Automatic Chicken Door

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by TexasTony, Jan 17, 2010.

  1. TexasTony

    TexasTony Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 22, 2009
    Lockhart
    Hi everyone,

    Like many here, I wanted to put a door on my chicken coop that open in the morning & close in the evening to keep out predators. I searched the web, I read through the 20+ page threads here, I did the research & just didn't find anything that I wanted to build or buy. And my tool & die maker friend Mark had the same problem (I'm an electrical engineer).

    So, six months ago we decided to build one we'd be proud to own, and along the way decided to sell it as well. Yesterday was our local chicken club meeting (Austin, TX) where we demonstrated it and everyone there just loved it. So I wanted to open up the discussion and get feedback from this larger forum as well. Please let me what do you like about it and what don't you like.

    Ok, first a couple of pictures.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We had several criteria that our design had to meet. The first is simply that we will be proud to stand behind this product. In fact we built it strong enough that we can stand ON it. Second it would not be built of wood or strings, but would be built to last for years. Third it would be simple enough that a 12 year old or a 92 year old person could use it without instructions. And of course it would need to be affordable.

    Our door will not rot or fray. The frame is built of solid 7/8” 6061 aircraft aluminum. The door itself is 1/8" thick painted aluminum clad with a plastic edging to prevent pinch cuts. If any animal can tear through it, you should let that animal have anything it wants! The pivot points are machined brass. The brass/aluminum joint will never rust or bind. The opening is 11" wide by 15" high.

    The electronics are simple. Two buttons: one to open and one to close. To reset the timings, press both buttons. On the first day, press and hold the open button until it opens wide. You have just programmed the opening timing, it will open every day at that time that same amount. That evening, press and hold the close button until it starts closing. You have just programmed the closing time, it will repeat this close action every day at this time. After these initial settings, you can open or close the door any time by pressing the open or close button without changing the initial timings.

    The electronics are a bit more advanced. On power up or reset, the door will open slightly then close to indicate the reset event. While the door closes with modest force, it is not enough to injure a chicken’s leg or a person’s finger. It takes about three to four seconds for the door to open or close, so there is plenty of time for a chicken to move as the door closes. Every evening when the door closes, in case something blocks it such as a stubborn rooster, there is a one minute delay then the door attempts to close a second time. This is a feature that no other chicken door has that we found. Call it extra insurance. For pressing the buttons, there is a two second delay before the door activates. This is so a chicken can’t peck the button & accidentally open or close it. Raccoons won’t be holding the button down that long either. The electronics are housed in a water resistant case. It is designed to tolerate rain or a good water hose spray. It will not work if the door is completely submerged in water, but if you have that much water you’ve got bigger problems to address!

    For powering the unit, any 12 volt DC supply will be fine. An old car battery or a little AC/DC power adapter will work. You can use a deer feeder 12 volt battery with a solar panel. As long as the unit has a 12 volt supply it will work properly. If you use a boat deep cycle battery, it will run the unit for over a year. They recommend that you recharge batteries every 6 months, so that would be the limiting factor. It draws very little power when idle, and about .3 amps for the few seconds when the door is moving.

    We're targeting a $160 price. That does not include the battery or power adapter, but just the door and electronics pictured.

    Thoughts, comments? Now, let me get you started because you can have some fun with this. In yesterday's meeting, we had a few fun comments. One person wanted a light sensor to activate it. Another person wanted an iPhone application to activate the door. Another wanted to activate multiple doors from a single controller.

    Another wanted a remote control... I can just see that lady, she'd be sitting at the window and when a chicken goes to get in the coop, she'd close the door. When the chicken turned away, she'd open it again. She just wanted to mess with their little minds!

    So some things are more practical than others!

    I appreciate any comments.
    Tony
     
  2. chicks4kids

    chicks4kids Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 22, 2009
    Northern Indiana
    OK, I'm picturing it opening from side to side first, rather than up and down correct??

