Monday, 8 May 2017

How To Automate A Chicken Coop Door Using Micro Linear Actuators



How To Automate A Chicken Coop Door Using Micro Linear Actuators

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 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!

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