How to Automate Your Home: Chicken Door Edition

Hey everyone! This week, I have a bit of an unusual topic for you. As you’ve heard from many of my podcasts, I have many different pets including my two Easter Egger Chickens, Thelma and Ms. Wasowski (she was born with one eye. Think: Monster’s Inc.). 

Eric Escobar

I’ve done a handful of episodes on home automation, Arduinos, and Raspberry Pi’s, which I’ve used in one of the projects around my house. My chickens live in a couple hundred square foot chicken run, and, at night, they go inside their nesting box to sleep.

Now I don’t know about you, but I like to sleep, and having experience with programming and electronics, I thought that there must be a better way to let my chickens out each morning rather than having to wake up at the crack of dawn just to let them out.

After a bit of Googling and sketching, I came up with a design of an automated chicken door, which I could program to open and close automatically! Simply put: I have a Raspberry Pi running in my chicken coop. The Pi has two sensors, and one motor. The motor raises and lowers the door, and the sensors detect if a magnet is nearby. I use these sensors (also known as Hall Effect sensors) to determine whether or not the door is open or closed.

Now the Raspberry Pi is connected to my home network and the internet so that I can control the door manually from anywhere on my phone. Since creating the door, I’ve also added more sensors, such as a water level sensor, to determine if they have enough water, a thermometer, and even a webcam! I’ve even added a servo to the gate that will let them out into the large portion of my backyard whenever I feel they are too cooped up (pun intended).

This allows me to automate the care of my chickens and check in on them whenever need be! For instance, last week I was gone on vacation for a full week. The Raspberry Pi allowed me to leave and it would take care of the rest. I could make sure the chickens weren’t too hot, that they had enough water, and that they were locked safely away at night.

I will say, though, I did have a few friends on speed dial in case something was amiss. But I was also able to check on them via the webcam to make sure everything was a-okay! In case you’re wondering, their food is gravity fed, which allows me to store about two weeks of food at a time.

If you’re interested in seeing this door in action check out this YouTube video. I’ve also posted my design and materails on Github.

You may be thinking that this is a bit overkill for just two chickens, but in the grand scheme of things, let’s just take a step back to see what this actually accomplished. It allowed me to automate a task that would normally consume 15 minutes of my time each day. I’ll agree that isn’t a lot, but that’s almost seven hours of time over the course of a month—far longer than it took me to build the actual device, and it will continue to operate with very little maintenance.

Furthermore, now I have the ability to replicate my design in other areas of my house, and to monitor it from anywhere in the world thanks to my phone and a VPN into my private network.

If you’re interested in knowing more about my small homestead, shoot me an email and I’ll do more posts just like this one!

About the Author

Eric Escobar
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