Automatic Chicken Coop Door

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Rest In Peace Grey Chicken

I’ve been wanting to design an automatic chicken coop door closer for years.   There are plenty of other systems out there that automatically open and close the coop door, but they are expensive and, well, not designed by me!  ;-)

Basically my idea is to create a simple system that is a “safety net” in case we don’t remember to lock our girls in at night.  I have no problems letting the girls out in the morning, but I want to ensure they are closed up safe in the evening.   I learned my lesson the hard way one night when I got home late from a party and a coon had killed my favorite hen. 

Some have commented “What if all the girls don’t get in the coop in time, or get caught in the guillotine door as it closes?”   My response: I don’t think I’ve ever found my girls outside of the coop when it is dark.   For my auto coop door I’d set the timer to go off an hour after dark to ensure they are all in.  Remember, my design is more of a fail-safe than a system to 100% rely on, I don’t know if any auto system is.

I’m always worried that I’ll forget to lock up the girls, this auto close system at least give me some insurance just in case we forget.   If it works really well then you only need to check in occasionally to verify the girls are always getting in and that the door is closing properly and at the right time.

In my opinion, I’d rather risk loosing one hen that didn’t get into the coop in time instead of loosing all my girls because I forgot to lock them up.

The Design:

My first auto coop door design called for an electromagnet holding the door open.  At night I’d cut the power and the door would fall.  I found problems very quickly with this design, mostly heat, energy loss, etc.   I then moved to a different electromagnet, a type of “pull solenoid” to pull a pin to release the door.   There were problems with that design too, it required too much power to move a solenoid strong enough to pull a pin.

So far, the best thing I’ve played with is a car lock actuator I bought on ebay ($11 shipped for two).   My basic design is simple,  I’m thinking about using only three parts:

  1. A $5 wall adapter
  2. A $5 lamp timer
  3. A $5 car lock actuator

Below is a sketch of the design.   Here is how it works:

At night the timer hits the pre-set “on” time and sends power through the adapter and turns on the actuator
The actuator pulls a pin which releases the coop door
The door falls and covers up the coop access
The “door latch” (in red) is an “L” shaped piece of metal with a pin in the top which allows it to swing.  Once the door passes the bottom of the latch it swings to the right (gravity wants to center the metal) and the latch locks the door into place.

In the morning I simply move the latch to the left, raise the door, and hook the pin.

Automatic Chicken Coop Door

My biggest problem with this design is this:

The shortest amount of time I can set on this type of timer is 30 minutes.  This would mean the actuator would be trying to “run” for the whole 30 minutes and would probably burn out the tiny geared motor.  The resolutions to this could be:

  • A digital lamp timer that allows you to set much smaller increments of time.  I think as low as 1 minute of “on”.
  • Create a switch activated by the door, so either it powers the actuator when the door is up, or cuts power to the actuator when it falls.

I should also mention that my situation is a bit different than most because my girls have a small run they can access during the day.  The coop door I’ll be opening is actually the door that goes from this small chicken run out to the open backyard.  Opening the door to “the great outside” is the one I want to automatically close.

So, what do you think of this design?  What would you add or change?   I’d love some feedback, especially from the engineering / tinkering types that read this website!!!

Update, 5/7/06:   Alison sent me some great pics of her simple but effective technique (click for larger)
Automatic chicken coop door

Update 10/27/08: I Finally have a prototype!!!  Automatic Chicken Coop Door Closer

Comments

84 Responses to “Automatic Chicken Coop Door”
  1. Bob says:

    Hey all,
    My automatic door is working.
    Check out the description here http://www.nifty-stuff.com/auto-coop-door-ii-antenna.php

  2. Nigel NZ says:

    Hi everyone.
    I have been reading all the suggestions, ideas and other input with great interest. I have been building my BYC coop for some months now and ‘D’ day is less than two weeks away. My last task is to automate the coop hen door and so all the ideas have been very helpful. I started out making it an up-down sliding hatch, but I have now changed that to a flap, hinged at the bottom. At this stage I plan to use the hen operated opener as designed by Matt, which I think is brilliant. (para. 38 dated 28 Aug. 2008). Closing it is not so critical, but I think I might use the water timer and fishing line pulley system to do that. If I put a slow drain from the bucket to the hens’ water supply container, the bucket will empty ready for the next day’s cycle. I already have a watering timer operating, so it only needs a feed to a dripper in the bucket. The drippers can be adjusted fairly accurately.
    Once again thanks to everyone for their contributions. I will follow this up when I have everything operating.

