Auto Coop Door II – Antenna

I’ve been fascinated with automatic chicken coop doors.   My current auto coop door closer has been working like a champ for months.  I received a lot of great replies to that thread, and one of them was from a visitor named Bob.    I was so impressed with his design and pictures I asked him if I could post his comments and pictures as an article here.   I’m SUPER glad he agreed.   So, below are his words: 

Here is the automatic door I built with an automatic car antenna (click the image to see it in action). I chose the antenna method because it has a built in stop when it reaches its end in both directions. This eliminates the need of more circuitry to control “run time”.

Mine runs off a little 12v lawn tractor battery. The battery is kept up to charge with a “float” charger. The door opens and closes with a photo light sensor. The reason for the battery is so that a power failure will not cause a problem. The reason for the light sensor is so that the length of daylight does not need to be constantly adjusted on a timer. BUT, you can simplify things and use an ordinary appliance timer plugged into an AC outlet, and then use a 12v DC power supply to power the antenna.

This is just one way to use an automatic car antenna. With some imagination you could probably come up with many more designs.
As you can see the antenna is mounted upside down. The door is made from an 1\8″ ALUMINUM panel. It is light in weight but very strong. The door channels are 1/4″. I have a 3″ spacer connected to the tip of the antenna to the door. You can measure the distance you need to determine the spacing length. I used a piece of aluminum stock and tapped each side to mount it. The side on the antenna tip has a hole for the tip to set in, and then I used the tapped hole as a “set screw” to keep the tip in place. I have my tip connected towards the bottom of the door. This makes the length of the door channel a bit shorter in order to match the up and down stroke of the antenna.

Be sure to carefully measure the lengths and travel distances needed for the antenna to move up and down freely. I have heard of some discussion that the travel distance does not need to be exact because the antenna’s “auto stop” feature will sense the end travel and the motor will time out. But that will be up to you.

chicken coop door

If you do not have some aluminum sheeting lying around, you can find some at Lowe’s or etc. Aluminum can be easily cut with your skill saw. Just make sure you have a carbide blade and wear safety goggles. Even some type of plastic sheet would work. Just keep it light and strong.

The door channels can be purchased also at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

The best price for the antenna was on-line at Beachaudio.com, but they may be out of stock. Just search the web for the least expensive “automatic antenna”. Mine was about $35.00. The antenna MUST only have three wires. (Beware of the non automatic antennas that require the user to “toggle” the antenna up and down manually). Two wires connect directly to your power source. The other wire that is not black or red, is the “up down” trigger. That is the wire that you connect to the timer or sensor circuit.

If you go with the 12V battery, the float charger can be bought at Harbor Freight Tools for under $10.00.

I have updated this article to mention that the there may be a better control system other than the night/daylight sensor that is described below. I have used this sensor for about a year. However, just recently I noticed that the control unit was sometimes “confused” in the mornings and would make the antenna move up and down erratically.  Not fun for the chickens. It was mainly due to setting the photocell too sensitive in order to stay open at night as long as possible. Please be sure to read the later posts regarding an Intermatic ST01C timer. This timer is very unique because it does not rely on household current to operate. It is also very unique because it has an “astronomical” feature which updates the internal clock when dusk and dawn occurs in your region. It is powered by a 2 year lithium battery. Below is the night/daylight photocell circuit, if you decide to want to experiment with it.

chicken_door_2.jpg

Here is the circuit.  Its pretty simple and self explanatory and would require someone that has done a little soldering in the past.

The only thing that is really not explained is the CDS photocell. One could try different types to see which works best. The one I ended up using was from a photocell variety package purchased from Radio Shack.

day-night-control-unit.gif

If you decide to go with the photocell circuit, the antenna’s power wires (red and black) must be always connected to the 12vdc power source and not be controlled by the photocell circuit.

A few thumbnails you can click on for the control box, door channel, battery / charger, photocell

control-box-open.jpg door-channel.jpg battery-floater.jpg photocell.jpg

On the other side of the box I have a little slider switch that makes the door close manually.

The tip spacer/connector will probably be the hardest part for a lot of people to figure out to. There plenty of ways to get that done. I had a piece of an aluminum rod that was solid. I drilled and tapped each side of it. There is a screw going through the outside of the door to one side of the rod. I drilled a hole in the rod for the antenna tip to sit in. The screw on that side of the rod is a set screw that keeps the tip in place.

