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Automatic chicken doors: fox proofing a coop for when away or late

 
pollinator
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Forgetting to close the chicken door, or having to work late one day, and the fox sneaks into the coop: all chicken dead.

What are the ways to stop the fox?

Fly-in door: an opening for the chicken is placed 2 m above the ground, chickens fly in, the fox don’t.
Pro: no maintenance needed
Con: only works with light breeds
Needs training
Does not work against owls

A variant to this is made by using ladder steps on poles, so the chicken can climb up instead of flying all the way. I was thinking to electrify 1 step from 2, and the others are grounded. So if a chicken is on it, no problem, but as soon as the fox makes a contact PAF!
Counterweight door closing:
Made public by a contest of mother earth news https://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/raising-chickens/automatic-coop-door-contest-winners-zw0z0113zbla
The drawing is needed to understand the concept: As soon as the chicken all sit on the roost, their weight puts down the door. Needs adjustments to the amount of chicken, but seems to work quite well according to the article.

Automatic doors with light sensors or timers:
Different models exist, some with timers, others with light sensors. The timer can be a problem as the chicken may be outside when it closes in summer… the fox has a party!
https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/metal-aluminum-automatic-chicken-coop-opener_60737298159.html?spm=a2700.galleryofferlist.normalList.22.72c593afxJn0wN&s=p
https://www.thehappychickencoop.com/automatic-chicken-coop-door/
Gravity led chicken doors (the cheaper ones) seem to be a problem in areas with raccoons, as they learn how to open the door.
Some reviews of the light sensors say that in cloudy weather the chicken may be locked out.

What else?


 
gardener
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I use the "pullet shut" automatic door. I can elaborate on its pros and cons.

1. Use the light sensor, not a timer. As the seasons change (sundown comes sooner) you can get in trouble trying to adjust it in time,  not to mention the hassle of doing so.

2. Get their upgraded solar panel with charge controller. Its a peace of mind thing. If the battery drains down you just lost your chickens. The charge controller has a digital readout showing battery voltage.  You can glance at it when you walk by, give them feed and water, etc.

3. Theres a magnet included. Place the magnet on the circle and it will open and/or close it. Boom. You just verified it works. I attached it to a string and tied it to the coop.

4. Only maintenance needed is a drop of oil on a hinge. Twice a year? Easy enough.

5. Since its a hinged door vs a guillotine door that slides down, it can't get cocked and stuck.

6. Cant think of any cons right now.
 
pollinator
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Just lock them up for the week that you are away,
and setup automatic feeding/water and clean out the coop and laydown alot of carbon.


This is a wonderful topic. It is a struggle to go on vecation when you have animals on your homestead.
CAT (pet) is the most self-sufficient. but automatic feeding/watering can be set up and safety is pretty okay
DOG (pet) would need need automatic feeding/watering set up, not sure how it would interact with other farm animal and also roaming
CATTLE/GOAT/SHEEP There exist automated commercial feedlot operations, if you are only going for a week. You might be able to just leave them on a couple acre pasture.
FISH if it is natural pond, then you are already good, you could also setup some automated feeding system too.
BEE okay bees are officially the most vacation friendly animals to have.
 
wayne fajkus
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Another option is a fenced area for their daytime running area. The coop is in this fence. It could be 4 fenced paddocks to rotate them through. It could be electric or not.
 
S Bengi
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Automatic Feed: https://chickendoors.com/product/coop-ala-feeder/
Light-Sensor Door: https://chickendoors.com/product/standard-pullet-shut-chicken-door-combination/
Automatic Watering: ???
 
pioneer
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S Bengi wrote:Just lock them up for the week that you are away,
and setup automatic feeding/water and clean out the coop and laydown alot of carbon.


We usually have a farm-sitter come feed and water the animals when we are away. My ducks are new to the equation, and we haven't gone away since the ducks have been out in the run and gotten their own house to sleep in. I like the lock 'em up idea. I know I could get a farm-sitter to feed and water in the duck house. I think I'd have a really rough time getting anyone to come out daily at dawn and dusk to open and close the house. My ducks do go in their house at night, but usually I have to herd them. I'd worry that an automatic door on a light-sensitive timer would close without the ducks inside.
 
pollinator
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I used the Ador automatic door on the coop. I have it on a 6v battery which I change a couple times a year. When I tire of that I will make a small solar setup, but honestly I just haven't gotten to it.

My chickens are in a poultry solar electronet paddock anyway, so they should be safe with or without the door.

Automatic feeder was easy, just a 4" PVC tube with a J on the bottom. It lasts them easily a week with a dozen chickens.

Waterer is a nipple waterer connected to a 20 gal tank that gets refilled from the coop roof. I haven't ever had to take water to them.

