied power to it? I ask as those sold in stores are retracted in the packages and certainly are not connected to a power source at that time.

Do you maintain that, if you were to disconnect the battery (in the test schematic) that the antenna you have would extend? (or retract) immediately upon losing power?

I am not attempting to be a wise-guy here, just trying to clarify your statement as quoted first above.

Not withstanding your several months of successful operation, my experience with confined poultry suggests that any such mechanism be covered to the extent possible - My thought was that all the parts that you needed to watch be mounted so as to be visible from outside the coop and those parts necessarily inside should be completely covered/protected from the machinations of your flock with only a small opening (hole) for the antenna mast to travel through as it performs the task assigned.

In my part of the world, the days are not of a uniform length throughout the year and my hens follow the sun as opposed to the clock in the coop. This would seem to call for a light-activated switching mechanism as opposed to a timer (and, as has been suggested, a buzzer) though the timer could be used as a 'fail safe' I suppose.

Nice instructable. By the way, how come you folks don't fall up?

lonesoulsurfer (author)  charlessenf-gm3 months ago

Initially I thought the antenna would retract when the power is off but they don't work like this. They need a constant supply of electricity to extend or retract.

Definitely agree which chickens being messy little beasts! I've tried to make sure that the antenna is as high as possible and out of the way from where the chickens roost etc.

What do you mean by "fall up"?

"What do you mean by "fall up"?"

Well, I got from your links to ebay.au that you were down under.

I think I understand what you meant by "They need a constant supply of electricity to extend or retract.,"

You mean that, ti extend or retract the antenna mast, one must provide power to the device. Such an arrangement does not require a 'constant' connection to a power source, only as, if and when you want to move the mast up or down.

I went to a junk yard this afternoon and found a Honda with an intact (appearing) motorized antenna - but could not get at it as the trunk was locked and the back seat was also locked! They are going to drill out the locks and remove the back seat - then I'll get a shot at it and can ask it the questions directly!

(;harles

I know someone who's done something quite Similar to this, hat he added was a little alarm or beep that goes off about a minute before the door closes for the night, it didn't take very long for his chickens to learn that beep meant they had to head back in for the night.

billbillt4 months ago

great... got my vote...

ndunn34 months ago
Well I'm definately going to give it go my surfer dude:).xx
ndunn34 months ago
Well I'm definately going to give it go my surfer dude:).xx
halo-nine4 months ago

I notice in your wiring diagram that you have a live cable going from the battery to the timer and the antenna, shouldn't this be a switched live (to the a antenna) from the timer output? otherwise surely the antenna will run all the time?

lonesoulsurfer (author)  halo-nine4 months ago

Good spot! The antenna actually needs constant power for it to work. I did try and wire it up so it wasn't always drawing power but they just don't work like that. .

I might have a different antenna (or maybe it is how yours works as well).
It doesnt need power most of the time, only when it is moving. I switch on the + and the switched wire for it to go up. if i then switch off power it stays up. To go down I apply power again to the antenna but now connect the switch wire to ground.
I realise that is a bit hard to do with just one timer, but I use a microcontroller. I had thought about supplying continuous power but I found it still draws quite a lot of current in 'idle'
I fully agree though that yr design is very simple. My Solar panel is a bit smaller though and I couldnt afford losing 100mA 24/7. Apparently car designers dont think much of a few 100 mA more or less
Originally I had set out to use a regular actuator, but when I came across the Antenna I decided to use that

lonesoulsurfer (author)  diy_bloke4 months ago

Howdy,

From my understanding you need a constant "hot" wire to the antenna so the relay can work correctly. I'm probably totally wrong on this though!

My solar panel seems to be doing a pretty good job at keeping the battery charged. It's late Autumn in Australia and the battery/solar panel set-up is keeping the battery fully charged.

The antenna idea is such a good one! Whoever came up with it really can think outside the square.

ArduinoGuido4 months ago

This is actually a great idea and I do agree with you that it is indeed simple, which to me, is its biggest strength. I see so many projects that are needlessly complicated often just to show how smart the builder is. To me, doing something reliably and simply is the true strength of the engineering mind.

ndunn34 months ago
I love ur chicken coop...btw is it wrong to say I think ur pretty cute as well :).xx
lonesoulsurfer (author)  ndunn34 months ago

You know all complements are welcome ; )

wether u are cute I wouldnt know, but u are right, a compliment is always welcome and a bit of flirting is just social lubrication. Well done ndunn3

metalsmith2224 months ago
That is not simple. My grandpa made one that did the same thing with an alarm clock and a piece of string. Set the alarm wrap the string around the winder on the back attach the string to the door Alarm goes off string unwinds door closes. Done
lonesoulsurfer (author)  metalsmith2224 months ago

Yeah I've seen this idea before as well. Problem is getting the door to open each morning!

If you take a look at other builds on the net, you'll see that most are quite complicated. So, relatively speaking - this is a simple build that anyone can build. I have this running now for 3 months and it hasn't faulted once.