  3. Ken says:

    I built a chicken door opener and closer using a garage door opener. I’m a techno nut and incorporated magnetic limit switches, photo sensor, and timer. The whole scheme opens the door after a pre-set time in the morning when it is light and won’t allow the door to shut until dusk after a preset time. The logic will pulse the door to the correct position if power fails and the door actuates. A simpler set-up can be had using a garage door opener with just a digital timer (~$12) and a simple relay (~$6), but you need to check it daily to verify proper position.

  4. Hank says:

    Ken from March 21: please publish your plan. How hard is it to set up your idea? Also, if the coop is enclosed, why have a door to the roost?

  5. I agree with Hank, Ken could you give us some more details?
    Great article with some brilliant comments, thanks for sharing
    Stevie

  6. Rich Harding says:

    I lived in a small Colorado town but couldn’t keep chickens. I owned 2 acres of land 10 miles from town where I wanted to keep a small flock but couldn’t travel there twice a day to open and close a coop.

    So, I built a small coop for my 6 hens out on the land and then designed a solar circuit with a battery, small dc motor etc. The solar cell detected daylight and automatically raised the coop door. When the sun went down (the hens cooped up before then) the motor reversed and the door went down for the night. It worked great and even without a latch on the bottom, no predators got in.

    I you or anyone wants the circuit with a parts list just email me.

  7. John Taylor says:

    Rich Harding:

    I would love to get the plans/diagrams/photos with parts list.

    Please email me direct if you can as I don’t know how this list serve works.

    johnrtaylor474 (at) yahoo.com

    Thanks

    John

  8. Andy Hawe says:

    Rich Harding:

    I would also love to get the plans/diagrams/photos with parts list.

    Thanks

    Andy

  9. Rich Harding says:

    Andy Hawe Says:

    September 8th, 2009 at 12:47 am
    Rich Harding:

    I would also love to get the plans/diagrams/photos with parts list.

    Thanks

    Andy

    Send your email address to me and I’ll send some information;

    RTGJHCO (at) GMAIL.COM (lower case of course)

  10. Brett says:

    Rich,

    Have sent you an email.

    I’d looked at the VSBi system but at £100 it’s just too expensive for me. I lost 4 hens earlier this year and have spent a considerable amount of time trying to find a solution to opening & closing the door automatically.

    My Father-in-Law sugested a car eletric window system from a scrap yard, but I’m not techinically minded enough to tell the motors to stop when the door’s open/closed and then start the other way round with a light sensor.

    Great work everyone here

  11. Rob says:

    Two days ago my wife and I got back late from a fun time with some friends. I was remarking to her how wonderful it has been to have the auto closer and how it has probably saved our hen’s live 20 times over the past 14 months!

    Ironically enough, I went outside this AM to let the girls out and the coop door was still in the up position. Not a chicken to be found! My heart started racing like CRAZY. I opened up the coop and there were no signs of struggle, no feathers strewn about (usually what we see when the coons get to our flock)… nothing! Just then, one chicken popped around the corner… then another, then the rest. PHEW!!!

    We got lucky! I did a closer inspection of the closer. I first suspected that the pin got hung up / stuck on the ring again, but ever since I oiled / WD-40’d it, it hasn’t been a problem, and sure didn’t seem to be the issue this time. I was puzzled… well, until I saw one of my wire leads dangling from my contraption.

    I’ve been using alligator clips and quick connectors this whole time. They (like the 6 year old coop) were suppose to be temporary until I got the kinks worked out, but like many other things in my busy life, I tend not to fix it if it ain’t broke.

    So, on my todo list is to get rid of as many fail points in the wiring as possible with a bit of soldering and permanent connections.