We leave them for a week without worries.
 
steward
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My solution is a secure coop with an automatic door that leads to a secure run with a manual chicken door on it.  In the summer the auto door lets them into the run at 7am.  When I get around to it, I let them out and they free range all day.  At dusk they come into the coop and the auto door closes them in.  Then I manually close the run door. If I forget then they birds are safe but they get to crow at my bedroom window at 7:01.

This way if we're going on vacation or have a garden tour we can leave them constrained to the run.

I have the "add-a-motor" automatic chicken door which is ok (not great).  I installed a Pullet Shut door for some friends and I liked it a lot.

I was going to do the counterbalanced (chicken operated) door but I'm glad I didn't.  The weight of my flock keeps changing so I'd have to keep rebalancing the system.  
 
gardener
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How about pigs?
 
pollinator
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Great discussion. The foxes decimated our Guinea hen flock this year. I did not know what killed so many of them until one evening I heard  our dogs barking at something in a tree and went to look at what the hubbub was. I didn't even know foxes could climb trees! With Winter coming fast I need to do something for the one Guinea hen we have left. With these suggestions I feel perhaps we can replenish the flock this Spring knowing we did our best to keep the birds safe. I like the idea of an electric fence around their run area. I still need to finish the top for the poultry pen. I hadn't come up with a plan for opening and closing the door to their house. With this information I think I can build a door that operates on a light detecting circuit. Light detecting circuit tutorial
Great idea thanks. I'll update you on how this goes.
Brian
 
light-detecting-circuit.jpg
[Thumbnail for light-detecting-circuit.jpg]
 
hans muster
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One other thing I was thinking about:

Some people complain that when the automatic door is closing, sometimes some chickens are still outside. To avoid this, how complicated would it be to have, seconds before the door closes, a sound and an automatic distribution of a few grains the chickens like? The sound would train the ckicken in a Pavlowian manner to go in, eat the snack, and the door closes.

If someone versed in electronics (Brian?) could tell me if it is feasable...
 
pollinator
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I have never seen a pig attack chickens
 
Brian Rodgers
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hans muster wrote:One other thing I was thinking about:

Some people complain that when the automatic door is closing, sometimes some chickens are still outside. To avoid this, how complicated would it be to have, seconds before the door closes, a sound and an automatic distribution of a few grains the chickens like? The sound would train the ckicken in a Pavlowian manner to go in, eat the snack, and the door closes.

If someone versed in electronics (Brian?) could tell me if it is feasable...


Absolutely it is possible, in fact it should be exceedingly simple, I think.
Their construction should be exceedingly simple, I think
No seriously, having electronics knowledge is really helpful for creating these little projects. I haven't done electronics in ten years, but I still have many components left after closing down my last service shop. I'll see what I can do and post the results and questions here.
Brian
 
hans muster
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Great, please keep us up to date. On instructables.com there are a few really nice systems, self-locking among others.
What do you think of the idea of the Pavlov bell to teach the chicken to enter the coop?
 
Brian Rodgers
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I'll go check out instructables and get an idea what people are already doing. The Pavlov bell idea is great, I wish we would have done the dinner bell thing when we fist got the Keets. This is giving me hope that we can try a flock of birds again.

Brian
 
Brian Rodgers
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Sorry I sort of forgot about this plus I'm sort of down with a light surgery as well as taking care of my better half after her surgery. I'm feeling better and looked into this some today. I found this right off the bat. This is a simple light sensor circuit which turns on a relay.

I think it needs a timer as well to open the door an hour after first light. I haven't addressed the evening timing issue, but I'll keep working on this fun project. I'll create a logic diagram of what we need this circuit to do. If you can let me know what is on your wish list, I'll see what it'll take to get it incorporated.
Brian
 
steward
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Are any Permies using an automatic chicken door opener for a up/down sliding guillotine style door on a chicken coop? I'm eyeing something along the lines of one of these and am hoping someone has a little experience and input to offer about using a door opener on a photocell & timer.

 
master gardener
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@ James, we have this one. Once we figured out the timer/sensor, it has worked perfectly. It can be set for only light sensor, only timer, or open on one, and close on the other. It's simple, it moves slowly enough that none of our 10 girls get stuck on the wing side, and no one gets hurt. The side edges are enclosed, and the bottom edge is smooth and dull. I can't vouch for the price, because it was included in the cost of our coop.
20190624_173615.jpg
Our automatic chicken door
Our automatic chicken door
 
pollinator
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James Freyr wrote:Are any Permies using an automatic chicken door opener for a up/down sliding guillotine style door on a chicken coop? I'm eyeing something along the lines of one of these and am hoping someone has a little experience and input to offer about using a door opener on a photocell & timer.



