Introduction: Dusk to Dawn - Automatic Chicken Coop Door
Now that I have retired with spare time on my hands, I thought I would tackle what has been an ongoing problem for me over the years – keeping my chooks safe at night from predators, namely foxes.
Seeing that they mostly attack at night, I set about making an automatic chook door that would close each evening and re-open the following morning at sunrise.
There are many D.I,Y automated door openers on the web, so here's yet another. Most of them use timers to do the job, so I am guessing they would need continual adjustment as we pass through the seasons, or the chooks remain locked up for a period of time in summer when there are more daylight hours.
There is about a four hour difference between summer and winter daylight hours where I live here in Brisbane Australia, so I set out wanting to use a photo-electric cell to do the time adjustments for me.
Step 1: My Three Most Common Pests/Preditors
As well as being bothered by Foxes, there was the odd carpet snake that would snack on my hens, and the ongoing problem in dealing with rats and mice.
All these predominantly show up after nightfall, so while I was fox proofing my coop, I thought I could also minimise the other two by replacing the wire mesh with a finer one to keep these out as well.
Step 2: Sourcing the Materials
I began by sourcing the materials that i needed from EBAY.
All the items above are not overly expensive. You can get them cheaper from China, however cracking to get started, I wasn't prepared to wait weeks for them to be shipped, so i paid a little extra and obtained them from local sellers. All up, it probably cost me around $50. 12V Car Aerial, 12V 5amp Computer laptop power supply, Dusk to dawn Photo-electric cell and a Delay relay switch. All the other components I had lying around in the shed and yard.
Step 3: Assemble Components
I'm relatively new to the Instructables web site, so don't have any details to show the assembly phase as I had already started on the project.
Anyhow, it's just basically banging a few boards together to make the frame. For the door assembly, I tried the vertical lift but found that it placed a fair load on the motor. I eventually settled on a horizontal slide using a draw slider (with ball bearings) mounted at the top to reduce friction. I recon if I had one at the bottom as well, it would clog up with dirt, sawdust and poop over time.
The distance the aerial travels needs to be adjusted to suit the distance the door has to travel between the open and closed position. I found this excellent article written by J Ballone on the net which describes in detail how to go about making the alteration - thanks JB.
Step 4: Testing Before Installing
OK, now for the big test before I go about installing this in my coop.
There is a few seconds delay before the door is activated after the photo-electric cell (PC) triggers.
Nightfall is simulated by covering up the PC.
The video above shows my door in action.
Step 5: Curses...Got a Problem.
Because my pen resides under many trees, I found the door was closing prematurely due to the heavy shade as nightfall approached. This was locking my chooks out of their coop before they had headed off to roost for the night.
So what I did was to install a delay relay switch to postpone the closing of the pen door by about 30 minutes.
The way the aerial works is as follows:-
With just the black and red wire connected to the power source, the aerial is in the retracted position, which means the door to my pen is open. For the aerial to extend and close my door, there needs to be power supplied to the green wire.
In the attached video, I have wired up the relay to delay for about seven seconds ( for demonstration purposes) before allowing power to the light - The light representing my aerial once I have incorporated the relay into my wiring.
With this particular relay module, the delay period can be extended to up to one hour by reconfiguring the jumper switches and adjusting the potentiometer as described further on in the following step..
The green LED will light up for the duration of the trigger time that has been set (7 seconds).
The light now switches on and will remain on (meaning my door will remain closed) until the photo-electric cell triggers again the following morning.
Step 6: Configuring the Delay Relay Timer
Here's a description on how to configure the jumper pins to set the delay for the desired time.
Step 7: Wiring Up Components
OK, so here is the complete wiring diagram on how I configured my setup. You could of course use a 12V battery, but i found that it required charging every 3-4 days which would be a pain in the butt for me. A solar charger was also out of the question due to shade, so i went with running mains voltage out to the pen.
I'm a complete dummy when it comes to wiring up and understanding electrical circuits. The photo-electric cell (PC) and delay relay came with no instructions what soever. I have only basic school boy knowledge, and could not find anywhere, a decent instruction on how to wire up the relay with the PC. So after a fair bit of trial and error I was able to put something together and finally came up with the following solution. Hopefully this will help others like me who are also not electrically minded.
Step 8: Other Enhancements
After installing and having it running for a while, I thought it would be handy to have an override switch on the door so as I could manually close the door during the day if needed. Certainly helps when trying to catch the little blighters.
