If you’re like me, you’re always searching to find ways to make the daily grind of raising chickens a bit easier. And with today’s technology, everything is getting easier, including raising chickens. There are automated chicken feeders, watering systems…and now there are automatic chicken coop doors!
But is paying a fairly steep price tag really worth it? And are there alternatives to buying the higher end products you see online? Let’s take a look at all the ins and outs and you be the judge.
Why Is An Automatic Chicken Door Helpful?
A few reasons why automatic chicken coop doors may be good for your situation…
Convenience – It’s pretty darn simple to build or buy your chicken coop with an entrance door for your chickens and just leave it open all the time, or make a door you can manually shut at night when the chickens are all inside.
Having said that…it’s a pain the in the rear to go to your coop every night to make sure the chickens are shut away safely in their coop…only to get up early in the morning and let them out again. Not much fun!
So the thought of keeping your chickens safe and having an easy, automated way of making this happen is an attractive concept. Thus…the automatic chicken door!
Probably the number one reason – keeping out critters who want to eat your flock! If you live in an area with a lot of ground predators like fox, skunks, raccoons, coyotes, mink, bobcats etc., keeping your coop door shut at night is a smart idea. It can also keep out aerial predators like owls and hawks.
The higher end automatic chicken coop doors do a great job of accomplishing just that – awesome predator control! It will provide you with peace of mind at night, knowing that your birds are safe for the night, and will be let out of the coop in the morning at the time you choose – sounds like a win win!
I have personally lost many chickens to predators at night. After trying different traps and gizmos to scare them away, it would have been just as easy to simply install an automatic chicken door opener. As always, hindsight is 20/20 right?
Peace Of Mind
Knowing your chickens are safe at night provides a huge sense of relief! Where we live, coyotes can be heard close by nearly every night and I often worry about them breaching my fences for an easy meal .
I’ve made my chicken coop predator resistant by elevating the coop 2-3 feet off the ground, putting up good fencing etc…but I don’t currently have a door over the opening, so if those animals are determined to go after my flock, they can still find a way.
Having a door installed (especially an automatic one for added ease) would take away those late night worries! I’m still undecided which door to choose but am sharing what I’ve learned so far.
What To Watch Out For
- What I’m about to tell you will shock you I’m sure…chickens are messy – who knew? All sarcasm aside, this messiness, scratching at the bedding on the floor etc. can mess with those automatic door openers. So it’s important to position the automatic door so that it’s away from the bedding to avoid this to the extent possible.
- Keep the door area free of other debris, feed bags, feeders, waterers etc. is also important.
- Another thing to watch for is to make sure nothing gets in the side grooves the door slides up and down in. If there is blockage, rust or debris in this groove, the door will not be able to go up or down.
- When setting up the timer, make sure it’s late enough so that all the chickens are in for the night so none of them get locked out of the coop! Try to estimate shutting the door by post dusk each evening, not right at dusk or before dusk. This should be a pretty good way to make sure all the chickens have made it in for the night and minimize the chances of this happening.
- Lastly – the weight of your door can be a factor in choosing the right product for your needs. If you have a heavier wood door, you’ll need to make sure the system you choose will accommodate the weight. Most companies will list how many pounds the mechanism can lift in the product specifications.
Considerations When Choosing An Auto Chicken Coop Door
It’s easy enough to just find one of these doors and hope for the best…but read on to make sure you are armed with the right information before spending your money on something you might regret.
How Are They Powered?
- Solar – Personally, this option appeals to me, it takes out the potential problems with electric in that the there will always be a steady source of power to your door opening unit. One drawback here is your location. If you live in a sunny area for most of the year, you’re good to go! But if not, you may want to consider an electric or battery powered option.
- Electric – This is the most convenient, but you’ll have to run a power cord to your coop to power this unit unless you have a coop that is hard wired. Either way, there can always be the potential for power outages and the like.
- Battery – Many people like this option because batteries are fairly cheap to purchase and provide a steady source of power. However, I would be nervous about forgetting to check and/or replace the batteries consistently, potentially leaving my flock stuck inside or out! If you’re better about remembering to check and change batteries, this is a good option. Also, some of the battery operated options have a low battery indicator which can help.
- Some Combo Of The Above
Control Box Options
- Light Sensor – This option is appealing – at dawn or dusk, the sensor will trigger the door to automatically open or shut. Reviews of this type of system are mixed, and some people claim that full moons can trigger it, or even bright headlights. Also, finding the right placement for the sensor is key. Just remember the saying “the sun rises in the east, sets in the west,” and place the sensor accordingly.
- Timer – This option may be a bit more work in that you can simply adjust a timer for when your door will open and shut. I like this option because it allows for a bit more control, and I will always know when to double check to make sure the system is working properly.
- Motorized Open/Close – From my research, this is the preferred option. It may cost a bit more, but there is less chance of your chickens getting hurt from a door that shuts suddenly.
- Motorized Open/Gravity Close – This is a cheaper option with less bells and whistles, but there is a chance your chickens could be hit by the door when it closes. Some of this can be mitigated by having using a timer operated unit and setting the close time for well past dusk to ensure all the birds are in at night. Or, to lessen the blow (if the door does happen to land on top of them when they are coming or going) is to add a strip of rubber of padding on the bottom edge of the door and/or to make a door that is light weight.
How Are They Sold?
- All In One – Includes the door, door opener (control box), hardware. This is a great option if you haven’t built your coop yet as you can simply adjust your coop design and measurements to fit this door. However, if you already have a coop, you can simply adjust your existing door opening to accommodate this type of product. You may be able to purchase this at your local farm store, or here is link to this sweet set up! There is also a nice infrared one at Green Garden Chicken.
- Motor Only – This option looks good to me as I already have a coop and door in place. I can buy a product like this, attach it to my door and call it good! Some modifications will have to be made but it’s a great option and I can use the door that’s already on my coop. It’s a bit cheaper too – that’s always nice right? I have an egg timer I can use to automate it. An example of this type of product can be found here.
How About A DIY Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener?
So far, we’ve looked at options for buying automated coop door openers…but for you handy types and those who like to save some money, there are also options for building them yourself!
If you’re like me, I tend to research this type of thing on youtube, google images, Bing or Yahoo images etc. and there is A LOT of info on this topic, and many videos of how to do this all on your own. I love Youtube!
Benefits of DIY Automatic Coop Doors
- You can use a door you already have, and just make modifications to it to make it automated.
- It will save you money since you don’t have to buy the “all in one” door kits you find online. You just need the control box, and a timer or sensor.
- If you dig deep enough, you’ll find a step by step tutorial on Youtube to help you each step of the way – awesome! See the video below:
Cons of DIY Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener
- Unlike the ones you buy online, it can take a lot of trial and error to build one of these on your own.
- Also unlike the ones you buy, you cannot return to a store if it doesn’t work out. (Although a true DIYer knows those are the inherent risks of attempting such a feat!)
- It can take a lot of extra time building and designing your own automatic set up, so you’ll have to have a general estimate of what your time is worth to you.
An automatic door opener for your flock is not necessary in all circumstances. If you live in an area where there are very few predators, it may not be something to spend your money on. Or if you have installed some predator proof fencing around your coop, you may not need to hassle with installing an automatic chicken door.
But if you share territory with ground or aerial predators, automatic coop door openers can be a major asset for you. Not only can they help to keep these animals out, the automated features included in the design of these products can make this process effortless!
For more information on these products, stop by your local farm store or check them out online here. Thanks for stopping by! Please leave a comment or question below about your experiences with these doors – we can all learn from each other.