Honeywell makes a programmable digital “solar time table” switch that adjusts events automatically throughout the year based on daylight hours.

It’s far more reliable than a photocell, but one caveat — it runs on AC power. If you only have 12V DC power at the coop, use one of the other automatic chicken coop door methods I’ve written about: 12V timers or photocell. For those of you with AC power available at your chicken coop, read on!

On the Honeywell switch you’ll set the current date, your latitude & longitude & your event times, & the switch does the rest. The switch also has an override button that cycles the switch on & off manually.

The other component that makes the whole setup work is the relay. You’ll need a DPDT relay with a coil rated for 120VAC, but with 12VDC contacts. See the full product lists with links below for each relay type.

Option 1: Heavy Duty Functional Devices Relay

Heavy duty 120VAC/12VDC DPDT relay from Functional Devices.
Assembled: compact & dust proof.

The heavy-duty Functional Devices relay costs a little more (~$12) mostly because it’s rated for continuous duty at 10 million cycles. It will be on for hours at a time with this timer setup, so continuous duty is a good thing.

Also if you mount the Honeywell Solar Timer switch into an outdoor-rated junction box, the Functional Devices relay screws into the top of the box & you end up with a nice compact dustproof timer setup that will last a long time, even in a chicken coop.

Here’s the equipment list:

If the linear actuator runs backwards from how you’d like it to work, reverse the 2 actuator leads where they connect to the relay’s yellow & purple wires.

If YouTube is your thing, here’s the how-to video.

For setup tips & troubleshooting, scroll down below the “standard-duty relay” section below.

Option 2: Standard-duty relay

A standard-duty relay works fine but the relay coil may fail over time, since these relays typically are made with pretty cheap components. However if it fails, you can just unplug the bad relay & plug in a new one.

Here’s the full product list:

The blue & white wires run to pins (screw terminals) 7 & 8. The actuator connects to pins 5 & 6. Connect 12V power to pins 1/2 & 3/4 with each pair having opposite polarity from each other — so if the bottom pins have red/black connected, the top pins have black/red.

DO NOT GUESS WHICH PINS THE AC POWER (BLUE & WHITE WIRES) RUN TO ON THE RELAY BASE! If you can’t determine which pins 7 & 8 are from the tiny writing on the base, they are the outer/lower set of pins on the end of the relay base that has the “nub” that sticks out. Don’t confuse pins 7/8 with pins 1/2 on the opposite end or very bad things will happen.

If the linear actuator runs backwards from how you’d like it to operate, reverse the actuator leads where they connect to the relay base (pins 5/6).

Make sure you wrap the exposed screw terminals with electrical tape where the white & blue wires from the timer connect to the relay base (pins 7 & 8). Remember, those carry AC power.

Setup Tips & Troubleshooting (both relay types)

Safety first: Always work on the wiring with the AC power cord unplugged.

I recommend putting a fuse on the positive 12V lead. The appropriate fuse size is typically 7.5 amps for most linear actuators.

For 12V power supply ideas, see this post & scroll down to the “power supply options” section.

In a power outage, the Honeywell switch retains the programmed events. When the power comes back on, the door will catch up on whatever state it’s supposed to be in. One downside to this setup is there’s no easy battery backup to make this system work during a power outage, like there is for the other all-12VDC automatic chicken coop door methods.

I recommend placing everything in a weatherproof junction box & cover since the Honeywell switch isn’t really meant for a chicken coop environment.

Timer setup: use Automatic mode, & make sure for the event times you pick either the sunrise or sunset option. The timer lets you adjust the event time up to 70 minutes before or after sunrise/sunset.

If you don’t know your latitude & longitude, go to Google Maps, right-click near where you live, click “What’s here?” from the menu & use the numbers in light grey text (round to the nearest whole number).

Disclaimer: I’ve only used this system for a short time so far, & I’m using the heavy duty Functional Devices relay. If you went with the standard-duty relay, I don’t know how long it will last.

Any questions or comments, leave ’em below!