I wanted Coop Knox (construction details here and here) to have an automatic door, for several reasons. One was that the many evenings I’m off property partying with the local elites or receiving honors from officials and academics, the birds are securely locked away before I get home. Second, when I spend longer times away assuring world peace through high-level diplomacy or simply vacationing internationally in my jet or motor yacht, I wanted the flock to be semi self-sufficient in terms of getting in and out of the coop. And one other factor so insignificant it doesn’t really bear mention, is that hot coffee in my slippers while watching the chicken door open from the kitchen window beats wind burn on my cheeks while opening the door myself in muck boots during a blizzard.
I researched every automatic door out there before deciding on the Pullet-Shut (say it aloud) door that swings outward to open, rather than the guillotine (that just sounds bad) style that slides up and down in a track. This door had great reviews and when I called to ask some questions, the inventor/builder/seller was just great.
I chose the solar power kit instead of electricity for a couple of reasons. First, so that in the event of a power outage, the door will still open and close. Second, because although I do have power to my coop, I thought it best to save the outlets for other things I might need plugged in, rather than tie up one outlet permanently. And I liked the light sensor better than the timer, as I don’t have to adjust it year-round as the daylight hours wax and wane. Installation was easy. The abrasive cut-off wheel on the circular saw cut through the metal, then a regular blade cut through the OSB. Four bolts installed the door, and then I had to run the wiring. The battery sits inside the coop above the window. The solar panel and light sensor sit on the south wall of the coop. So far the door has worked flawlessly.
However I had a problem with birds trying to sit on top of the door. The door was NOT cheap so in order to protect my investment I built a “chunnel” (chicken tunnel).
The chunnel is constructed from the last of the four internal doors that were donated to me. I cut it in half, “roofed” it with some scrap pieces of plywood, triangulated the bottom with some more scraps, and sat it in front of the door. Besides keeping the birds from perching on the door, it has the additional benefits of keeping out drafts, blowing rain, and snow, and it protects the (already weatherproof) door mechanism from rain and the stress of occasional tornado-strength winds.