(Rob Note:  A huge thanks to Bob for this great design, pics and wrtieup and for letting me post it on the site.   I know we are both looking forward to reading some of your comments!)

258 thoughts on “Auto Coop Door II – Antenna

  1. Anybody know if the antennas that are power but can also retract/extend manually are OK? If there is enough resistance to still be racoon-proof? Unbeknownst to me the one that just arrived in the mail has this feature, I am thinking about returning unopened. I never seem to find these super-cheap deals that others do – anybody have a good source and antennae brand they love? Also Peter’s comment/weblink very helpful – but they recommend 5 amp power transformers for both which is way more than I’ve seen others use on this blog –

    Thanks for continued chicken-support-group advice
    Matt

  2. Hi Matt,
    As my article states, you NEED to have a 3 wire auto-antenna.
    There are a lot of posts regarding the manual type of antennas that people have tried to use. It will not work for this type of simple design. Return it! Keep looking for a good deal, you will find one somewhere 🙂 I purchased two at different times and had to use different sources each time because they did not have anymore. Try E bay dealers.

    If you don’t have a gap on the sides or bottom of the door, then raccoons cannot grab it to pry it open. Mount the unit on the inside of the coop.

    To be safe, your main constant powered 12V DC transformer can be anything from 2 amps on up. Even though most antennas only pull about 1 Amp, a 2 Amp or higher would be good “head room”.

    The other transformer for the trigger can be any amperage at 12VDC. It can be as little as 50MA. The 5 amp one that Peter shows is OVERKILL, but I’m sure he picked it so that both are the same to keep the shopping and design simple. BTW, he did a very nice job with that article.

    Good luck,
    Bob

  3. thanks bob – I probably will return this – but it isn’t a 2-wire antennae it is just a fancy 3-wire antennae that also let’s you work it up and down manually (apparently). I went back to look for manual/automatic comments but could not find any…

    M

  4. OK. They are using the 3rd wire to toggle on and off. Meaning that your antenna does not have an automatic stop at either end of it’s travel? Therefore you need to stop it manually by the switch, I assume. Way too much of a headache to design a “duration shutoff sensor” for something like that. The beauty is the automatic end travel shut off. That was the main purpose for using a power antenna.

    Not sure if you live here in the states, but I found these sites for you.

    I found this antenna,
    http://www.allaudioexpo.com/i/pyramid_ea46_full_automatic_am-fm_powe.html

    Or try this site, free shipping
    http://millionbuyplus.com/view_product_ACC105_JINBO-JBA-105A-%28JBA105A%29-AM-FM-Fully-Automatic-Power-ANTENNA.html

  5. Wow! Thanks Bob! I will pick up one of those you found –

    For reference’s sake there are antennaes out there that have the automatic stop just as you describe (3-wire), but also allow a person to walk out to the hood of their car, and raise or lower the antenna mast by hand. That’s what I meant by manual. The brand I got is pretty popular, Metra, but I did not know it has that feature until it arrived and I am worried about a predator clawing the door upwards.

    Matt

  6. hi all – I burned out a motor on one of these champs so am writing to clarify something with the 2nd generation, on an AC setup. So the constant hot power pack will get a little warm, and stay warm, forever, correct? It is always on. And the trigger power pack is connected through the timer. So when the trigger is tripped, my question is this. How does the antenna motor know to quit, so it isn’t running the entire day (extended) until nightfall when the trigger is shut off. Just like a lamp timer, when connected to a lamp would burn the lamp all day. Does the antenna draw power all day long. If so how are the solar guys supplying the needs? I am testing this with the lamp timer toggle on/off option. The antenna extends & retracts beautifully but I feel a hum in the antenna housing after extension, as though it is still taking power. And not just for one minute, but several. Worried about this burning out the motor a second time so then I reverse it manually with the toggle.

    thanks for advice.

