The DIY that finally stumped me.

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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.

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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.

After a bit of browsing and also the purchase of THIS BOOK by The Nester FINALLY, I picked out the automatic door opener I thought would work well for me.

 

 

 

Product:  Skylink Swing Door Opener

Cost:  $196 (US), $250(CA)  (paid for it myself … NOT a paid post)

Installation:  Kindda easy

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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So, I needed a real door opener.

 

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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.

 

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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 …

 

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… then pull away from the top.  This exposes the circuit board and controls inside.

 

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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.

 

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Screw the unit to the plate by lining it up with the right spots.

 

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That circuit board in there is the thing that angers me.  More on that later.

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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The only thing left to do is attach the arm and plug it in. Seriously. So easy.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Step 9 – Open the door until you hear the arm click into place.  Now it will fit well.

 

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Step 10 – Plug it in and try it out!

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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.

 

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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 …

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140 Comments

  1. Stephbo says:

    Make your cats earn their keep by training them to push the remote buttons at the appointed times. BAM! Problem solved.

    • IRS says:

      I like the way you think! Those bed sheet fouling, hairball producing free loaders have had it way too easy, for way too long. A few posts ago someone mentioned a Japanese woman who screams at her cats something in Japanese, and they all hurl themselves into the litter box to poop on command. Karen needs to bring this fine lady over for a visit, to train her cats in proper doorman duties. Poop-on-command training is optional, but when the Japanese lady is finished at Karen’s, she can come to my house to train my hubby to piss in the toilet, and not on the floor around it.

  2. Stephbo says:

    Amen to that, sister!

  3. Brenda J. MOORE says:

    Couldn’t you have just plugged this into an automatic timer which plugs then tint your power source?

    • Karen says:

      Nope. The unit is always powered on. It’s not a matter of turning the power on and off like with a lightbulb. It’s hard to describe, but no it’s not feasible. :/ ~ karen!

  4. Amy says:

    Karen, I asked my electrician hubby and he said it can be done. But, (I know) he said the system is made that it won’t like you tampering with it. He also said, if you do get it rigged it may not last as long as it should. I’m sorry. Wish I had better news.I do hope you find a solution. If you have any other electrical questions let me know and I’ll pick hubs brain for ya. 🙂

  5. Penny says:

    So, here is what we did when we had raccoon issues. A neighbor, who has chickens, told us to play talk radio, meaning, a radio station that only has talk sessions, no music. Evidently, raccoons don’t like the human voice and won’t enter the area. Before we tried this raccoons came up on our deck and dug in our big flower pots pulling out plants and dirt. They also would snake their little arms up into the storage area under our gas grill and make a mess. Not to mention the little “nightly gifts” they would leave us. Since we play talk radio the problem is solved. You need to get an analog radio and plug it into a timer with dusk/dawn settings. Since we have done this we have had no issues with raccoons. Of course, there is no telling how decerning your chickens are and if they will accept someone talking all night. Will you get your morning egg production? Who knows?

  6. LazySusan says:

    Pay the $130 and get the full system that allows you to monitor it remotely. The peace of mind you’ll get from that remote monitoring, on the nights you’re not home (snipe hunting, no doubt), will make up for the additional cost in spades in just a few month’s time.

  7. Kim says:

    Hi Karen,
    As usual I know nothing about electronics or technology. However, it chills my heart to think of poor Cuddles being mauled by a hungry raccoon after all he has survived so I do have a suggestion for you. GET A DOG!

    My Dad used Australian blue heelers to protect his girls. They’re fantastic dogs! Very loyal and protective. They took down anything that dared enter the property including several coyotes. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Cattle_Dog)

    Even his little 10 lb terrier house-dog could take down an armadillo like it was nothing. I don’t think she has ever forgiven me for adopting her after his death and bringing her to the city where she is limited to using her expertise to annihilate the occasional water bug or cockroach that comes onto the patio.

    I know you have kitty babies so you may not be a dog person. In that event, I suggest getting more “barn cats”. It would be a win-win. They keep the rodent issue resolved and you have a logical explanation for anyone who calls you the crazy cat and chicken lady 🙂

    This is a link to a website for chicken owners to discuss issues in a forum. I hope it helps. Take care, Kim

    http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/22037/which-dog-breed-is-best-to-protect-chickens

  8. JGL says:

    Do you happen to know what the remote transmits using? RF? Wifi? Bluetooth?

  9. Nancy says:

    I agree with Edith. Just close the whole thing in. Very safe. No muss, no fuss. I feel sure that you can make it look great. And I didn’t even notice butt photos?

