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Automatic Coop Door: Contest Winners

In March 2011 MOTHER EARTH NEWS asked readers to submit their designs for our Automatic Coop Door Contest and the entries were fantastic! Congratulations goes to our three top contestants and their unique designs.

| January 8, 2013

  • Coop 1
    This interesting design is the winner of our contest!  The inventive system requires a simple mechanism and a counterweight which are connected to the roost, making the chickens' weight do the work.
    ILLUSTRATION: John Olathafer

  • Coop 1

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is pleased to announce the winners of our Automatic Coop Door contest. Our creative readers sent in their automatic chicken coop door ideas; it was a difficult decision but we have chosen our contest winners! The top three entries will be rewarded; the top prize receiving a Brinsea Octagon 20 Eco incubator.

First place goes to John Olthafer of Platteville, Wis., who can claim his Brinsea Octagon 20 Eco Incubator. We all fell in love with the immensely clever – if slight Rube Goldberg-esque – design (pictured above).  This elegant non-motorized design uses the chickens’ own weight and a counterbalanced bucket of sand or earth to open and close the door. “The door system is not prone to electrical outages and it automatically self-adjusts for Daylight Savings Time,” says Olthafer. 

Sue Chidester of Whidbey Island, Wash., wins second prize for her husband’s simply-designed door closer using an Add-A-Motor D20 motor specifically designed for closing coop doors. The small motor lifts a guillotine-style door; the door is actually a common white plastic kitchen cutting board sliding in u-channel guides. The plastic cutting board never sticks or swells, as a wood door might, and the included timer activates the motor twice a day. 

Third place goes to Rod Neumann who adapted an electronic deer-feed timer for his coop door opener. The timer runs on either 12 volts or 6 volts, and he says “a 6-volt lantern battery does the job … one battery should run for hundreds of cycles so I expect maybe one year of use.” He points out that the timer was already set up to run the motor one way after the sun comes up and the other way when the sun goes down. “Automatically synchronized to the solar day, the timer needs no programming or setting,” he says. 

Thank you to everyone who participated in this contest; we enjoyed seeing all of the homemade ideas! All three winners should contact us at to claim their prizes.

9/4/2015 11:32:42 PM

I love John Olathafer's automatic system based on the weight of the chickens. But do chickens stay on their roost at night no matter what? If there is a predator about or if there is bad weather, do chickens ever get scared and run around the hen house... causing the roost to raise and the door to open? Question on design, should the counter weight way the same as all the chickens that sit on the roost?

5/24/2015 5:54:45 AM

That is a good tips I will add that to the Instructable somewhere.

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