Even if you have no interest in installing an automatic, sliding door opener (but really who doesn’t) please read this post. Because at the end of this post I’m asking for your help. But if you don’t know anything about circuit boards or mechanical stuff then don’t worry about it.
So, where we stand at the moment is, if you want to install an automatic, sliding door opener then read on. If you know about circuit boards or motors and such, read on. Everyone else … you should probably read on as well. It just seems dumb to have already invested this much time into a post and not finish reading it.
My very best friend in the world, Amazon and I had a little rendezvous last week. On some kind of whim I decided I was going to install an automatic door opener for my chicken coop. Other than when they get sick, chickens pretty much take care of themselves. As long as they have food, water, and Netflix they’re A-O.K. They wake up on their own and get their own breakfast and every night when it starts to get a bit dark out, they put themselves to bed, one by one walking up the coop ladder to their sleeping quarters where they snuggle down on their roost.
Of course, there’s one thing a chicken can’t do. It can’t open a door. (Technically it also can’t put it’s own lip gloss on, so it’s probably closer to two things that a chicken can’t do)
So every morning, whenever the sun decides to come up, the chickens all stand at the coop door screaming to be let out. BAHHHCK BUCK BUCK BUCK BUCK BUCHOCKKK. If sunrise is at 6:00 a.m., that’s when it starts. I’m not what you’d call an early riser, so having to run outside at 6 in the morning to let the chickens out, disrupts my beauty sleep by a good 2 hours.
Chickens also have a tendancy to be eaten by raccoons. In fact, every single night this week I’ve had to run out to the coop at around 10:00 p.m. to scream, yell, and storm at raccoons. They mainly just look at me and fart. Raccoons are very rude. And gassy.
So every single night, no matter what, that coop door has to be closed before it gets dark out. But sometimes I’m not home at night. That means I either have to lock the chickens up early before I go out for the night (which makes for some angry chickens) or I have to rush home screaming ‘I HAVE TO CLOSE THE COOP I HAVE TO CLOSE THE COOP” to anyone slowing me down. This could be small children, the elderly or law enforcement. Doesn’t matter. If they’re slowing me down from getting to the coop before dark, they’re getting yelled at and quite possibly even shanked between the 3rd and 4th rib.
So that’s why Amazon and I decided it would be fun to install an automatic door opener. They make door openers specifically for chicken doors, but that’s not what I have. I have a regular, person sized, swinging door.
Product: Skylink Swing Door Opener
Cost: $196 (US), $250(CA) (paid for it myself … NOT a paid post)
Installation: Kindda easy
Things like this are scary as hell when you first take them out of the box. For real. How am I supposed to figure all of this out and put it together without, I don’t know … ripping someone’s throat veins out. ARGhakdkj. But then I took a deep breath, made a coffee and got started.
The first step for me was to sand down my coop door. If you’re installing this on a regular house door, you’d do the same but only if the door sticks quite a bit. The door opener actually has a setting you can use to give the door more force when it closes in case you have a bit of a sticky door.
You can see what I mean by having a regular door. This isn’t some plywood square that lifts up and down to let the chickens out. It’s a real door.
So, I needed a real door opener.
Step 1 – Screw the rail into your door frame, 7″ away from the edge. Just closer the door, put the rail in place so it lines up with the edge of your door and mark where your rail goes. Then screw it in. So far, everyone still has their throat veins.
Step 2 – Remove the side panels from the motor unit. They don’t really tell you how to do this in the instructions. BUT, you push up with your thumbs …
… then pull away from the top. This exposes the circuit board and controls inside.
Step 3 – Screw the motor unit onto the back plate. The reason it doesn’t already come assembled is because the unit gets screwed to different spots on the back plate depending on how your door opens. In-Swing to the left, In-Swing to the right, Out-Swing to the left or Out-swing to the right.
Screw the unit to the plate by lining it up with the right spots.
That circuit board in there is the thing that angers me. More on that later.
Step 4 – Activate the unit. The instructions tell you how to do this, but basically all you do is push one of the buttons in, and plug it into power at the same time.
Step 5 – The motor will start running automatically and the pin on top will spin around letting you know you’ve set it up properly and it’s almost ready to install.
By the way, they make things easy in terms of hardware because all the steps come with a corresponding bag of hardware that’s all marked and labelled.
Step 6 – YAYYYYY. All you have to do now is screw the back plate (with the unit) to the door. You need to leave 2mm from the edge of the door.
The only thing left to do is attach the arm and plug it in. Seriously. So easy.
Step 7 – Stick the arm in the rail channel and slide it towards the unit. I keep saying unit. Which is a euphemism for man parts.
Step 8 – Slip the other side of the arm onto the rotating pin on the top of the penis. I mean unit. It won’t fit very well.
Step 9 – Open the door until you hear the arm click into place. Now it will fit well.
Step 10 – Plug it in and try it out!
I also ordered the magnetic lock assembly because I have literally been outside and seen raccoons hanging off of the hardware cloth on my door. So I wanted something to really hold the door closed. The magnet can withstand 100 lbs of pressure.
Once the magnet is installed all you have to do is plug that wire into the unit. Heh.
This couldn’t have been easier to install, although I have to tell you it took me over half a day because I kept referring back to the instructions, plus I had to stop and take photos, plus there was snacking to take into account. Now that I’ve done it once I’m pretty confident I could install one of these things in a half an hour or so.
Which coincidentally is about the amount of time it took me to disassemble the entire thing so I could send it back to my pal Amazon. Why, you ask? Because the description online said it could be used with a timer. What it meant was the unit has a timer in it which will allow the door to stay open for 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 seconds. Um … that won’t work for what I want.
Also the only way to open the door is with a remote control. Great for when I’m laying on the couch in the middle of a rainstorm and don’t want to go outside to close the coop door, but really not at all practical for when I’m not at home.
It was the moment I realized I couldn’t hook this thing up to a manual timer either, that I started looking for throat veins. It’s all laid out on my dining room table at the moment, ready to be shipped back to the manufacturer, but I can’t help but think there’s a way around this.
I really do love everything else about this opener. It closes really solidly, it’s strong, and if I can get it to do what I want, it will be really, really practical and worth every penny.
But I can’t figure it out. I just can’t. I know there has to be a way to fiddle with the circuit board, or add another circuit board, or maybe remove the circuit board. Or add a relay timer or, or, OR SOMETHING.
Now we’re at the part where I ask all of you mechanical and electronic nerds for help. Or maybe you have a mechanical, electronic nerdy friend. Or husband. Or wife. Or cellmate.
It isn’t a complete emergency. There is a fix if no one has the answer.
I emailed the company and even though they replied promptly (within 24 hours) their only recommendation was to buy two additional product of theirs (A mini security system for $99, and a Receiver/Repeater for $30 that would allow me to link the door opener to a timer through my router, plus allow me to monitor the door’s status from my cell phone.
But that’s ANOTHER $130. So if you can help me do it for less money, that’d be great. This Skylink automatic swing door opener works great. Totally recommend it. Love it. Easy to install. But I need it to do more!
Waiting for your help opening doors for me …