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Old 08-19-2013, 04:11 PM   #1
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Default Electronics gurus - give me advice (agricultural content inside)

I have some laying hens I'm going to be putting out in a storage shed retrofitted into a chicken coop. The idea of opening and closing their door every morning and evening is not something I look forward to. I have learned there is quite a market out there for automated chicken doors, and they are usually controlled by daylight sensors or timers. I think I would prefer a timer because I don't know if I trust those light sensors to work consistently enough during bad weather or age quite as well as a basic timer.

Some styles out there already include

AdorStore Automatic Chicken Door
Pullet Shut door

but I think I like the basic idea behind this one the best as it runs on batteries and uses a simple guillotine style door which I think would be ideal for my coop.

chuxaway.com - Chuxaway SC

However, all of the above options are very expensive. Are the prices fair? I don't know.

Is it possible to make a cheaper version from parts sourced online? Or for someone who is admittedly not an EE genius, should I just forget it and pony up for a ready to go model?
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Old 08-19-2013, 04:40 PM   #2
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The electronics are quite simple, so yes, I would say those are overpriced. Especially considering that they function by simply winching a string in order to pull a door up.

The problem is, without some electronics knowledge, building one is probably not feasible.
So they are overpriced, but if you cant price them any lower, then it may be your only option. Unless we can think of something cheaper that can re purposed for your use.

I found a couple of ghetto-rig options out there. Might be more hassle than they are worth.

http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Bes...n_door_design/

http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Ala...n_coop_opener/

http://www.avianaquamiser.com/posts/...ken_coop_door/
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Old 08-19-2013, 05:54 PM   #3
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Thanks for posting up those links, somehow I missed them when I was doing my research. I'm intrigued by the power antenna concept.
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Old 08-19-2013, 09:57 PM   #4
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Buy a remote control truck.. like a cheap one for 10-15 bucks, toss a string on the wheels so it pulls a door up when you press forward as the wheels turn forward. That or buy one of these things that turns on and off the lights for fish tanks. Set it so it turns on a small motor to winch up a door or open a door for a minute or two so the food can drip down in the pan.

Now i'm confused though are you going to be sending seed down into a pan or open a door for the chickens to go in another room to get feed there? Personally i dont think the 2nd room idea is good since you'll have chickens walking over the main stockpile of seed unless you plan on filling it every day.
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Old 08-19-2013, 11:08 PM   #5
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I like the RC car motor idea except one of the challenges is to automate the system. I think a lot of the complication comes in when making the system do this action on its own based on the timer or other sensor.

The idea for this whole project is to have a system that opens and shuts the main chicken door so the chickens can exit the coop at 5:30am and start grazing without me being there to open it for them. Then at night, it should be set to close the door right about sunset because by that time all the chickens will be roosting in the coop and we want to have the door shut to keep out predators.
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Old 09-05-2013, 12:43 PM   #6
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Your chickens would prefer you to call it something other than a guillotine door.

My almost non-electronic solution would involve using two lamp timers, some relays, capacitors, resistors and maybe a diode or two along with the power antenna you mentioned in another thread. If you can get ac power to the coop, it might work. If not, stop reading.

Hack the lamp timers so that the switch just completes a circuit rather than provides 110v ac. Assemble a relay, capacitor and resistor to shorten the "on" cycle to a duration appropriate for opening or closing the door using info from this site. Wire one set of controls with the polarity to open the door and the other set of controls to close the door.
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Old 09-05-2013, 10:42 PM   #7
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Thanks, but unfortunately I will not have AC available at the coop.

I think what I will end up doing is using
this this
to turn the antenna on (raise the mast) and then turn it off (lower the mast) at appropriate times. What I like about this controller is that operates off of a timer, but automatically adjusts the time the switch operates depending on the time of year. That should remove the need to use sometimes finicky light sensors. I'll just power the whole thing with a small battery and probably use a Harbor Freight solar panel and charge regulator.
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Old 09-06-2013, 12:33 PM   #8
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Do you plan to hack the Intermatic timer so that it runs on DC? I'm pretty sure the battery just backs-up the time of day during a power outage and does not power the timer. I'm equally sure that if you can locate the power supply chip, you can hack it, but it is probably a surface mount board, so attaching wires is going to be interesting.

I completely overlooked using the "auto" feature on the antenna - that makes things much more simple if the constant draw isn't too much for your charging system.
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Old 09-06-2013, 10:48 PM   #9
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I really liked the antenna idea because it takes care of all the fancy stuff, stopping and reversing the motor, for you. I have plenty of space to mount it, so I have no reason to try to shorten the antenna or otherwise modify it. The other benefit is I figure that a rigid antenna will keep the door "locked" down and would-be intruders might have harder time lifting up the door.

Actually what is unique about the Intermatic timer is that it does run off a lithium battery and not AC. I found confirmation in their directions:

Quote:
Since the timer is battery-powered and does not need AC power to program, all of your settings will be saved in the timer and ready to be used once the timer is installed
I've read one forum post where someone was saying their experience with using a car antenna was that the draw to keep the antenna up was extremely minimal. No hard data to back that claim up though.

I think I'll just try using a used car battery and a 10-15w solar charger with regulator from Harbor Frieght or ebay to keep the battery topped off and hope that works.
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Old 09-08-2013, 04:53 PM   #10
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Outstanding!

