Thursday, December 6

Automated door for chicken house

Since the chicken massacre earlier in the year, Jennifer or I (mostly Jennifer) have had to make sure to be home at dusk to close the chickens up in their house. The chickens always go in their house after dark. It' not something we really had to do anything special to make happen, which is nice.

The raccoons become active after dark though and thats when the chickens are most vulnerable. Lately it's becoming a bit of a pain to make sure someone is home right at dusk. We've had our friendly neighbors close the door on more than one occasion. So that got me to thinking of a solution to the problem. One solution which crossed our minds is to get rid of them, but then all the work of building them a home would be for nothing. Besides, we like the chickens, and it doesn't seem right to get rid of scar face after he's come back from such dismal odds (he's back to crowing even!). So I got the idea of an automatic door. Right now I open and close the walk-through door each day, but there's always stuff in the way of the door that requires a sweep of the foot. Luckily the walk through door has a dog door already installed.

A buddy of mine at work loves this kind of stuff so I posed the problem to him. At first we were thinking a rack and pinion type setup with a gear driving a rack of teath to open the door. The current plan is to use a long threaded rod in a screw-driven type fashion. The diagram here (minus the homer head) was the result of a quick brain-storming session. There have since been many revisions to the drawing (such as the fact that the bolt is currently in the way of the door). The door will probably be built using drawer slides. A nut will be welded on a bracket that can be attached to the door. The threaded rod will spin in the nut raising it up and down.

The difficulty lies in the electronics really. The specs are as follows:
  • I want the door to close and open on a timer (open at dawn, close at dusk)
  • The motor needs to stop running when the door is fully open or fully closed
  • The door must be secure when shut, gravity holding the door down isn't enough to keep a raccoon out.
With that in mind are there any guesses as to what the device pictured here does? (Sorry for the poor camera phone picture quality.)

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8 comments:

timmo said...

no idea on device. but the door is easy. top mount rollers on door, that ride in a track. a nut welded to the door, attached to all-thread rod. opposite end is a worm gear with a d/c motor. all powered with dusk/dawn sensor, batt. backup, and limit switches. all parts on the cheap, or cannabalised from misc./scrap devices.

Chase Davis said...

I was just saying at dinner the other day, that I wish I could have an automatic door on my chicken house. We were discussing the options, but Im not mechanically inclined at all. Let me know how your's turns out.

Chase

Duane Keys said...

Well the device was a mechanical polarity switcher...

Anonymous said...

Battery operated screwdriver for slow motor to turn screw. Light sensor to detect dawn/dusk (hardware store). Drawer slides to operate door. Get a set that it won't hurt to vertically mount. Get two relays that have both NC and NO contacts and two switches. Light sensor trips the two relays, voltage flows one way through relays to make screwdriver "tighten", switch gets tripped by door and opens the circuit. Same thing in the other direction. Make certain that the switches go between the battery and the relays. Make certain that light sensor isn't point at Mercury Vapor light! :-)

Anonymous said...

Oh... don't forget a short piece of hose and hose clamps to hold the motor to the threaded rod. It will help prevent binding.

Anonymous said...

I'm getting chickens this spring and want to do something similar. I'm planning to use a dual-alarm clock so I can set times and not rely on photocell. Trying to go to 12V solar powered off storage battery. Probably use a surplus DC gearmotor and a rack and pinion transmission.

CountryCouture said...

My chicken forum websites refer to this product often. Albeit expensive, I hear the components are very durable. I'd personally rather pay more and fix less.
http://www.chicken-house.co.uk/door_opener.htm

Scott said...

Great idea. I'd be interested to see this project when it is completed.