I have a Chicken Guard auto door and absolutely love it. A little spendy, but reliable! They even have good customer service.
 
James Freyr
steward
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Matt Todd wrote:

I have a Chicken Guard auto door and absolutely love it. A little spendy, but reliable! They even have good customer service.



How long have you had it? Has it given you years of reliable service with regular battery changes?
 
pollinator
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James Freyr wrote:Are any Permies using an automatic chicken door opener for a up/down sliding guillotine style door on a chicken coop? I'm eyeing something along the lines of one of these and am hoping someone has a little experience and input to offer about using a door opener on a photocell & timer.



I've had one of those Brinsea ChickenGaurd opener/closer things for three years and it works good. I have to change the batteries in it about 2x per year.
 
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I have a trail camera setup to see what deer are eating all my trees instead of walking their normal trail in the woods( where I planted food plots for them). I have caught pics at all times of day and nearly everyday of a fox wandering through my yard. The trees I am watching line my chicken run. I have an electric net fence surrounding my run and have caught 3 pics of fox testing that fence. In the last three months I have 4 pics of the fox (possibly at least 2 different ones) just looking at my chickens and not testing the fence again. I never close the door of my coop. My chickens are rescues that were housed in awful conditions and not treated well. I had no interest in chickens, but they have made me love them. Two of them are 5 years old and still give me 3 eggs a week. The other 4 give me 5 a week as reward for putting up with them. The electric net fence is worth its weight in gold. I dont want to advertise, but premier 1 has the net fence and a Energizer for less than 300 bucks. I had a battery and set it up to run off the battery that I charge every other week. You could add a solar charger for less than 100 dollars and it would be maintenance free. The beauty of the electric net is that my coop stays in one spot and I move the net every few weeks. They do an awesome job of clearing my garden area and I can just rotate the net to let them clean up each area before I plant again.

P.s. I dont even have a door on my coop. I didnt know anything about chickens and just made a makeshift little coop with a few roosting bars and some nest boxes.
 
Tj Jefferson
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After using the Ador for two years, I think I can generalize a little. It works. I always have the mobile coop door facing the southeast, with the feeder on the NE away from prevailing wind. the water collection roof has the low side on the SW. Every time. The door opens pretty early and they are ready to come out immediately. They like to forage in the early morning for bugs, especially in the heat. I like the opening time and it could even be earlier. We have never had one miss the closing even with the door on that side. It closes in winter when its about the end of legal hunting (for those who know the light level Im talking about). They are generally in the coop more than 30 minutes before it closes. When I am moving their paddock they stay out and watch but have never missed the train.

Things I would do differently:
12V door not 6V. I have to change the battery about every 6 months and don't have a 6v charger. I have ten ways of charging a 12v battery. Everything else is 12v especially the fence. There are 6v fences and 6v lights and 6v water heaters, but I should have standardized on one or the other and had one battery. The battery indicator is tiny and inconspicuous. We find out its dead because the door remains closed (seems to end up that way since the weight of the door is enough to make it slightly easier to close than open). One charge indicator for all the stuff would be nice.

Like Stephen said, the door is a backup. The fence is the main barrier, I have seen tons of fox tracks in the snow and they don't challenge the fence at this point. We had a neighbor dog who did and he ran 1/4 mile before stopping. This should contain racoons and possums as well.
 
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I've been using the "automatic chicken coop door" for 3 years. I have a very long outdoor extension cord ran to the timer. I even expanded my coop and moved the door from the old to the new and it was a piece of cake.
I have to set the clock twice a year for daylight savings. I adjust the time about once a month or so to accommodate light changes. They're not out until I get up in the morning AND the sun has fully risen. I've seen foxes here at 7 am.
i often go out for supper at 6:30 and back around 8. I have the door set to close about 15-20 minutes after sundown. When I get home I double check and make sure it's closed, and that's a good habit when I've recently changed the timer. I've screwed up and found a hen or two sleeping under the ramp 🙄
I can't say enough how wonderful this thing is. Before I got it and the reason I got it it is that I would leave the coop door open for them and then go and close it at night. Except when I forgot and came out in my whole flock was dead. All it took was once.
Downside. A heavy string pulls the door up. I've had to replace it several times so to be able to get at the motor I've just put hinges on the cover so I don't have to unscrew the panel every time. I've found 100 pound test weight fishing line to be the best. It took a lot of experimenting and frustration and a bit of a learning curve to set the actuators because I kept snapping the line.
The guy that owns the company is really helpful and very nice and patient. And I'll be darned if the things aren't made in the US. Our very own Indiana.
gift
 
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