The switch I used is a SPDT type, which allows the current to flow in only one of two directions, but not both at the same time - i.e. Current to flow to the aerial either via the PC and relay, OR directly from the power source.
You need this type of switch to isolate the relay from receiving a current backflow into the output end of the device as it sends the device into a panic attack.
Above is the switch and the wiring if you are interested in adding this. The switch cover is just a cut out plastic bottle to protect it from the elements.
As the old saying goes "you get what you pay for" and seeing as the Photoelectric Cell only set me back a few dollars, i wasn't sure of its robustness, so I enclosed it in a jam jar to protect from the weather, dirt and insects.
Happy chook keeping.
2 years ago
That is really cool, I like the use of the car antenna. I also built a chicken door also but used an electric window from a car, and a remote control, and haven't lost any chickens since. https://www.instructables.com/id/Robot-Chicken-Doo...
If it ever breaks down I will be replacing it with your version.
Reply 2 years ago
I'm in the process of building a second automatic door for another pen, and I've discovered that they have changed the mechanism to an electronic one, so you can't easily alter the distance the door travels....bummer. I've got my new door running the full length of the aerial (about 1.2m) with the door at the fully extended end. Something to be aware of. Other than that, all good. I hadn't seen your instructable before, but like your version as well.
Guillotined any chooks lately?
I've had problems with foxes and carpet snakes in the past, but like you haven't had a problem since. Keep well mate..and hope you get that virus under control.
Reply 7 months ago
"so you can't easily alter the distance the door travels....bummer." Yes you can. Just add limit switches.
Question 2 years ago on Step 4
Hi can your system can use a linear actuator insteed of car erial,thank you
Answer 7 months ago
You are WAY better off using a Linear Actuator then a vehicle antenna. Cheapest I found these antennas are $16, and that was a few hours of searching. Cheapest LA I found was $25 Same amount of time. Fast search of antenna they sell for $35 - $150. Past search fo LA $40 - $500.
Save yourself the time money and effort it takes using an antenna and use two SPDT timers or Photocell modules and a LA.
Answer 2 years ago
Don't see why not. I used a car aerial because it was cheaper
7 months ago
I wouldn't recommend using a car power antenna to my worst enemy. Your implementation is NICE and I love that you used a ball bearing drawer slide (it would be have been better flat to wall, it is much stronger that way.) but using an antenna is just a bad idea. Drop all the mess a just use a Linear Actuator.
Antenna: meant for catching radio waves.
Linear actuator: meant for opening and closing things, also lifting things, also push pulling things
A: meant to mount in car. Awkward shape makes mounting a chore.
LA: meant to be mounted in MANY different places, comes with mounting brackets and in different styles. Mounting is a no brainer and easy.
Strength against predators:
A: bends easy and toothed plastic and gears strip easy.
LA: Again meant to hold up 250 lbs at 900n (most commonly used for chicken doors.)
A: fast and uncontrolled. Especially when mounted vertically. If breaks door can come down on chicken. Here I am very glad you mounted it horizontally.
LA: they move slowly.
A: As easy as it is to install in car, the wiring is simply overly complex for most people. Constant drain on battery no matter if open or closed.
LA: Once the TWO wires are connected and control is installed once up/down it stays there and power can be turned off.
LA: Stays at any position when off.
A: $29 is most often cheapest I see them sold for.
LA: Seen and bought many at $30 and under. Most of the time the sell from $35 to $40. So why not spend the extra 10 for a part that is 100 times better.
It makes no sense to me why a person would use
this idea. Unless they had all the parts already form working at a junkyard, and it was all free, then I still would recommend not using them.
One last thing. People sometimes say that Linear actuators are dangerous, but I only see that when someone is trying to sell the idea of an antenna being a "good" idea. I never heard of a chicken being harmed from a linear actuator, yet antenna people, (again) trying to sell the idea of the antenna, bring it up and or is get brought up in the comments but never an actual account of it happening.
In closing this is not to demean the poster. Just so that others can have a good hard think on doing this. So many reasons not to do this and really, none for it.
Even tho I severily dislike antanna operated door, I like your setup very much.
3 years ago
I was told that the fox is often hunting early mornings when it is already plenty of light. Therefore, the opening in the morning should be set later, e.g. after 9.00 hr. Perhaps you should adapt your system for that?
Reply 3 years ago
That hasn't been a problem to date.
I've only ever seen a fox once in daylight hours in the 30 odd years I've been living here, but yes, something i couild implement if it became a problem.
4 years ago
Nice system. I am definitely going to remember this when I eventually get my chicken coop setup.