    So, with that, does it matter whether you have the door open on the inside or the outside? Because I can see, if it opens from the inside, my chickens scratching around (and we all know how much they can flick floor material around) and blocking the opening, or closing with the floor materials. Is the door strong enough to close with material in the way or would the safety measure kick in and try to close in one minute?
     
  3. Cluckthorne

    Cluckthorne Out Of The Brooder

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    Oct 18, 2009
    Minneapolis, MN
    Sounds great and looks very well built. One question I have is what will prevent a raccoon from pushing or pulling it open? With a side hinge it looks a little more vulnerable to that type of "attack"

    Thanks!
     
  4. TexasTony

    TexasTony Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 22, 2009
    Lockhart
    Hi,

    OK, those are quick replies!

    First, yes it is side hinged and is designed to open outward (so it won't get blocked from inside).

    Second, in terms of how it prevents it a raccoon from getting in, it has a very narrow gap around the 3 edges away from the hinge. A raccoon can't get his hand through that to be able to pull. And it is a direct drive off motor, so there is no belt to 'slip' as the animal tries to pull it open. I've left wide gap on the fourth side, along the hinge. I also left that metal edge exposed. A raccoon would naturally work the largest opening, and as he works that side he could cut his fingers and get discouraged. And he can pull or push with 50 lbs of force and not move anything there.

    It is possible to break the gears of the motor with enough force, but it will take a strong pulling action on the opposite edge from the hinge. Without being able to reach inside, an animal can't get that leverage point.

    Does that help?
    Tony
     
  5. chicks4kids

    chicks4kids Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 22, 2009
    Northern Indiana
    It sure looks nice and sounds great! Do you have a video of it??

    If the power goes out, do you have to reset it or will it just be set back the amount of time that the power was out?? My concern would be if I was out of town for 4 or 5 days...
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2010
  6. Omran

    Omran Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 26, 2008
    Bagdad KY
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  7. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    I am the mechanical engineering spouse on this reply. From the looks of the picture if you put the pivots on the other side of the assembly the door can still swing outward and allow the motor mechanism to be flush with the surface that mounts on the inside of the coop. This would allow the drive mechanism and electricals to be inside the coop and out of the weather.
     
  8. TexasTony

    TexasTony Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 22, 2009
    Lockhart
    First, for teach1rusl, the unit will work exactly as you describe. But you need to have inside access, which you won't have on all coops. If somebody wanted one that way, I would be happy to make the proper modification.

    For those mechanically minded, another design criteria was that it was reliable without ANY maintenance. No worries about slides sticking, no lubing with WD40, no rusting joints, no freezing water. It needs electricity and nothing else. I did a 5 year simulated test with ours. Open, pause, close, pause, repeat every 90 seconds out in the weather. Not a SINGLE hangup. But without sliding mechanisms to bind that is what I would expect.

    Chicks4kids requested a video. OK, well I've entered the world of youtube. Here's the first video: . Sorry, no sound (digital camera), but you can see it in action. I'll get another video out in the next few days with audio.

    There are a couple of other videos that gave me a chuckle, and I hope you enjoy them too. I didn't create them!

    Oh my, look at this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sWGVIz2rTY&NR=1
    Apply
    called the 'chicken chopper' by the guy who made it! He should make that into a veggie chopper!

    And another:
    Very clever design. Might not be the best on nights when it's freezing, but would be great for taking a quick shower outside in summer! And ducks would just love love love it...

    Hope you enjoy.
    Tony
     
  9. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Well it's much more cost effective than the commercial doors I've seen advertised. I like that you don't need to add a timer. I think it's a very good deal for those who aren't mechanically inclined/able to make their own auto. door.
     
  10. Duke of Orpington

    Duke of Orpington Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 12, 2009
    Knoxville, TN
    Tony, that's a great looking design you have there. I really like the simplicity, the durability and the sleek good looks of the door.

    How easy is it to change the time to open and close the door, let's say as the days get longer/shorter or at the change of DST (although most chickens I've seen don't care whether it's daylight savings time or not)?

    Ron [​IMG]
     

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