What to Look for in an Automatic Coop Door

What to Look for in an Automatic Coop Door

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A couple of years ago, I read The Wartime Kitchen and Garden by Jennifer Davies (a book I highly recommend; the tv series is great, too), and had to laugh out loud. In it, the author briefly notes that during "double summertime" (what we call Daylight Savings Time), one college girl remembered "finding her best friend, who was on the College's poultry course, sitting on the stairs weeping bitterly." Why? She hadn't just lost her home to a bombing - nor had she lost a loved one to the horrors of war. She was weeping "because the hens would not go to bed."

Oh yes! I've spent many summer evenings - exhausted from a long day on the homestead - desperately wanting to go to bed, but stuck staying up because the hens were not yet in their coop, safely locked away from predators.  (If you've ever raised chickens, you know they don't head to bed until the sun begins setting...and that trying to herd chickens into a coop is not an activity to attempt when you are exhausted.) This is why I've always wanted an automatic chicken coop door - literally, a door that opens by itself in the morning, letting the flock out, and shuts itself securely at night, locking them up securely.

I did a lot of research over the years to determine what exactly I wanted in an auto coop door opener, and finally, after Chickcozy recently sent me their model, I now have hands-on experience, too. If you're considering buying an automatic coop door, here are some things I believe are important to consider:

1. How is it powered?

Many auto coop doors are battery operated, but some plug in to an outlet, and others are solar powered All of these power sources have their pros and cons. For example, batteries need replacing regularly - and in the case of an auto door, they must be replaced before they actually run out of "juice." (Doors that give a low battery light, like the Chickcozy does, are a boon!) In addition, batteries don't always do well in cold weather, so you'll want to be sure you can use lithium disposable batteries (we recommend Energizer Ultimate lithium batts). (Bonus: Lithium batteries, unlike alkaline batteries, do not leak - and a leaking battery will instantly ruin any electronics in your door.)

Doors that plug in obviously require the coop be near an electrical outlet. But also consider that livestock may unplug the device, making it useless. Chickens will also peck at wiring, so the cord must be completely covered to prevent them from de-powering the door - or possibly causing an electrical fire.

Solar panels require sun year round, which you may or may not have. And if your coop is in shade, solar might not work at all.

If possible, search for an automatic coop door that offers at least two of these powering options; this way, you'll have a backup should the first system fail.

A chicken coop with a solar powered automatic door. Courtesy of .

2. How Adjustable Is It?

One thing I love about the Chickcozy automatic coop door is that it's highly adjustable. You can use it with only a daylight sensor - or you can use a timer, set to open/close at a specific time of day. For the light sensor mode, you can add delay time to the opening and closing to ensure the door doesn't close too early in the evening or too early in the morning.

Note that bright headlights from vehicles, house lights, and security lights may confuse the light sensor on auto coop doors, which could mean the door opens and exposes your chickens to predators in the middle of the night. Light sensors may also fail to open the coop door if it's a dark winter day.

If your hen house is in the shade, as ours is, a light sensor may pose different issues. Our auto door, had some problems with closing too early - before the chickens had gone to bed. Thankfully the Chickcozy allowed us to adjust the close light level, making the door less sensitive to the evening light change, thereby solving the problem.

3. How Does the Door Open?

Does the door open by sliding from one side of the coop to the other or does it go up toward the roof? Does your chicken coop have room for whatever type of mechanism your chosen door has?

It's also good to note if the door uses mere gravity to shut, or if it uses a motor for this function. A motor offers a safer option for birds who might happen to be in the doorway as the door is shutting - assuming the door has a safety sensor that prevents the closure if a chicken is in the way.

Also pay attention to the size of the door; if you have a larger breed of bird, will they easily fit through?

 Testing our Chickcozy door's safety sensor.

4. How Difficult is the Installation?

Some auto chicken coop doors install very easily: You just screw the door frame into the opening of your chicken coop. (Of course, that opening has to be the right size for your door, so it's possible a little carpentry to make that happen will be necessary.) Other door installations might be more complex, even requiring some wiring skill. Before you buy, ensure you're comfortable with the level of expertise needed to install the door. Most manufactures allow you to download the door's manual online, so you can see exactly what installation is required.

5. Is it Weather Proof?

Not only can cold weather affect the performance of auto door openers (see #1, above), but all electronics must be weather proof. If the manufacturer doesn't state that the control panel, for instance, is weather proof, it's best to find a different product.

You may also wish to note whether or not the door's plastic is UV stable. If it's not, your door will likely need replacing a few years down the road - but this may be acceptable to you, depending on the upfront cost of the door.

Our new flock, adjusting to the Chickcozy automatic door.

A Few Other Tips:

It will take time for your flock to adjust to an automatic door. For instance, when we first installed ours, instead of running out the door as soon as it was opened (our flock's usual behavior), our chickens took several minutes to come outside each morning. With time, the flock grew used to the door, and soon they were rushing outside again, just like they used to.

You should also expect that it will take some time to adjust the settings on your door and get them just right. It took us about a week to ensure our door was closing only after all our chickens were in the coop. (During that time, some chickens were getting locked out; expect to go check on your flock every night until you get the settings right.)

Finally, be aware that no matter the model you choose, the groove along the floor of the door will probably require daily cleaning in order for the door to function properly. We find that just giving the groove a swipe or two when we go out to feed and water our flock is quick, easy, and effective. This is definitely more of a problem in the wet, muddy months. UPDATE 2-15-24: Cleaning the door grove with a quick sweep worked fine until winter hit - and with it lots of rain and mud. Unfortunately, we've found we can't rely on the auto door to close at this time of the year; maybe a door with a stronger motor would work...but then it might close on a lingering chicken, too.

We've had our Chickcozy automatic coop door for over a month now, and so far, we couldn't be more pleased with it. If you think you might like a Chickcozy door for your flock, use this COUPON CODE at checkout for a 5% discount: kristinaseleshanko. Click here to order the door or learn more about it.



* Cover image courtesy of The U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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