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Automatic Chicken Coop Door – Solar Time Table Switch

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!

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Heavy Duty Automatic Chicken Coop Door – Photocell

18 Comments

  1. Tom

    Hi Wick,

    I have the solar switch, the 8″ actuator and the relay, but it’s the SCHNEIDER ELCTRIC/MAGNECRAFT 92S11A22D-120 POWER RELAY, DPDT, 120VAC, 30A, DIN RAIL, which I believe was either in one of your previous writeups or another Youtube video I watched.

    Since it came with no instructions, do you think I should just get the same relay you used? Otherwise, any advise on how to wire the Schneider relay?

    I am just presuming that the 2 large pins are 120V, but not sure about the remaining ones. H-bridge still applies?

    Thanks!

    • Wick

      That relay should work just fine, it’s a nice heavy duty relay. The two pins that are different orientation from the other 6 pins are the coil, & you run the 120VAC output from the timer & 120VAC neutral to those 2 coil pins — doesn’t matter which side gets neutral/switch output.

      According to the wiring diagram I found for that relay, the middle pair out of those 6 remaining pins are the “common” pins that go to the linear actuator (swap these if the actuator runs backwards from how you want), & the other 4 pins get the 12V H-bridge. Good luck, hope that helps!

  2. Tom

    Thanks for reply. Not sure if there is an issue with commenting section or not, but my original post hasn’t showed for a long time. Maybe you have it on manual approval?
    (I also tried to comment on one of other articles here a while ago)

    I couldn’t find a spec confirming that the Schneider relay is continuous duty plus the screw in relay looked to be rated for better longevity, so I ordered it and will return the Schneider relay. Love the idea of pigtail too. The override button would be great (for other applications), but the solar switch already has the functionality, so no big deal.

    Thanks for digging out the diagram. Might use it some day!

  3. Wian

    Hi Wick,
    Would you see any problems adding additional actuators for ex. an additional pop hole or actuator to open nest boxes? What ga. wire would you recommend for this setup for running 2 actuators about 30-40ft away from relay/timer?

    W.

    • Wick

      Hi Wian, that should work fine — the 10-amp rating on these relays is enough to handle 2 actuators running simultaneously. I’d definitely recommend the Functional Devices relay though. If the 7.5amp fuse that I recommend blows, go up to a 10-amp fuse, or fuse each actuator separately with 7.5amp fuses. Also the 6-amp DC power adapter I mention as a dedicated power supply might not be enough to run 2 actuators simultaneously especially if your doors take some effort to open/close — consider getting a larger 10-amp DC power adapter.

      In terms of wiring size, see this 12V wire gauge/length chart. Looks like 14-gauge wire is appropriate for 30-40′ especially since a little voltage drop won’t matter to the actuators. Realistically I think even 16-gauge would probably be fine because of the actuators have such a short run time. Also in my experience, the actuators only draw ~1 amp (each) for most of the time they run. Each actuator only hits 4-5 amps when it encounters resistance, which for my coop door is just the last half-second as the door presses closed tightly.

  4. Jeff Huber

    I’m a bit confused on what is needed for the 12V power supply. If I have AC power to the coop, do I need two outlets available? 1 runs power to the timer, 1 converts to DC, powers the actuator?

    Doing a quick search… I suppose this is simply because the timers tend to run on AC power, but I can’t find any linear actuators that run on AC power…?

    Is it possible to go off one power source with a programmable DC powered timer? Doesn’t need to adjust based on daylight, I can do that manually a few times a year, and set it conservatively to go an hour or two after sunset.

    Would these plans change using an old car antenna rather than the linear actuators? I find the linear actuator options available to be over-powered from a weight capacity perspective, and shorter than desired for the price…. Would rather have 25 inches of range and a few pounds capacity vs 200 lbs capacity and 6-8 inches range.

    Thanks!!!

    • Wick

      Hi Jeff, that’s right — for this design you would need a single-gang (2-outlet) 120VAC receptable. One for the solar timer, one for the DC adapter to power the 12V items.

      If you ditch the solar timer & go with the simple 12V programmable timer you mentioned, you just need 1 outlet. See links for the simple 12V timer design in the first paragraph. To use an old car antenna, no changes needed — you’d just wire the car antenna in place of the actuator.

