An automated door – every chicken keepers dream!
You can rest in bed and not have to worry about getting up at the crack of dawn to let the girls out. You can go away for the evening knowing they will be safely locked in while you are away.
In addition to a stress-free life, you know your coop is predator proof too.
What’s not to like?
Automatic chicken coop doors have been around for a couple of years now, so we thought we would take a look at them and see what options there are for you and your hens.
We are not going to review every product available, but, we will give you a general overview of what’s available, problems you may encounter and helpful tips and hints from our experience using them.
As with all things, some work better than others, some are simple, some are ‘high tech’ and then there are those that clever people have made for themselves.
So here we go – everything you ever wanted to know about chicken doors and never thought to ask.
Our Pick: All in One
What to Know Before Purchasing
There are a few important things to know, or think about, before you buy your hen house door opener, or you may end up with something that is not helpful to you or your hens.
As they can be expensive, you really need to shop carefully for the door that best suits your needs; this is where this guide comes in!
As an example
There are manufacturers that sell just the control box (i.e. door opener) and the door is sold separately or there are ‘all in one’ combination units with the control box and door. Read the advertisement carefully, you need an ‘all in one’ unit unless you are prepared to either pay a lot more or make your own door.
If it seems much cheaper than other models – ask yourself why? Most all in one (i.e. combination) models are priced between $200-400.
- Ease of operation (e.g. fail safe and manual override).
- Wide range of operating temperatures – down to below zero is optimal.
- Slow, gentle closure (i.e. not a gravity-based closing mechanism) with a 30 second cycle time.
- Waterproof control unit.
- Wire is safely secured from rodents (and chickens).
- Adjustable timer or light sensitivity for control box.
- Warranty and customer service.
There are four main purchasing decisions you need to consider:
- Power Source for your Control Box
- Type of Control Box
- Opening Mechanism
- Door Weight
Each chapter below will explore these components and share our experience on types and designs you will require.
Automatic Chicken Coop Door Review Table
|DOOR||CONTROL BOX||OUR RATING|
|Chicken Guard Premium Door Opener||Timer and light sensor with manual override||
|Brinsea Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener||Timer and light sensor with manual override||
|Cheeper Keeper Automatic Door Opener||Light sensor||See Price|
|Chicken Guard Extreme Door Opener||Timer and light sensor with manual override||See Price|
|Auto Door Automatic Chicken Coop Door||Timer with manual override||See Price|
Power Sources for Automatic Chicken Doors
The control boxes on coop door units can be powered by four different sources:
- Mains electric
- A combination of all three
Battery Power is the way to go!
Most of us don’t have power supplies near our coops, so because of this most control boxes are battery powered.
Battery power is a constant and reliable source where you don’t have to check anything much except the control box to ensure it is functioning. Batteries also prevent against power outages and most good control boxes have low battery indicators so you know when to replace them.
The only drawback here is battery life.
You should expect to get 6-9 months from 4 AA batteries. Whilst this is relatively short-lived, it’s more than offset by the advantages of having an automated coop door.
Solar power is a great option for those of you who are off-grid.
It’s also great if you have your chickens in pasture and it’s far away from the house or electric source.
However, solar power can be a ‘spotty performer’ in areas that don’t have several days of sunshine, or in the Northern Hemisphere winter months.
Our Pick: All in One
Programmable Control Boxes (Light Sensors Vs Time Based)
There are two widely used modes for door operation:
- Light Sensor (Sometimes with time-based failsafe options).
- Timer Based (i.e. Clock).
Light sensor operated doors open with sun rise and close at dusk or dark.
Since they are light sensitive, be sure that no light will trigger the door to open at night. Think very bright moonlight or a motion detector light, even passing car headlights – nothing like letting the fox into the henhouse!
We all know predators are smart, they watch for patterns and weaknesses. Once Mr. Fox knows that your girls are up at 6am sharp and you are nowhere to be seen, he may be bold enough to strike.
You will have to place the sensor carefully on a west facing wall to catch the morning sun. Some deft placements can delay the opening of the door if you don’t want them out at sunrise.
The second option is a timer-based solution. Some light sensor mechanisms are fitted with an emergency failsafe option which is triggered by a timer-based mechanism.
So, if the coop door hasn’t been opened by 8AM then open the door.
A timer-based option, without a light sensor, is our favorite solution as it is cheaper and programmable.
One big advantage of using the program or override feature is that you can vary the opening time based on season, day or need.
You will have to periodically adjust the program timing as the days get longer or shorter.
Our Pick: Control Box
The opening and closing of the coop door has different power sources, programmable controls and mechanisms.
The mechanism can be either a:
- Motorized Lift and Gravity Close
- Motorized Lift and Close
Always select a motorized lift and close for a well-controlled open and close of the coop door.
The motorized lift and close should have an electric eye or positive stop to prevent against harm or injury to your hens.
Ideally, it should also have a small lip in front of the positive stop to prevent predators from sliding open the coop door.
What Size Door Do You Need?
This refers to the size of the ‘pop’ door.
Some units come in one standard size (12” x 15”); this is ideal for most breeds. Larger birds may not be able to squeeze through smaller holes!
If this is the case, an option is to use an aluminum door. An aluminum door will reduce the load on the motor as it can reduce the weight of the door by up to 90%.
A typical coop door can weigh 4KG, however, an aluminum counterpart, measuring the same size, will be 0.3KG. Typically, cheaper automatic openers will raise and lower doors of up to 1KG in weight. Better, more robust motors will raise a 4KG coop door and not strain themselves.
Not straining the motor is important for a smooth operation of the door.
A few models have variable sizes for the pop door entrance, so be sure what size door you require before you buy.
Our Pick: All in One Integrated
Common Problems with Automatic Coop Doors
Whilst researching automatic coop doors, and having used them for several years, you will find common problem areas with specific units or brands:
- Avoid gravity lowered doors and always purchase a motorized raise and lower door. Gravity lowered doors can cause harm and stress to your hens if they get trapped.
- Avoid cheap, poorly manufactured automatic coop doors, this can result in electric issues and potentially your coop remaining open to predators if the door fails.
- If you live in areas where the temperature can regularly drop below freezing, it’s best to avoid using these mechanisms as they can simply freeze and refuse to run.
Automatic Chicken Coop Doors 101 Summary Table
•Battery (Typically 4 x AAs)
|We recommend battery power to prevent against power outages and solar failures. Battery power should last between 6-9 months and should have a low battery indicator.|
|Programmable Control Box||•Timer Based (i.e. Clock)
•Light Sensor Based
|A timer-based mechanism for opening and closing the coop door which can be adjusted based on daylight and days is the best option. Light sensors, even if they are adjustable, can fail too often due to cloudy days, shade and changes in the atmosphere.|
|Opening Mechanism||•Motorized lift and close
•Motorized lift and gravity close
|Select a motorized lift and close unit; ideally with an electric eye to prevent lowering jams or your hens being trapped in the door. Ideally, include a positive stop with a small lip to prevent against predator intrusion.|
|Typically, cheaper units will lift doors of up to 1KG in weight. Better, more robust units, will easily raise a 4KG coop door. You can always use an aluminum door to reduce the load on the motor.|
|Installation Type||•Control Box
•Combination Unit (Control Box and Door)
|It’s advisable to purchase the combination unit to prevent against poor installation and an over-worked motor due to an excessively heavy door.|
If you are the inventive sort and have made your own automatic door, please tell us about it, we love hearing from you. Or if you have any experience with automatic chicken coop doors, let us know in the comments section below…