    I’m so glad the coons weren’t on the hunt in our yard last night… we got really lucky!

    Of course, I stick to my previous statements that while there are potential points of failure in a system like this, either mechanical or false sense of security, it is still better than the alternative: my family trying to always be home and always remember to lock up the girls at night without fail.

  12. mandy mac says:

    Rich Harding
    WOULD YOU PLEASE SEND ME THE PLANDS FOR THE AUTO DOOR OPENENER
    or anybody else who has the instructions i have lost 2 hens and realy need this please
    my address is macmandy69@hotmail.com

  13. Erica says:

    Rish,
    could you please send me those plan too?
    ELaFountain(at)bphc(dot)org

  14. Eliot says:

    I made one of these many years ago using the clutch from a washing machine to pull the pin. I ran the electricity through a standard wall light switch. I then drilled a small hole in the toggle and ran the string from the clutch through the hole in the toggle and then to the pin… Then you just tie a knot just on the other side of the toggle. I used a gate hook and eye as the pin mechanism. When the timer went off, it engaged the clutch which yanked the pin out and also turned off the switch at the same time. The clutch was nice because it was absolutely no nonsense and ran on direct current. In the morning you just reset the the toggle and pin. I can’t remember if the clutch popped back out when the electricity shut off or I had to pull it out… It was many years ago.

    Anyway, the thing ran flawlessly for about ten years and the only problems were when the power got shut off for some reason. Instead of having a guillotine type door, I used the regular door and put a pulley with weights on it. Then any latch will work. The guillotine design looks nice if you have the room above the entry. I suppose as along as you were at it, you could just reverse the process for the door opener. You’d have a second clutch with weights and pulleys and it would pull the door back up.

  15. Brett says:

    I’ve got a schematic for the circuit below, which should help those wanting a 12v DC motor based circuit. This wasn’t designed by me, but found in another forum http://www.electronic-circuits-diagrams.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3520&highlight=chicken+coop

    I expect you could add a timer, light sensitive circuit and manual overide. if anyone wants the schematic diagram let me know as I don’t seem able to post a picture.

    “The motor is switched by two single pole change-over relays in an �H� arrangement. Normally, the two ends of the motor are connected to 0V. When one of other of the relays is energised, the motor will turn one way or the other.

    IC1 is a 555 timer wired in a bistable mode circuit. When IC1 is triggered, it switches on REL1. It is triggered �on� by taking TR to 0V, and reset to �off� by taking RES to 0V. When TR and RES are both at 12V, the IC stays in its last commanded state. IC2 is wired in an identical circuit.

    This is how it operates. Assume the arm is at the top. The limit switch S4 was closed when the arm hit the top stop. The time switch has just put 12V on to the supply rails and the 555s are powered up.

    The capacitors C1 will hold the TR pins low for a split second and IC1 will be triggered on. The same would apply to IC2, but it cannot be triggered on because S4 is closed, keeping it in its reset mode. REL 1 energises and S1 changes over and puts 12V on the LH side of the motor while S2 stays unchanged, so the RH side of the motor remains connected to 0V. The motor starts to run, taking the arm down. The limit switch S4 opens up but IC2 can�t trigger on because C1 has charged up via R1 to 12V, so TR is no longer at 0V.

    The motor will continue to run until the arm is at the bottom. Then S3 will close and reset IC1. REL1 will de-energise, S1 will change over, and the motor will stop. There it will remain until the timer ends and the 12V supply to the 555s is disconnected.

    Next time the timer comes on it will be IC2 that is triggered (IC1 cannot trigger because S3 is closed). REL2 energises and S2 changes over, turning the motor in the opposite direction. The arm will rise until the top limit switch, S4, closes and resets IC2. Then it will stop, ready for the next timed period. So now we are back at square one.”

  16. Jon says:

    Brett, do you have that schematic? It didn’t come up on the linked site. I’m working on a similar circuit, and it would be a nice reference…

    Thanks!