  10. Terri says:

    I would strongly suggest enclosing the run’s roof, no matter what you end up doing with the door. Our California raccoons would be over it in a heartbeat, within a week of the automatic door going into operation They scale our house regularly to get into the backyard and make a mess of the birdbath with their purloined fruit. They’re not afraid to lose a little sleep for a sure meal, either…say stay up a little later in the morning – or to wake up a little earlier in the evening. Or just flipping go without sleep – I’ve actually seen one show up at noon(!) this summer when I was trying to lure our house cat back with food (gotten out to go on a wild spree…sort of on a feline Rumspringer. Fortunately, he got it out of his system and deigned to come back in after a couple of weeks, luckily before joining the ‘coons or the coyotes or the local bobcat, for um, dinner, ahem). Anyway, I had to keep putting the food out at different times of the day, trying to avoid feeding the masked bandits, instead. If California raccoons are that wily and the 100th monkey syndrome holds true, it’s only a matter of time before the Canadian raccoons get word through the wildlife internets…Good luck with it all!

    • IRS says:

      You’re assuming that our ‘coons are the “slow cousins” to your hoity toity American ‘coons? Hmmmmph! I have to defend their honour here. 😀 Yours have it easy, what with your gorgeous, warm California weather. Our ‘coons not only have to master the art of ripping open trash cans and compost bins, pooping on lawn chairs and in bird baths, and getting into chicken runs (the raccoon equivalent of the deli counter), but when winter comes, and it’s cold enough to freeze a rat’s arsehole, they have to learn how to break into our houses through the roof vents. Yours can lounge right through a Cali winter, while ours are busy tearing up attic insulation, pooping in every nook and cranny, and having wild orgies at 3:00 AM while we are trying to sleep a few feet below.

      • Terri says:

        Not underestimating them – in fact, the complete opposite! Was trying to say is, I don’t think it’s going to take the Canadian ‘coons much time at all to figure out any new system! Smart little rascals. P.S. In their defense (I can hardly believe I’m defending the bandits!) while our California raccoons often may have had an easier time of it in some ways (though we do get snow and freezing temps in our mountains and foothills where we live – at least in good years, just not as prolonged as up north), its not been an easy life for them in our current drought and wildfire situations . They’ve had to get even more pro-active, competing for what little resources are still available. Unfortunately, in out area, those resources seem to be located largely around my fruit trees and kitchen garden 0~0

        • IRS says:

          Very true, Terri. Your awful drought is a challenge for every living thing in your area. We Canadians are blessed with an abundance of everything, and the ‘coons are smart enough to get their share of it. I think the upshot of this whole comment section is that it boils down to those who are suggesting technical solutions to Karen’s problem, versus those of us who know the limitless potential of a raccoon to cause mayhem, and who suggest building a Supermax prison for the chickens. And while I hold a PhD in procrastination, I cannot believe the amount of tine I have spent in this particular comment section, all in the pursuit of avoiding working. I’m good!

  11. Terri says:

    Oops – meant ‘Rumspringa.’ My apologies to any Amish folks reading this on their own spring break.
    Also, do you not have hawks, up there? Growing up, we always had chickens and though, fortunately, we didn’t have a raccoon issue at my childhood home (not near enough water sources, I think), we DID have plenty of hawks, so that was the main reason we had our chicken run totally enclosed.

    • Karen says:

      There are a TON of hawks here Terri, but the coop is in such a narrow and small space (with bits of rose bush hanging over etc.) that hawks won’t try to swoop down. ~ karen!

  12. CG says:

    I agree with the people saying “figure out a way to automatically push the remote button”. That, or figuring out what type of light the remote emits and getting THAT on a timer. If that’s not something you feel willing to do, then it sounds like spending $130 is in your future.

  13. SusanO says:

    I haven’t read all the posts but shouldn’t that styrofoam be removed in the last picture?

    • Karen says:

      The styrofoam is actually meant to be there SusanO. It allows for a bit of cushion and wiggle room when the magnetic lock closes. ~ karen!

  14. Joslynne says:

    http://theartofsimple.us9.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=90ec68c37f41a2b5f37b27e8e&id=6b28482800&e=53f1062868

    I really don’t have any idea about all the logistics of this story…but just today at another blog, I got a story about garage door openers and I thought…Wow, what a coincidence…check out this link if you think it might be helpful!!

  15. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    If we had read the papers that came with this opener to begin with..we would have known that it was not going to do all that we wanted it to do…Then we could have sent it back to our BFF Amazon without going through the work of installing it and then reading the papers and then un-installing it…huh…I do know a bit about raccoons but obviously not as much as some people know so I just best hush my mouth bout that too…huh…My best advise would be that we just put out the $130 extra and then we will have something that we really want that works how we really want it to and then we can stand back and do the happy dance and make a video of that please as I do enjoy your videos no matter what they are about…I shall be waiting to see what you decided to do..