I'll keep that intermatic info in the databanks for future use.
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Old 10-02-2013, 08:35 AM   #11
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Alright, so I'm going to look like an idiot here but I am pretty clueless on this for some reason.

My antenna has 3 wires, green is the "signal" wire, black is the ground, red is positive. My timer has 4 wires coming out of it. For a single switch operation, the timer instructions say to just ignore the red wire. Next, the timer instructions say to just hook up the black and blue wires to wires coming from the wall (no more specific than that) and that the green wire is to be connected to the grounding screw in the box, which I don't have.

Basically I think a simple circuit for this antenna would be to run a set of red and black wires directly to the battery from the antenna (as the ground & always hot). Then I would connect another set of wires to act as a timed power supply to trigger the action of raising and lowering the mast...but I think this is where I'm getting tripped up.

Red and black wires would first need to run from the battery to the timer, but then connected to the black and blue wires? Then, the green and black wires of the antenna would also be connected to the black and blue wires of the timer? Or, the green (what they are calling the ground) wire on the timer connected to the black wire of the antenna and the green wire of the antenna to either the black and blue timer wires?

BTW this link has sort of been an inspiration for me for the whole project, enough to get the same parts and just assume I would figure it out once I was looking at it.

Auto Coop Door II Antenna : Nifty-Stuff.com
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Old 10-02-2013, 08:58 AM   #12
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First things first. That timer requires 120 volts to operate. Do you have 120v available?
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Old 10-02-2013, 11:06 AM   #13
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Actually it just runs off a battery. It's already powered up and programmed.
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Old 10-02-2013, 12:01 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RedCarmel View Post
Actually it just runs off a battery. It's already powered up and programmed.
Perhaps I should be more clear:


1: From what I gather, that battery in the timer is only a backup to prevent the settings from being lost when the power in the hosue goes out. I *think* it will need 120vac to actually function normally.



2: I am assuming that the designers of that timer assumed that it would be used to switch AC loads, and therefore used a TRIAC rather than a FET or a relay to do the actual switching.

TRIACs are nor suitable for switching DC loads- they latch up and will not release until the current through them drops zero. With AC loads, this is not a problem because current in an AC circuit roughly follows voltage, and thus you have 120 opportunities per second for the device to release.



Now, I could be totally wrong. I'm just saying that if I were designing that circuit, that's how I would have done it.



You can certainly try it. Connect the red and black leads of the antenna to +12 and -12 respectively. Test the functionality of the antenna by momentarily connecting the green wire to +12.

Next, connect the black wire of the timer to +12, and connect the blue wire of the timer to the green wire of the antenna.

This is how it would be wired IF the timer works on DC.
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Old 10-02-2013, 12:20 PM   #15
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Thanks Joe I will give it a shot and report back! How about the green ground wire of the timer? I need to do nothing with that?

Edit: here are the specs

http://www.intermatic.com/~/media/In...ries_2pgs.ashx

When I saw it was rated for a 12V DC load I thought I was good to go.
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Old 10-02-2013, 12:34 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RedCarmel View Post
How about the green ground wire of the timer? I need to do nothing with that?
The green wire is the safety ground, again assuming that the switch is going into a 120vac household circuit. By definition (national electrical code) the safety ground wire must never be used as an active element of any circuit. It used to be common practice to use ground and neutral interchangeably (eg, as the return for a 120v light bulb installed in a 240v oven using the old-style three wire plug) however this is no longer permitted.

Thus, in a circuit which is not referenced to ground, that wire may be ignored entirely.




Quote:
Originally Posted by RedCarmel View Post
Edit: here are the specs

http://www.intermatic.com/~/media/In...ries_2pgs.ashx

When I saw it was rated for a 12V DC load I thought I was good to go.
Interesting.

Well, I guess my underlying assumption was wrong. I would not have thought that such a device would ever be DC-rated.


Go forth and profit.
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Old 10-02-2013, 08:48 PM   #17
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Joe, you were exactly right! It works perfectly now. Thank you for your help. MT comes through again.
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Old 10-02-2013, 09:28 PM   #18
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Well, glad to hear it.

I'm honestly surprised. I'd have figured that the designer of an in-wall timer like that would have used the least expensive possible circuit topology, under the assumption that the device would never be used in a DC circuit. Interesting that this is not the case.

Best of luck to the chickens.
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Old 10-02-2013, 09:59 PM   #19
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I'm thinking about putting a little exterior led on the outside to light up when the door is closed. That's for another day. Now it's time to hook up the solar panel/charge controller to the battery and enjoy not worrying about the chicken door.
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Old 11-18-2013, 10:22 AM   #20
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The door continues to work great. Now I'm onto a different project.

I've decided to install 100' of electrified poultry netting to keep the hens in and predators out. I bought a DC fencer that is designed to use a deep cycle marine battery like I already have in the coop to operate the door.

This is the charge controller I have

HQRP Solar 10A Charge Controller 12V/24V with Battery Charge Monitor

It has connections for pos/neg hookup for the solar panel, battery, and load. I already have 2 wires going into the "load" hookups and it's getting crowded in there. My fencer came with leads with alligator clips, and I would really just like to be able to hook it directly up to the battery posts.

Is the only downside to do this that the solar panel won't be providing power to the fencer directly (when it's sunny enough, anyway)? It doesn't use that much power so I don't think it will be too bad running it off the battery with the panel topping off the charge every day. The fencer will run 24/7.
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