  17. Doyle says:

    Have had chickens for about 10 years but it was only 3 years ago that I finally came across a automatic garage door opener with remote (it was a gift from a friend). The travel limit screws worked wonderfully to set the 16 inches of travel the up/down coop door needs to move. Mounted the garage door opener vertically above the coop door and used the rest of the drive chain as a counter balance to the weight of the door (actually added 2 lbs of steel to the door to give the motor something to pull, and to give the door weight to go down). Works wonderfully, but I still have to push the button on the remote. I am looking for some kind of “pulse timer” that I can set for an up time and a door down time. Any suggestions? . . . and if you are into hummingbirds you can check out my wearable hummingbird feeder (watch the movies) website is http://heatstick.com/ and contact info is at the bottom of the home page. Thanks for any help.

  18. Cheg C. says:

    Hi Brett, do you have that schematic? It didn’t come up on the linked site.

    Many thanks

    chegchester@yahoo.co.uk

  19. Brett says:

    Sorry guys, don’t have the schematic on this PC at the moment. I think I put it on the one back home, so will look for it this evening.
    In the meantime, the guys at REUK seem to have some useful circuits and ideas. I may use the timer couple with the circuit I mentioned before.

    http://www.reuk.co.uk/Automatic-Hen-House-Door-Closer-Opener.htm

    http://www.reuk.co.uk/Convert-Digital-Mains-Timer-To-Low-Voltage.htm

    I’m still working on my door opener idea. I now think I might use and old cordless drill to spin some threaded rod. the door could be attached to this by some threaded nuts and sit on drawer type rollers. This way, when the drill spins the rod in one direction it can pull the door open, then push it closed.
    I think this might be more reliable than the winch type arrangement, but will have to try it first.

  20. Brett says:

    You should now be able to see the schematic here

    http://www.electronic-circuits-diagrams.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3520&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0

    I’ve also asked the designer to modify it for me to suit my ideas. I’ll post when I have a reply.

  21. clare stiles says:

    Hi Rich, I know I’m reading an old thread but do you still have those auto pop hole plans as I’d love to get them and have a go. i can’t afford the ‘ready mades’ so this would be perfect!

    Thanks!

  22. Kathy Hastings says:

    Rich Harding,
    Please share your plans for auto chicken coop door opener and closer. it sounds great!
    Kathahastings@aol.com

  23. Rob says:

    From Rich:

    “Hello Kathy;

    Thanks for your inquiry about the automatic coop door. Unfortunately I am no longer able to provide the plans. However, I’ve noticed that several kits are available on the internet at reasonable prices.

    Regards,
    Rich”

  24. Roach says:

    I was psyched about this and started looking up materials but I have to say I could not find a $5 powerlock actuator they were from $25-75 at a parts store and $10 at a salvage if I pulled it out.
    I did find a good place at e-bay however.
    In the interim I decided put a lip on the sliding, coop door where I could place 2, 1-gallon jugs. The door is held up by a bungee cord. I set a watering timer($35 but the rest of the parts I already have) up to come on at 8:30 and it fills the jugs (via a two way valve and short sections of hose) to bring down the door which is then locked into place using the catch described here.

  25. Dana says:

    Rich –

    I’d love a copy of the plans too please.

    Thank you!!

  26. Rob says:

    A reminder note from Rich:

    “Thanks for your email, Dana. I regret that I am no longer able to send out plans for my coop door. If you Google “Automatic Chicken Coop Doors” you will find many designs including kits that might work for you.

    Regards,
    Rich”

  27. Lindsay says:

    Hi!
    I have 4 hens soon to be 6… I love your idea! At night we lock our girls in because of a raccoon accident too ( we also call them our girls!) whenever your item is finished I’d love to hear a price!
    Thanks, Limdsay

  28. Steve says:

    Hey give this a try, there are “X10″ modules out there that would be able to turn on/off for a programmed amount of time, the best thins is that you can control them from inside your home. You can also set up timers on these devices also depending on which model of controller you decide to purchase. Here is a link

    http://www.x10.com/homepage.htm

    Look under the home automation section.

    Good luck!!