      I prefer the actuator because in the winter my coop door needs to close regardless of snow & ice, & the power of the linear actuator is perfect for that. Also in terms of short travel, depending on where you attach the actuator to on a hinged door, you don’t need the actuator to have the full travel distance that the door will open. For instance to swing open the door 16″ wide, if you attach the actuator farther back toward the hinge point, you might only need 6″ of travel. However if you are using a guillotine-style door, then yes you’ll need the actuator/antenna to go the same distance you want the door open & the car antenna would be a good choice for that. Hope that helps, good luck!

  5. Jeff

    Question: under option 1 for 120v heavy duty devices relay you have a picture of the Honeywell programmable switch and the RIB2401D relay. It is a 24v relay not a 12v. Will it burn up the 12 volt linear actuator?

    I used your parts list and when I was ready to assemble I noticed this discrepancy. Thoughts? I know some linear actuators have a range of voltage they’ll work in, just not sure if the one I’m using does.

    • Wick

      Hi Jeff, good question. You just misunderstood the relay specs. To clarify, this particular relay (coil) can operate on 24VDC/24VAC or 120VAC depending on which wires you use. For this project, I’m using 120VAC output from the solar timer to trigger the relay coil. This is the “coil input ratings” section on the relay label.

      However the relay’s switched contacts are completely independent from the relay coil, & are rated for up to 30VDC / 10 amps (“contact ratings” section on the relay label). In other words, the relay’s switched contacts don’t actually supply power at 24VDC, 30VDC, 120VAC etc. They only pass through whatever voltage you supply them with. So if you hook up 12V to the switched contacts, your linear actuator will get 12V.

      As you can see from the wiring diagram, you should be supplying the relay with 120VAC for the coil (from the timer), & 12VDC for the contacts. Hope that makes sense!

      • Jeff

        Thank you for the clarification. I will hook it up the way it’s diagrammed. I appreciate your prompt response too as I forgot to lock the chickens in again last night and look forward to not having to remember.

  6. Larry Weber

    Hi Wick. I’ve been using a “two timer” coop door control using your design for CN101A timers with great success. I have since acquired a Honeywell Solar Time Table Programmable Wall Switch and a Functional Devices RIB2401D DPDT relay, since I also have 110VAC current at my coop. Then I read on line that a routine can be set on Amazon Alexa for sunrise/sunset instead of a specific time (https://www.engadget.com/2019/05/06/amazon-alexa-routines-sunrises-email-alarm-smart-cameras/) and I am thinking that, since I have 120VAC current and WiFi available at the coop, that instead of using the Honeywell Solar Time Table Programmable Wall Switch, I might use a Sonoff basic switch (https://sonoff.itead.cc/en/products/sonoff/sonoff-basic) to cycle the Functional Devices RIB2401D DPDT relay/linear actuator, and control the Sonoff basic switch using the Alexa sunrise/sunset routine. Before I start stripping wire and connecting components, do you have any observations or suggestions regarding my plan or connections to be made?

    • Wick

      Hi Larry, I think that’s a great idea & sounds like a straightforward replacement for the solar time table switch. I don’t think you’ll run into any problems with that setup in terms of wiring. Let me know how it goes!

      • Larry Weber

        Hi Wick. Well, I did it, and it works like a champ!! Rather than using the Honeywell Solar Time Table Programmable Wall Switch, I substituted a Sonoff basic switch, wiring the 120 volt input to the Line and Neutral connections of the Sonoff switch input respectively, the black/white wire of the Functional Devices RIB2401D DPDT relay to the output/line connection of the Sonoff switch, and the the yellow/white wire of the Functional Devices RIB2401D DPDT relay to the output/neutral connection of the Sonoff switch. Otherwise, I made all the connections to the Functional Devices RIB2401D DPDT relay as shown above.

        Using my Amazon Alexa and the available wi-fi at the coop, I set the Sonoff switch to turn “on” at 8:30 every morning, and to turn “off” at 30 minutes after sunset (something you can’t do with the Honeywell Solar Time Table Programmable Wall Switch, which can only be set to sunrise/sunset OR times, not “on” at a time and “off” at sunset).

