Automatic chicken coop door opener

Don’t want to get up at sunrise to let your chickens out, and don’t want to pay £80 for one of those battery-powered coop door opening timer contraptions? Well, here’s how to make one for about £10 depending on what you have lying about the house.

Shopping list:

  • 1x Door lock actuator motor (~£3), from Amazon or any car parts place.
    Actually, buy two because if you’re anything like me you’ll accidentally burn one out.
  • A 12v power supply. I used an old phone charger. Check your drawer of electrical tat or buy one like this for £5.
  • A timer plug, I have a digital one with a 1 minute minimum interval. I got one for £2.
  • A pair of crocodile clips - £1.50
  • A plastic tupperware box/empty chinese food box/any container that you can make waterproof by sealing shut
  • Duck tape
  • Enough cable to stretch from your power supply (which must absolutely remain indoors!!) to the coop door. I used 0.75mm cable, it cost about 45p per metre. You might get away with cheaper stuff, I’m not sure.
So you could wire this up in a very basic fashion – with the timer plug coming on at dawn, powering the actuator, which will open the door. However, without actually breaking the circuit as the door opens, the actuator will burn out (as it’s going to be powered for the minimum interval on your timer). Hence, the crocodile clips attach to the catch on the door and the little metal ‘pole’ (which is metal), and the circuit breaks when the door opens.
When you switch the positive and negative terminals, you can choose whether the actuator goes ‘in’ or ‘out’ when it’s powered. You want it to go ‘in’.
See diagram:

Chicken coop opener….drawn in Paint!

The metal catch and pole both come included with the actuator pack.

Now, here’s the real thing! You can see I’ve encased the actuator and most of the wiring inside a little plastic box, with a hole cut for the metal pole to stick out of it. I know this looks a bit of a mess, I’ve kind of gone a bit mad with the duck tape:

I’m sure your cables will be tidier.

Here’s an up-close of the catch mechanism:

The long flat brass thing and the metal ‘pole’ are included with the actuator. At the top you can see that the pole sticks into a little metal staple nail. Click here to see exactly what this is if you can’t see it. Of course, if you have any other ‘hook’ type of thing you could use then go for it. I just used what I had.

The final piece of the puzzle for me was making sure the door actually flung open when it was unlocked. To make sure it did that, I put a screw behind the door – between it and the door frame – so that you have to apply a little bit of pressure to actually get the door to close. It works like a charm.

There are a few downsides to this arrangement:

  • The timer plug can only be set to a fixed time of day. So you’ve to change it every now and again to keep up with the sunrise. Maybe a light sensor plug would do the job.
  • It only opens! There isn’t really any scope to add a ‘closing’ mechanism. It has to be manually closed each night.

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