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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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Firefighter1710 hours ago
What kind/size battery did you use?
just read what you posted in the comment area about what type of battery you used. I'm using the 7ah battery as well can I use more ah than that
lonesoulsurfer (author)  Firefighter1722 minutes ago
Yep don't see any issue with using a stronger battery. The anntena's are used on cards and the amerage on a car battery is definietly higher. I only used a 7ah so the solar panel would charge the battery.
jdugmore24 days ago

I'm a bit confused on the wiring. In the drawing of the wiring schematics, there isn't a terminal block. Later on you have the block added to the back, and I'm trying to figure out what you did. Do you have another drawing with the entire breakdown?

lonesoulsurfer (author)  jdugmore18 days ago

The terminal is there just to make life a little easier. You don't have to use it if you don't want to. If you look at the schematic, you can see that there are 2 lots of wire joining to the battery, one from the antenna and one from the timer. Using a terminal means you can join all these wires together.

KSpoon1 made it!26 days ago
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?
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lonesoulsurfer (author)  KSpoon126 days ago
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.
How are you powering your antenna?

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?

lonesoulsurfer (author)  KSpoon125 days ago

I don't think that would work. The "signal" 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.

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.
lonesoulsurfer (author)  KSpoon125 days ago

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.

Let me know how you go.

klennquist10 months ago
How heavy can the antenna lift? What size and thickness did your door measure? Have all the parts now except that i plan for using 230v through an led driver tranformer... thanks for your inspiring creativity!

To lighten the load, you might consider adding a counterweight to your door.

Or use a piece of aluminum or plexiglass.

Or put your door on some drawer slides. The drawer slides will add weight, but might reduce friction enough so it's easier for the antenna to move the door?

lonesoulsurfer (author)  klennquist10 months ago

Hey there,

The antenna's are geared so they should be able to lift a substantial weight. To ensure that the gears last though I would use as light possible material for the door. I used some ply wood, but a sheet of aluminium or thin steel would also be ok.

Good luck.

bcline9094 months ago

Great instructions! I don't have much vertical space above where I plan to install the coop door. Do you think this would work for the door to slide horizontally, or would it rub too much on the bottom C channel?

lonesoulsurfer (author)  bcline9093 months ago

Hey there,

i don;t think you'd have any issues with the door sliding horizontally. The antenna will have enough force to easily push the door horizontally. You could add a smaller piece of "C: section to the bottom of the door so it slides easily.

Cool, thanks for the advice!
i would be concerned with bedding getting into the bottom track, you could look at maybe using drawer slides and mounting them near the top of the door. maybe even doubling them up. just a thought.
debra.grovermoore made it!4 months ago

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.

image.jpgimage.jpgimage.jpg
lonesoulsurfer (author)  debra.grovermoore4 months ago

That's Awesome! It's good to see that you were able to use the info in the ible' to make it successfully. Means it makes at least some sense :)

How did you attach the bolt to the end of the antenna? Looks like you have a secure connection. I have had to re-do mine recently as the solder point become weak and broke off. I've done away with the solder altogether now and have drilled a hole into the actual bolt that goes onto the end of the antenna.

it is two flat pieces of metal with a hole in the center. I sandwich the antenna between them and run the bolt through. Tighten. It has come out twice but if I epoxy it between the metal pieces, it would not come out. The only thing that happened was they didn't get to run around that day. Sorry for the late reply.

I meant....NOW will be safer

branden05024 months ago
thanks for the plans it's looks great. what is the amp rating on the battery you went with. I see mostly 7-8 and a few 18s. just curious on what you used. thanks
lonesoulsurfer (author)  branden05024 months ago

Anytime.

The battery is a 12v Century SLA battery which runs on 7ah

Hi there, great project, one which I'm starting at the weekend. Do you have the final wiring schematics including the voltage meter and push button. Sorry to ask such a basic question but I'm new to these things :) Thanks in advance.

Great project. I am starting my project this weekend, first the coop then the door. Do you have the final schematics including the wiring for the voltage meter and the button. Apologies if this is a daft question but I'm certainly no expert at things like this but certainly want to give it a try. Cheers.

nahidd18 months ago

i dont know how I get a small toy sailboat to go ,with motion detection can you help me ?http://otomatikkapifirmasi.com

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DavidP198 months ago

After 6 months, I finally collected all the components to make this project. The final piece was the automatic antenna, which I picked up today at a salvage yard.

When I got home & connected the antenna to the battery to test it, only the first segment of the mast would extend and retract. If I disconnect and reconnect the battery, I can hear what sounds like a relay clicking on the antenna.

I tried carefully pulling the mast out by hand, and again, the first section extends easily, but the second section will only extend a few inches and I can't pull it out any further without risking destroying the gears.

When I hooked it back up to the battery to retract, it would still only retract that first section & left the second section extended a few inches.

I don't know if it makes a difference, but the battery is a sealed 12v lead-acid battery like the kind they use in kids ride-on toys.

Maybe the battery doesn't have enough amps? Maybe the antenna spent too much time in the salvage yard? (Although it looks almost new.)

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

DavidP19 DavidP198 months ago

UPDATE: I checked the antenna with a new car battery, and the result was the same - it extends about 8 inches and then stops, with the relay clicking. I'm guessing the mast is gunked up from lack of use, or it's just not good any more.

lonesoulsurfer (author)  DavidP198 months ago

Must be your antenna. I could use a 9v battery to make mine go up and down (albeit slowly!)

darren13139 months ago
Whitesnake11 months 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)  Whitesnake11 months 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.

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)  Whitesnake10 months ago

Hey there,

Did you manage to get your timer to work?

yes thanks I got it done in the end. I used a dusk till dawn photo cell with an average n delay timer to I can delay the closing. Works fine.

Had to put a larger solar panel on, the 10w didn't keep the battery topped up in these now shorter winter days.

correction..... An ON DELAY TIMER.

lonesoulsurfer (author)  Whitesnake10 months ago

Hey there,

Did you manage to get your timer to work?

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