    Matt

  7. Hi Matt,
    This was Bob’s crucial observation behind the original design using a car antenna as the source of the movement – there is an automatic stop built into the electronics for the antenna motor, at both maximum and minium travel positions.
    Within these electronics is a relay. Relays use a small trigger signal and use that power to make a connection between contacts capable of carrying a much larger amount of power. Traditional relays use a coil/magnet movement, but there are now semiconductor wersions called solid state relays that do the same thing by the magic of transistors with no moving parts. Either way, they still use some power. The relay in my coop’s antenna draws about 170mA of current at 12V while the antenna is extended. Some relays of a similar specification I’ve seen draw only 30mA, so I was unlucky (came from a Kia Carnival I think). So my solar panel has to compensate for the 170mA drain of the relay (from dawn till dusk) plus the 1.5A of the motor (for about 20 seconds a day). I have a 5W solar panel and it didn’t quite manage this through winter, but is doing fine now the days are sunnier. Plus I connected it to a much bigger battery (a discarded light-truck battery, 700CCA) which means it can operate through winter for weeks without needing topping up from a mains charger.
    If the hum in your extended antenna is very faint, it’s probably the relay. If it’s more than that, you may be right to be worried!
    Good luck,
    Leon

  8. If the door is being opened and closed via a photo cell, what if all the chickens are not in the coop when the door closes? I guess some will spend the night outside the coop. HMMMM?

  9. Thanks Leon! That clarifies my understanding considerably. So having borrowed a multi-tester I guess I could actually bench-test what the antenna is drawing as it extends. Should be an amp or so until extended, then should drop into the milli-Amp range. If the draw doesn’t change, that would indicate a problem. So let’s see… that means testing across the constant hot and the ground leads on the antenna I think. The motor should only ask for the power when the trigger is on and the relay is activated. Or maybe I would actually have to get inside the unit to test on the other side of the relay? So that wouldn’t be worth it.

  10. Hey guys,

    Sorry, these posts were ending up in my spam folder!

    Hi Leon, great description…..

    Matt, When you check current draw (amps), you meter needs to be in series not parallel to the voltage.
    If your multimeter allows to to test milli-amps. do the following;

    Set the meter to DC ma.
    Disconnect the positive wire from the antenna’s trigger. Now you have two bare wires open.
    Connect the black lead of the meter to one of the open wires and the red to the other. Now the meter is in series with the voltage. Now run your tests.

    NOTE: if you are not getting any readings, flip the two meter leads. It will only work one way.

  11. Hey Mike,

    Yes, I did not care for the photocell after using it as I described in the article. A few paragraphs down there is an update in brown, or is it red? The web master wanted to keep the original writeup and just have me add an update. The update explains a much more exact reliable way to do it.

  12. Thanks Bob – tested in series and found it draws an amp after extension and does not seemto have a relay turning itself off. All antennas not created equal as I’m finding out. So my planned solution is a second timer to be connected to the now ‘not-so-constant hot’, turning off right after extension, and turning on right before retraction. At least it doesn’t use power in retract mode. Doesn’t seem to bother the motor, but that would sure seem to be an unnecessary burden on a car’s alternator. A digital 2-outlet timer would make synchronizing this easier, looks like intermatic has one, at about $25…

  13. HI Matt,

    I assume that you are load testing the antenna’s motor ( not trigger) and seeing a 1 amp draw.

    So let me get this straight. You have a three wire automatic antenna. Your motor draws about 1 amp when the antenna moves and continues to when it rests in the outward position? An automatic antenna without a stop duration circuit? (sorry just confused with the logic of that design). I can see your frustrations with this being antenna #2.

    If one left his car radio on during an all day road trip, the thing would burn out in no time. Something just does not make sense.

    That being the case, your idea with a second timer will work. Sorry you have to go through all that.

  14. Hey Chris,

    How has your Intermatic timer been behaving? I have had mine for over a year, but this is the 3rd time it defaulted to manual. The clock goes to 12:00 but all of the other settings stay. I reset the time and set it to auto and it will work again. I also have the chokes installed.

    Bob

  15. NOISE SUPPRESSOR FROM INTERMATIC

    I emailed Intermatic about the problem and got a response the next day. They immediately shipped a “suppressor” that I received today. Great service.

    The sketch of where they want it installed is at the load and across positive and neutral. This is different than the “RF Choke” that I purchased from radio shack. That choke goes In-Line, not across. The reason I mention this is because on an earlier post I was stating that the “choke” should go as close as possible to the device it is protecting, IE the timer. Now seeing that they sent a “suppressor”, it makes sense to what Chris said about installing it at the LOAD.

