Simple Automatic Chicken Coop Door

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Introduction: Simple Automatic Chicken Coop Door

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

EDIT: It's been 4 years now since I built this Chicken Coop Door and it's still going strong! I have had to replace the battery a couple of times but this build has really worked well.

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) - eBay

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.

Green Electronics Challenge

Runner Up in the
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Fourth Prize in the
Gardening & Homesteading Contest

8 People Made This Project!

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132 Comments

0
Tommy1983
Tommy1983

6 years ago

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.

0
mouthpear
mouthpear

Reply 5 months ago

Well the best thing is NOT use an antenna but use a linear actuator. Save yourself all the hassle.

0
TamiePryor
TamiePryor

5 years ago

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.


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.

Thanks!

Tamie

0
mouthpear
mouthpear

Reply 5 months ago

How did it work out for you. I hope you did have tomuch trouble with this system. They are prone to malfunctions.

0
lonesoulsurfer
lonesoulsurfer

Reply 5 years ago

Hey Tamie,

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.

0
TamiePryor
TamiePryor

Reply 5 years ago

Great! Thank you. I'll start gathering the pieces. Wish me luck!

0
lonesoulsurfer
lonesoulsurfer

Reply 5 years ago

No problem. if you get stuck, let me know and i'll be happy to help.

0
PBR Street gang
PBR Street gang

4 years ago

could you just use this photocell switch in place of the timer ?

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B019BR5Y3U/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?smid=A1K0O9XEM4PWVI&psc=1

0
mouthpear
mouthpear

Reply 5 months ago

Did you ever get it working?

The trick to using photocells is to use two photocell modules. Set to the lowest sensitivity and a long delay time. This way both modules have to "agree" .
https://youtu.be/gNbgvKYlEBc

0
lonesoulsurfer
lonesoulsurfer

Reply 4 years ago

You should be able to use one of these. You have to be careful though as you can't control when the switch decides what "dark" is and might close the door before the chickens are in the coop.

0
KurtS9
KurtS9

Question 3 years ago on Step 2

I'm finding your tutorial really helpful. I intend to make one significant modification. I wish to use the same timer you are using to control two power antennas (operating two pop hole gates). I made sure the 12V power supply I'm using has enough amps to handle the double load. In your estimation, can you see any problem with how the antenna circuitry recieves its signal to open and close by having both antenna motors wired in parallel?

0
mouthpear
mouthpear

Answer 5 months ago

These antennas don't have a huge power draw.

0
JohnM1499
JohnM1499

Question 3 years ago

So what is the purpose of attaching the negative wire to the bottom side of the timer? (next to the Green wire) I'm pretty sure that is unneeded. With this timer, the top 2 wires power the timer. the bottom switches from contacting the middle with either side. Meaning with your wiring, the green wire will be contacted to either the red wire or the black wire, depending if the timer is on or off. Is there ever a need to contact the green wire to the black wire?

0
lonesoulsurfer
lonesoulsurfer

Answer 3 years ago

It's been so long now that I can't remember if it was needed or not! I'm sure I must of connected it for a reason but I do see your point. Best thing to do if you are thinking of making this is to just try and see what happens if you don't connect ground to the bottom of the timer. Either way it hasn't hurt to connect it. I'll be revisiting this 'ible soon as I'm looking to make this more modular. Plus there are a heap of good suggestions in the comments which I want to implement.

0
Introducing Rosies
Introducing Rosies

Question 3 years ago

Hey! I dont plan to do this because I have no hens around. Though just being curious, I am wondering if the whole system is secure. Let me explain better : I saw that it can open and close itself automatically but can it detect if any hen is under it? I bet they would run anyway and I am sure you guys keep an eye on this process but could the door close itself on any brave hen?

0
mouthpear
mouthpear

Answer 5 months ago

This one on this post can't detect anything. There are models that say it can by the resistance or change in the amps and that's what they claim to work. heard stories on it failing often. Ditch the antenna idea, and for safety use an $8 through beam sensor. There a few ways to make the circuit work where , the bean get boken and the safety feature gets trigged and the door will go back up them down, and all with a realy or a relay and diode.

0
mouthpear
mouthpear

5 months ago on Step 10

I wouldn't recommend using a
car power antenna to my worst enemy. Your implementation is "ok" but
using an antenna is just a bad idea. Drop all the mess a just use a Linear
Actuator.

Purpose:
Antenna: meant for catching radio waves.
Linear actuator: meant for opening and closing
things, also lifting things, also push pulling things

Mounting:
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: weak
LA: Strong


Strength:
A: bends easy and toothed plastic and gears strip easy.
LA: Again meant to hold up 250lbs at 900n (most commonly used for chicken doors.)


Speed:
A: fast and uncontrolled. Especially when mounted
vertically. If breaks door can come down on chicken. You said it yourself the
bolt broke.
LA: they move slowly.

Operation:
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.

Cost:
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 junk yard,
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.

0
CosC2
CosC2

3 years ago

Hi. Thanks very much for going to the effort of posting this great instructable. I copied yours 100% and it works great but I'm having the same issue of battery drain it works at night but by the morning it just doesn't have the power to lift the door left. I've purchased a second timer but have no idea how to incorporate it i.e the wiring side. I don't suppose you know of anywhere on the net I can find the wiring diagram for a second timer and setting it up would also be great. Thanks again

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0
lonesoulsurfer
lonesoulsurfer

Reply 2 years ago

Hey there. Check out the "Made this Project" above and you'll see that I posted a schematic which shows how to use 2 timers. I haven't done this myself as I don't have any issues but it should do the trick, You need to set the 2nd timer to turn the power off 5 minutes after the door has gone down and to turn on 5 minutes before the door goes up. Hope this helps