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I'm planning to automate our chicken coop so that we can lock the hens up at night without being there. A couple of questions:

1.  I have to close a wooden gate, maybe weighs 5-8 kgs or so. What kind of actuator would I use?
2.  I was planning to count the comings and goings of the hens by having them break a pair of light beams (to tell whether they're coming or going).  Anybody have a source for light beams?  You know, like the ones in the movies, to detect thieves moving around in the art museum or jewelry store.
3.  If the gate doesn't close properly, I want the system to send a text message to my cell phone.  Has anybody seen such a thing for Arduino?

I know, I know, it will take me 20 years to pay back this contraption at 2 eggs a day. But making ain't about the money, right? 
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point 1) use a contraweight or a small gearbox so the motor can be lighter? just a thought

point 3)  GSM shield e.g. - http://www.sparkfun.com/products/9607  - has arduino tutorial
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Rob Tillaart

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Car's windscreen wiper motor should suit for that just fine and should be easy to get.
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Car's windscreen wiper motor should suit for that just fine and should be easy to get.

Now that is what I would call a chicken crusher! You may want to design the door to act like a light force "swing gate" to keep from having entrapment issues. Below are some previous postings. You might also search youtube for chicken coop as I've seen videos of chicken coop stuff there.

http://www.google.com/search?q=chicken+coop+site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Farduino.cc%2Fforum%2Findex.php&hl=en&num=100&lr=&ft=i&cr=&safe=images

http://www.google.com/search?q=chicken+coop+site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.arduino.cc%2Fcgi-bin%2Fyabb2%2FYaBB.pl&hl=en&num=100&lr=&ft=i&cr=&safe=images
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Consider the daffodil. And while you're doing that, I'll be over here, looking through your stuff.   smiley-cool

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I also automated my chicken coop.  I went with a sliding door.  You can check it out here if you like http://arduino-coop.blogspot.com/
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