    Anyway, the sketch shows it at the load, which in our case would be across the antenna’s trigger wire and ground. Did you (Chris or anyone else) install it there or across the antenna’s main power?

    Bob

  16. Hi Herick,

    The pot controls the amount of photocell sensitivity. You would set it to be as sensitive to daylight as possible so that the door does not close too early.

    However, as I stated in my article’s update, I really did not care very much for the photocell method. In the mornings it would act “confused” and be erratic until there was enough daylight. And in the winter when it was cloudy, the door would close too early. I tried many different photocells, but it did not correct the issue on that particular circuit.

    I personally would spend the $30.00 and purchase the Intermatic ST01C timer. Or go with the household AC timer method.

    Good luck,
    Bob

  17. Hi All!

    Just wanted to update on my auto-door. I have the easiest setup that works if you have power at the coop. A 3-wire antenna, an STC01 Intermatic switch, and a 12V 5mA converter AC to DC plug from an old printer that I bought off at the local university surplus store. I have not had the time to actually mount the door on the coop, but it’s built almost exactly like Chris’s door (if you see the links in older comments that showed a picture)

    I had the finished door plugged into the outlet in my porch thoughout the fall months for “testing” until I could get a chance to install it. My door opened and closed just fine in the porch. By the time I had a free weekend to work on it, it started getting cold enough that my chickens actually refuse to go outside. And it’s too cold to work in the barn right now, so come spring the door will be installed. By then I will probably need to replace the battery since it’s been about two years since I’ve that the switch!

    Last time I checked the switch back in november, it had not reset back to manual, but now I now what may happen. But i’ve unplugged the door and it’s just sitting in the barn. So I would assume that since the antenna is not running, there hasn’t been an RF signal to mess things up yet.

    Thanks Bob and Chris for your excellent help.

  18. Hello, just wanted to share a couple of things I learned for posterity, and also share news of the eventual success after some frustrations along the way.

    I went with an AC setup and initially I think my transformers weren’t delivering enough amperage. It was about an amp for motor and about 200 mA for the switch. I don’t think an amp is quite enough for the motor, I think this limits the ability of the antennae to activate the automatic limit shutoff and so the transformer kept delivering power and failed, this also burned out the motor of my first antennae. I had the same problem initially with antennae #2 in that the limit switch wasn’t tripping, but when I got another transformer, this one just a bit more powerful, everything worked fine. I wouldn’t go above 5Amps though, some of the antennaes look to have an in-line fuse at that level and that’s probably there for a reason.

    Another thing I would note about antennaes, there are some “euro-style” ones out there that allow manual extend/retract as well powered extend/retract. This doesn’t seem like a good idea since a predator might be able to claw it upwards when closed. Also there are a couple of standard lengths of antennaes, the shorter length one I found easier to work with.

    Happy to not have to wake up so early anymore, or to have to break off evening plans!

  19. Thanks Matt. Very good info.

    I think going with at least a 2 amp power supply for the motor is best. Many power converters are not “regulated”, so there is a voltage drop when you get close to their maximum amp rating. I bet if you put a volt meter across the motor’s lead while it was running, you would see a voltage drop occurring on the weak transformer.

    FYI, going higher in power source amp ratings will never be an issue. The amp rating is there to indicate what it can deliver if need be. For example, your car battery has hundreds of amps and you can probably arc weld with it. But it would never destroy your 12V car accessories as long as they have a fuse to protect them from any faults.

    Cheers,
    Bob

  20. Hi Dennis, Whilst the feature set looks like you could use this timer, you’d have to do a lot of programming to achieve the same kind of ‘solar time’ tracking result that the Intermatic ST01C gives. Looks expensive too!
    I’d just go on ebay and get an ST01C for the time being. It’s not quite perfect – could do with better latitude setting, plus northern vs southern hemisphere – but it’s the best anyone’s found and is still working great for me and my ‘girls’.
    Leon