  29. Barbara Smyth says:

    We have a coop and a big run with four hens and one rooster. I would like an electronic door either on the coop or the run door which is a frame with wire netting. The easier the better. I would prefer something with a battery or solar.
    Please can someone give me some plans or somewhere I can buy a kit set.
    Thank you.
    Barbara Smyth

  30. Brett says:

    Hi Barbara,

    You may be able to use the VSB kits via some puleys so one system can open and close both door at the same time. They’e not cheap but are avaialbel in a range of places, some examples are below:

    http://www.chicken-house.co.uk/acatalog/Automatic_Door_Openers.html
    http://www.flytesofancy.co.uk/chickenhouses/Auto_Chicken_House_Door_Opener.html#aVSBb

    I’m personally still looking for a cheaper DIY solution, as I just haven’t had time to tinker as much as I’d like. There’s some good information here on a few different kits and DIY solutions http://avianaquamiser.com/posts/Automatic_chicken_door/

    If you fancy trying the DIY route and have some skill in electronics I may still have the schematic somewhere which I intended to use, but never actually finished testing.

    Please note: I am not affiliated or employed by the websites linked above and accept no responsibility for their conten/products.

  31. Barbara Smyth says:

    Brett
    Thank you for that advice. The last link is the one I like but we really need to use a battery operator one and we only need one door to be electronic. Either the coop door or the pen door. I could get someone who has skills in electronics. What is the schematic please.
    Thank you

  32. Brett says:

    Hi Barbara, the circuit I was planning to test was discussed earlier in the forum, and has now been adapted slightly, a version with usage explanation can be found here:

    http://www.electronic-circuits-diagrams.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=3520&sid=551d4556df7f077d4915ae1a83cab06d&start=15

    or

    http://www.instructables.com/answers/How-do-I-make-an-automatic-door-openercloser-for-/

    This set-up should allow the use of a digital timer, such as the hack here http://www.reuk.co.uk/Convert-Digital-Mains-Timer-To-Low-Voltage.htm to open the door, which I feel is a safer method than the light sensor as during the summer foxes may still be present when the sun comes up early in the morning. You could add this function as an addition if you really wanted to though. I think for myself I’d stick to a timer and a manual operation button.

    As I say, i’ve not had chance to build the physical circuit to test it, but it shold work that the door moves up/down until it reaches the ‘limit switch’, when energised again the moter reverses until the door reaches the alternative limit switch. The LED’s are there to provide visual indication that the door is in an open/closed state in the dark from a distance.

    You may be able to put an additional motor in parallel to this one so both the coop door and the run door can open/close at the same time using just the one set of limit switches.

    sadly i’m no electronics expert and I’ve little time to experiment and teach myself more right now. There are some good electronics programmes available that might help you to turn the schematic here into a PCB or stripboard plan.

  33. Barbara Smyth says:

    I have now read through all these descriptions of automatic doors. I think I need to look at Rick Harding’s plans like everyone else. Please may we have a copy too please. Thank you Barbara.

  34. Stuart Tooley says:

    Foxes 0 Chooks 100

    I have made a fully automatic solar chook gate that is 100%. It opens at a pre determined time, and closes at a predetermined time and or at sunset. I used a Idec smart relay, a 12v 300mm linear actuator, solar panel &12v regulator, 12v battery and a 12 volt daylight sensor. Although the smart relay is expensive it has all the necessary inputs & outputs to control the complete function. It includes an accurate clock, remembers change to & from daylight savings time and allows for the closing operation to be time and or low light. The smart relay has built in timers that allow for the voltage to be applied for a limited time to the actuator to avoid burnout should the internal actuator limits fail and has inbuilt delays for the daylight sensor and lots of other features.

    Included in the system is a gate isolator to inhibit the operation if needed and a manual open and close button.
    This system has been fantastic as now I never have to remember let the hens out or lock up at night.

    The gate I made from scrap stuff I had lying around.

    To reduce costs instead of the linear actuator you could use a second hand car electric window winder motor (I think they have internal limits). Also instead of the smart relay there are available very inexpensive 12Vdc digital timers. (https://www.techtronics.com.au/p/104733/details.asp). The digital timer lacks the functionally of the smart relay.

    if you would like more detail or photo’s contact me at vkradio@iinet.net.au

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