  16. Milton says:

    Karen, you have such creative readers. Reading the guard dog suggestion made me think we’ve used an X10 Robo-Dog alarm which simulates a vicious German Shepard that has probably scared away a few intruders in the past from our back garden shed. In checking I find it is apparently no longer available. Amazon does list another similar barking dog alarm which seems to be pretty highly rated with 349 reviews. Other than disturbing your girls’ sleep when an intruder came by, this could be a good substitute for a dog or talk radio which would also give you the satisfaction of knowing you were giving the intruder a scare.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002XITC5G/ref=s9_hps_bw_g60_i1

  17. janpartist says:

    What you really seem to need is a raccoon zapper. Not a raccoon killer just a zapper. And, should the said raccoon be somewhat damp it would be possible to have it be a raccoon killer. In which case there is stew.

  18. Cindy M says:

    All I can think of is to run a couple of electrical wires around the outside of the coop at raccoon heights. You can turn it on and off at will. But….if a chicken can’t sleep one night and gets up to have a smoke outside…hopefully it will not feel the need to stick it’s beak outside the coop. But it doesn’t solve the problem at the 6am trips out there to open the door. Never mind…
    Now I have a visual of a smoking chicken.

  19. Vanessa says:

    The extent of what I came up with is “put it on a timer” which you have implied won’t work. There’s really no way to just have it on, and then the timer clicks on and the door shuts? what about duct tape? Tape the button down on the clicker? Could work…maybe.
    All I know is I have my electric curlers plugged into a timer, and it works awesome! By the time I get out of bed they are hot. And I also have it shut them off…cause I always forget.

  20. Mindy says:

    Clearly you just need to keep your galavanting ass at home. Spend the $130 on booze and chocolate.

  21. Mikki Anderson says:

    Have you considered doing an inset door in door and just using auto coop door opener?
    1. The girls no longer have to wait on you to let them out;
    2. You still easy have access for eggs/cleaning;
    3. Racoons are screwed cuz the coop door openers are great at keeping those little bastards out;
    4. You save money since the coop opener is way cheaper and actually works. I use the 98.00 one on Amazon works GREAT.

    It’s a win/win for almost everyone, the racoons are still screwed but that was kinda the point.

  22. Suzanne says:

    Could you plug it into a timer for outdoor Christmas lights?

    • Karen says:

      Ah, if it were only that easy 🙂 No. Because of the mechanics of it and the way it operates, just using a regular timer won’t work sadly. ~ karen!

  23. Jenn says:

    Return that thing. Put a pop door in the human door. Use the curtain motor style motor (also available on Amazon: search Add-A-Motor Chicken Coop Automatic Motor), with either a timer or a WeMo plug. Point a security camera at the coop so you can ensure the door is shut from your phone. My coop is close to our house like yours and I open and close the coop as a dang party trick! I also work out of town during the week and this is the only way I can get a good night’s sleep without worrying about the little girls. Also, on cold days, I can wait until it warms up to let them out into the yard.

    You can actually get a aluminum U channel that you can cut with a hacksaw at the hardware store and you can drill into it with your regular drill bits and your own lady-arms.
    Make SURE that your pop door goes at least an inch below the bottom ledge of the door frame so the little raccoon fingers can’t reach down and lift the door.

    Your only concern is going to be weatherproofing the motor, but it’s small enough, you can modify a half gallon jug and easily protect it.

    If you want to see pictures of my coop, door, and it’s free WiFi setup, let me know! I did it all in an afternoon, and it’s been working great for three years now. Also, I’m not sure I’d trust a magnet to be strong enough that a raccoon can’t open it. Apparently if a toddler can open it, then a raccoon can.
    Good luck!!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Jenn. When I built my chicken coop I actually used rare earth magnets for all the doors. I can barely open them let alone a raccoon! They’re unreasonably strong, lol. So the magnet isn’t a problem. Also since it took me 3 months to build the coop by myself and have it look nice outside of my dining room window I don’t want to hack something together as a door opener and be staring at it. I’m looking into a galvanized coop door (pop door) with a solar sensor that works off of a battery. It’s half decent to look at … I just have to figure out where to install it. It can be used vertically or horizontally which is a plus for me! ~ karen

      • Katie sweeney says:

        Hey Karen! I’d be interested to hear what you ended up doing! This is the EXACT dilemma I (and I imagine most urban chicken owners) deal with. Sometimes I’m like “chug that beer, it’s getting dark!!” or I call the neighbor in a panic at times. We built your coop almost 2 years ago so I’m anxious to see what works for you! xoxo

  24. MARILYN JOHNSON says:

    The above is why there is very little automation in the world of common folks. They require specific technicans and lots of money.

  25. I started reading through the comments but they get squished on my phone so I got lost around comment 50 or so.

    I would love an update on this project and what you decided to do. I recently turned a child’s playhouse into a chicken coop and would really like a timer run swing door opener. I almost bought the skylinK one you have and then realized I didn’t see a way to connect it to a timer. In doing research on how to make a swing door opener with a timer, I found your blog post.

    All that to say – please tell me what you decided to do. My chickens and I thank you in advance.

  26. Megan says:

    Ummmmm, not sure if the problem has been solved yet, but, how about plugging the “unit” into a timer, since it operates when the power is off you can interrupt the current there instead of with the remote.

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