  21. I just wanted to comment, mine has been running now since my first OP post about the Timer….still going strong, the only thing I added was a $6.00 trickle charger from Harbor Freight Tools……I have had 2 resets due to interferance from RF, but after adding the Choke posted about earler , that has not happened again. My door and antenna has only had a little lube added and thats about it. I did add a total enclosed electric fence to the “girls ” area .
    I also put down heavy gauge heavy coated galv chicken wire on the ground around the entire area at the fence line I used ground cloth fabric hoops to secure it and it gives a no dig barrier for 1 foot out side the fence area and 1 foot inside.
    it also provides a wonderful Ground for the fence! it is like standing with a direct connect to a ground as you contact the fence. I used the high voltage “bear” fencer and it will make any dog , mountain lion, Bear , or Bob cat do triple olympic style back flips if they contact the fence. It also has been in use for about 1 1/2 years . It has provided entertainment on several occassions as we witnessed wood rats attempting entry to the area…….It was like watching reruns of the 3 Stooges!

    and no , for those saying ..OMG that would kill a animal…No it does not, it just leaves a lasting reminder never to attempt entry again! (except in the rats case, they keep trying !)
    to sum it up things are still running smoothly, I do expect that I will be replaceing the antenna in a year or so…opening and closing 2 times a day every day is a lot of use…..

  22. Bob,
    Thanks for the great, simple design. I found the pictures helpful as I don’t read electrical. I just finished my door and am fine tuning the timer for proper AM, PM operation. I wish I had a digital timer. Now I don’t have to feel guilty for sleeping in, or staying out late for fun.
    Tim

  23. Cool deal Tim. You wont regret it.!

    I even went as far as running a phone cable (free because I’m in the trade) from the coop up into my house. No, not to talk to the chickens, but as a wire that powers an LED light to indicate if the door is open or closed. I used a security window magnet switch (cheap to buy) to switch the LED on and off. I glued the magnet portion of the switch on the door and the wired part is mounted stationary on the slider frame close to the magnet when the door is open. When the door is open, the LED is on. I can wake up in the morning and see the LED on in my bedroom, knowing that the door is open and the chickens are not stuck inside. So visa-verse at night to see the door is closed without going outside.

    Some people call me nuts.

  24. Hi all,

    I am interested in making an automatic door for my chicken coup like this. I was thinking of buying one of these and while it is one of the cheapest available the cost is still up there at about $130AU delivered. http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Automatic-Chicken-Door-Opener-Kit-CHUXAWAY-TIMER-/300616413372?pt=UK_Pet_Supplies_Poultry&hash=item45fe2270bc

    So I am thinking of buying a car antennae something like this:
    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Fully-Automatic-Compact-retractable-Car-Antenna-Ford-Falcon-EA-ED-/290631924606?pt=AU_Car_Parts_Accessories&hash=item43ab033b7e

    Or this:
    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Antenna-Semi-Automatic-5-Section-1Meter-Switch-/290625223772?pt=AU_Car_Parts_Accessories&hash=item43aa9cfc5c

    and hooking it up to a 12V car battery via a timer like this:
    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/DC-12V-Power-Programmable-Timer-Time-Relay-16A-16A-/290625672562?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item43aaa3d572

    My question is – will this work?

    Which of the 2 car antenna will work best – one says its automatic – the other says semi automatic. What is the difference???

    The cost to set this up would be very cheap:

    Door – I can make this myself from scraps
    Timer $10 AU delivered
    Antenna $35 AU or $25 AU delivered
    12V battery – I can get an old one for free and carry it to the house to charge it up every few months when needed. Eventually I will add a solar panel to charge it.

    Another question – do these antenna draw much power (or any power) once they are fully extended? Or do they only draw power when they are winding up and down? I dont know much about the operation of car antenna.

    Thanks for your help.

  25. Ok – I ended up buying this:

    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Fully-Automatic-Compact-retractable-Car-Antenna-Ford-Falcon-EA-ED-/290631924606?pt=AU_Car_Parts_Accessories&hash=item43ab033b7e

    and this:

    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/DC-12V-Power-Programmable-Timer-Time-Relay-16A-16A-/290625672562?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item43aaa3d572

    I have received the antenna and I am just waiting on the timer to arrive. Once it does I will post details on how I put it together.

    Cheers,
    Hamish

  26. I would really like to fit a solar panel to the system that I have just described to keep the 12V battery topped up. Can anyone recomend from experience what size panel might be needed with one open/close cycle each day? Are we talking 1W, 5W, 10W or 20W solar panel? I would like to build in a buffer for the odd cloudy day and also intend to have a flashing LED that will indicate the door is closed which will draw a few miliamps while the door is shut. I am guessing that I might need a 10W or 20W panel. Any advice?