        The eWeLink app that controls the Sonoff switch shows me, either when I’m on my home wi-fi network or 25 miles away at work, whether my coop door is open (“on” on the Sonoff switch) or closed (“off” on the Sonoff switch).

        I love it!! No more resetting CN101a timers to reflect increases/decreases in the length of the daylight – the Amazon Alexa sunrise/sunset routine does all that for me.

        Since I’ve also automated my feeder – which is also set to a timer device – now I need to figure out how to control that similarly.

        • Wick

          Hi Larry, that sounds awesome. Nice work.

          • Larry Weber

            Now I’ve similarly automated my feeder as well.

            I’ve always fed my poultry layer pellets using a modified deer feeder (https://www.amazon.com/Wildgame-Innovations-W225D-Tri-Pod-Digital/dp/B00IIULX9G/ref=sr_1_6?keywords=game+feeder&qid=1568647013&s=gateway&sr=8-6) – I removed the legs and hung the feeder from chains from the rafters of the coop (I have a roof over the whole structure). I replaced the motor with a 12 volt motor ( Mabuchi 555 12 VDC Deer Feeder Motor – Large 4500 RPM DC Motor, available on eBay for <$8 apiece, direct fit) and ran a wire outside the battery/motor box to an analog timer (https://www.amazon.com/Timer-Digital-Deer-Feeder/dp/B0046H28YY/ref=sr_1_8?keywords=game+feeder+timer&qid=1568647284&s=gateway&sr=8-8) and a 12 volt battery outside the coop that was in turn attached to a 12 volt battery tender/charger. In order to keep the game feeder from throwing pellets all over the coop, I surrounded the feeder plate/motor/battery box assembly with a 10" section of round galvanized ductwork, and hung below that a 12" galvanized feeder pan to catch the pellets below. That worked pretty well, but like the door plans making use to CN101A timers, I had to periodically reset the feeder timer to accommodate changes in the length of each day, since I feed my poultry in the evenings to draw them back into the coop.

            I have now replaced the analog timer with a Sonoff Wifi Switch, DC5V 12V 24V 32V Wireless Relay Module Automation Module (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07F6YZXST/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) that I power with the 12 volt battery, and reconnected the positive lead of the feeder motor to the NO (normally open) connection on the Sonoff Wifi switch, and another wire from the positive pole on the battery to the Common connection on the Sonoff Wifi switch. I set the Sonoff switch to its "inching" function for 30 seconds duration when the Sonoff Wifi switch is turned on. Using my Amazon Alexa and the available wi-fi at the coop, I used Alexa to turn “on” at 10 minutes before sunset to run the game feeder motor for 30 seconds to fill the feeder pan and draw my poultry back into the coop.

            Wick, it works like a charm. The Amazon Alexa sunrise/sunset routine automatically accommodates changes in the sunset time each day, and filling the feeder pan draws my poultry back into the coop for the evening. As outlined above, the coop door then closes 30 minutes after sunset each night.

            If its cold, rainy, or I'm watching TV in the evenings, I don't have to worry about going outside and feeding the poultry or closing the coop at night. Since the game feeder holds nearly 120 pounds of poultry pellets, but doesn't dispense more than what the poultry will eat during each day, I don't worry about vermin or weather contaminating their feed. Automation has made it quite easy to maintain our flock!!

          • Wick

            That is really cool, especially using the wifi switch with the Alexa sunrise/sunset routine!

  7. Tom

    Hi Wick,

    My opener stopped working. What should I check first? Power supply?

    For some reason timer switch changed the settings (on it’s own) to random on/off, but even after going back to set program or doing manual override, it still doesn’t do anything besides clicking the relay.

    • Wick

      Hmm if you have a multimeter I’d start by checking the DC power supply voltage & the output voltage from the relay (when triggered). I think the timer sounds fine, even though it changed settings, because if you hear the relay click, it’s triggering the relay. I guess to be sure you should also double check the output voltage from the timer, but be careful because that’s 120VAC — make sure you have the multimeter in the correct mode.

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