Monday, 8 May 2017

How To Automate A Chicken Coop Door Using Micro Linear Actuators



automated chicken coop

The local food movement is inspiring more and more families to install backyard chicken coops. This is the time of year when people are considering installing a coop for the first time or perhaps upgrading an existing chicken coop door. In this article, we're going to show you exactly how to automate your chicken coop door using a remote control or an arduino

Why Automate Your Chicken Coop?

Among the challenges that come with owning chickens is that you have to protect them from predators. Most chicken owners go out every morning and open their chicken coop door, and then again in the evening to close it. This keeps your chickens safe from eagles, owls, coyotes and a host of other predators. It is however, time consuming.

If your coop is near your house this might not bother you much, but if your coop is across a yard or a farm, it can be a chore. If you have limited mobility, spend a lot of time outside the home or live in an area with cold weather or excessive rain, it can be downright irritating.

How To Automate Your Chicken Coop Door

A quick YouTube search will show you that there are a thousand different ways to skin a cat or in this case, contain a chicken. Using a micro linear actuator to automate a chicken coop door is ideal because they are inexpensive and easy to install. 

If you buy from a reputable manufacturer, it will also come with a hardware kit for mounting so that you don't have to drive out to a hardware store and buy a bunch of extra parts. 

We're going to focus on two simple ways to accomplish the goal:

  • Open and close your coop with a remote control system
  • Open and close your chicken coop using an arduino

Using a remote control is the easiest method by far. Our wireless remote control has a range of up to 100m in a straight line and is simple to wire - 2 wires in for power, 2 wires out to the actuator. It comes with 2 remotes that have the batteries pre-installed to save you money.

If your coop is in a front or back yard, or on a deck, this is an ideal setup. One button will open the coop and the other will close it. 

If you're away from home a lot or have a coop that's far from your house, you'll want to consider using an arduino. Arduino is an inexpensive, open-source micro-controller that can be used to perform tasks. For example, using a photoresistor, an arduino can send a signal to a linear actuator to extend when the sun goes down, and retract when it comes back up.

Alternately, you could program the arduino to close the coop door at a specific time, temperature or humidity setting. You can also use arduino to automatically dispense chicken food or water or automatically lock a gate that leads into the coop. If you love to have complete control, arduino is perfect. 

You will need to learn some basic wiring and coding in order to make the arduino function the way that you want it to. If you're up for it, learning arduino can be a lot of fun. If you don't want to learn, you can always hire a local professional to help you with the programming and installation.

Mounting The Actuator

As I mentioned before, quality micro linear actuators for automation all come with a hardware kit for mounting. Where you mount it will depend on whether your door is hinged or sliding. 

Also, make sure that the actuator can handle the weight of the door that you're pushing or pulling open. You won't have a problem using Actuonix actuators as we have devices that will lift up to 67lbs max.When you receive your actuator, mount it to the coop and door using the provided hardware kit.

Choose a fixed point in your coop and on the door. Measure between those points with the door closed and with it open. This will give you the total stroke length required. If you need a stroke that is not offered off the shelf, you have options. We recently wrote an article highlighting some options for setting a custom stroke on linear actuators.

My family has owned a farm and raised chickens for years. We understand the challenges that come with daily coop maintenance and can tell you confidently that whether you're an urban farmer or own an acreage, a diy automated chicken coop door will make your daily chores much easier.

If you have used linear actuators in an urban farming application we'd love to see what you built!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

How To Make A DIY Remote Controlled Door Lock For Your Home

how to make a diy remote control door lock

Everybody loves a nice simple home automation project. In this article, we're going to show you how to build a DIY remote control door lock for your home or office.

RC door locks have been around for several years now in various forms. The main problem with the commercially available options is that they're very expensive. It's typical for one of these units to cost $200 or more. You might be willing to shell out that much for a lock on your front door, but what if you want remote locks somewhere else in your home?

You might want to remote control a lock on a garage or bedroom door. In my home, the lock system I built below is going to be installed on my shop to keep the kids out.

Control system

For this project, I've used an Actuonix Wireless remote control. These units come ready to go out of the box and are a plug and play setup with any of our "S" series (2-wire) micro linear actuators. The remotes that come with the kit are fairly small and will look nice on your key chain. They feature a blue light that illuminates when one of the two buttons is depressed.

The wireless remote control wiring instructions can be found here.

Hardware

You're going to need a standard sliding bolt lock for this project. I bought this particular one at my local hardware store but they're available at Home Depot or Amazon, probably for a little less money. 

For connecting the actuator to the lock I used a piece of wire that i had laying around. There's not much to this, you just need to use something that's solid enough to drive the lock yet flexible enough to not break if it binds up for some reason. You also need to think about how you will mount it to the clevis tip on the actuator. The wire I used already had a hole in the end so I didn't have to worry about this.

Actuator

I'm driving the lock with an L16-S actuator. These are a great deal at $70 and are a plug and play with our remote control kit. Two wires in, two wires out. It's that simple. You might need an actuator with a different stroke depending on the travel of the lock that you buy. Make sure to measure before ordering!

When you're installing the lock, make sure to put the sliding bolt portion on the wall rather than the door. The box needs to plug into the wall and you don't want to have extra wires hanging from your door.

It's also important to make sure that your bolt is perfectly aligned with the locking piece that mounts on your door. If it's not, your lock might bind up and ruin the actuator or possibly bend the connecting rod.

Check out the video below for full details on how we built this project. 


That's all there is to building a DIY remote controlled door lock for your home or office. What are you going to use yours for? I'm thinking to build a smaller version in the future to lock the drawer on my bedside table to prevent my son from getting in there!