  27. I have used a 10W panel successfully on my system for a couple of years now. Initially I used a 12V 5Ah sealed lead acid battery and this wasn’t enough of a buffer. When a broken down truck in my neighbourhood left the battery it had just had replaced by the side of the road though – christmas came early. How big? 12V and maybe 50cm (20″) wide. Not sure how many CCA – but lots. First winter it didn’t make it through and needed top-up charging a few times. The last couple of winters though (not sure if it’s just one or two now) it hasn’t needed any topping up. Probably because it had a whole summer of soak charging and this helped recondition the battery substantially.
    So I would recommend a big battery as your primary buffer and then either a 10W or 20W panel depending on how sunny your location is (your town, but also with respect to shade from trees you might get at some times – I live in Canberra, Australia which has a pretty high proportion of sunny days even in winter) and how much current your particular car antenna’s relay draws while it is up. For mine it was about 170mA (way too much).
    Good luck.

  28. Ok – can someone verify my workings:

    Based on Leons comments above:

    Quote ”170mA of current at 12V while the antenna is extended”
    Quote ” plus the 1.5A of the motor (for about 20 seconds a day)”

    I have calculated the following with a bit more margin for error:

    Antenna while extended (nightime) = 0.17a at 12V x 14 hours max in winter = 2.04W x 14 hours = 28.56 watt hours per day.

    Antenna while opening and closing = 1.5a at 12v x 30 seconds x 2 per day = 18w x 0.2 hours per day = 3.6 watt hours per day.

    So total usage = 32.16 Watt Hours per day.

    Based on this I am guessing a 30 Watt solar panel should more than cope with the load even in winter and keep the battery topped up.

    I am in an area of Australia that has really nice clear days in winter. But I hope that a 30W panel will allow enough extra power to be able to get the battery through a few cloudy days.

    I guess it will depend on how much extra capacity the battery has also.

    Any comments, suggestions and corrections welcome 🙂

  29. Antenna motor relay draw correct. I chose to invert my antenna so that it would be drawing current while being charged and therefore making little net drain on the battery. Less load in total since door open time is less than door closed time in winter when your solar panel will have most trouble keeping up with the load.

    Antenna motor movement current draw is actually only 0.3Wh (18W x 0.0167h).

    So ~29Wh/day. A 30W panel would replace all of that in one hour (though you should factor in a need for about 1.4x as much power input as power stored. So about 40Wh needed – if you think you’ll get 4h of decent sunlight most days over winter a 10W panel should do you.

  30. The other benefit that I can see from inverting the motor is it would be easier to attach the top of the antenna to the door – you wouldnt need to actually attach it as the weight of the door would be resting on the antenna tip. If I am thinking this through correctly. But does the weight of the door tend to want to bend the antenna in this configuration? Atleast if you mount the motor in the ‘traditional’ way the weight of the door is pulling down on the antenna and always trying to straighten the antenna out.

  31. Quite true about the straightening effect. It’ll depend on the weight of your door and the amount of friction it suffers from. I used a piece of stainless steel sandwich board (~3mm thick with polyethylene core sandwiched between two sheets of stainless). Its about 20x35cm and the load hasn’t overwhelmed the motor or the structural strength of the antenna’s extending rod. I’ll try to get some photos together for you Hamish. Should’ve done it ages ago.

  32. I was thinking of using a cheap plastic chopping board from crazy clarks – about $2.50 and about the right size. I will measure it and weigh it tonight and post details to see if you think it is excessivly heavy. It is only about 5mm thick so I dont think it will be too heavy and will be its own bearing as the material is very slipery. Main problem for me is foxes and wild dogs. I am located near Goondiwindi on the Qld NSW border.

  33. Hamish, you’ve got the wrong timer. This one doesn’t track day length. If you live on the equator this won’t be a problem. Otherwise, buy the Intermatic ST-01C. I think you haven’t read this thread in detail. There may be other timers out there that do astro-tracking. If not, don’t buy them, except during a prototyping phase for your setup.

  34. I have read the entire thread thanks Leon. Sorry if some of my questions seem silly. Just looking for a little advice. It seemed that people have had problems with the timers that track day length so I sent for a simple timer that I can programe a fer times a year to keep it in sync with day length. Cost was also an issue – the Intermatic ST-01C seems to be about $35 USD plus about $30 postage to Australia. If I was going to pay that then I may as well just pay for one of the pre-made door kits like the Chuxaway. I guess it might be a bit more of a pain to use the 12V timer I have chosen – but at less than $10 delivered I think it will do the job for now. If I get tired of reprograming it 2 or 3 times a year I will spring for a more expensive timer.

  35. I used the directions give for the antenna chicken door and when the timer turned on the antenna extended but when it turned off it did not retract?
    Does anyone know what the problem could be?
    Thanks

  36. Hi Rich,
    Could it be that you are switching the power & the switch wire off at the same time with your timer? It needs to have power constantly available on the positive and negative leads, and the timer should only control a voltage on the switch wire (that controls a relay which then powers the motor from the constantly available power from the other two wires).
    Hope this helps,
    Leon

  37. Hamish, great job with that video!!!

    From what I can tell, you didn’t use or need any limit switches, etc., correct? You just had to make sure you used the full extension of the antenna?

  38. Hi Rob – yes that is correct – I used the full length of the antenna and built the frame to fit so the limit switches are already built into the antenna. It was so easy to make and cost very little. I used a cheap $9 ebay timer that unfortunatly doesnt have sunset correction – but I figure having to adjust the open and shut times 6 times a year is better than having to open and close the coop door twice a day for 365 days of the year! I have to clean the coop out anyway so just change the timer then. Next step for me is to build a chicken tractor so I dont have to clean out the coop any more – just move the coop. I am even considering motorising it to move by itself with a small geared down 12V electric motor hooked up to a 12V battery, solar panel and one of these cheap 12V timers.

  39. The clever chaps at REUK have some great resources which you may find useful. They’ve taken a mains timer and converted it to run on 12v dc so it can be run remotely, perfect for a chicken coop system.

    http://www.reuk.co.uk/Convert-Digital-Mains-Timer-To-Low-Voltage.htm
    http://www.reuk.co.uk/buy-CONVERTED-PROGRAMMABLE-DIGITAL-TIMER-RELAY.htm

    I’m hoping to encorporate a timer, with an automatic motor reversing circuit, some microswitches and a small solar panel to keep the battery topped up.

    If I ever get round to completing my system I’ll be sure to post it on the internet.

  40. GFI burnout question

    I’m one of the folks that opted for an extension cord across my backyard. All has worked well for a year or so except I just burned out my second GFI outlet (the kind with the push-button test). I’m not sure if this is common or if there is a better way to set up for an outdoor extension cord. Seems to happen when it has been really wet for a long time (I live in western ORegon). ANy thoughts appreciated! The extension cord is about 100 ft total with several connections. GFI doesn’t just need to be reset, it is dead.

  41. hey just thought I would stop by to say that the intermatic timer unit I used is still going strong , and well as the antenna…..have not changed the timer battery yet…..went thru 2 deep cycle batterys, they were warrenty so that was ok…other than that the unit has worked flawlessly…whats it been now 3 years?

    Matt…… GFI sense extreamly minor amounts of current leak, when the plug connection get wet, yes it will burn the GFI outits not enough to trip it, but will fry it over a period of time,,Use a car battery… get a small solar panel charge set up, I used the Harbor frieght 160$$ panel been running 3 years now….

  42. I’m really enjoying the basic auto coop door design. I had to make a modification because my antenna unit stopped opening and closing properly. I opened up the switch compartment to see how the unit worked. I hooked up the leads appropriately and the door now operates with two homemade limit switches, one stops the door when fully open and one stops it when the door is closed. The nice thing about this modification is that you can control the antenna travel by where you place the limit switch.
    Tim

  43. Nice one Tim! Sounds like a great modification. And I suspect that this avoids using the relay which wastes current (especially a problem when solar powered) when the antenna is extended.
    A more detailed description/photos would be great to hear/see.
    Well done.
    Leon

  44. Hey Tim, there isn’t an easy way to upload pics directly, but you can load them to flickr or photobucket and then link to them from here.

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