After having used 2 VSB Automatic Pop Hole Openers and having just bought a third, for another hen house, I thought it was about time I wrote a review!
I first bought a VSB door opener made by AXT Electronic about 4 years ago. If you are not familiar with these devices, let me give you a little bit of background information about what they can do and how they work.
The VSB unit can open and close the pop hole of your hen house at dawn and dusk to help protect your chickens from unwanted night time visitors like foxes and badgers (or racoons in some other parts of the World).
The unit comprises a printed circuit board that has a conformal coating (a kind of varnish that keeps moisture off the components) and is mounted inside a weather proof plastic ABS box. The unit is powered by 4 x 'AA' size batteries that mount in a carrier inside the box that last up to 2 years depending on the weight of your door and the quality of the batteries you use. A small motor is used to lift the pop hole by winding in a very fine (but very strong) cord.
There are a few different versions of pop hole openers available:
The VSB - For mounting on the outside of your hen house, this is the basic model.
The VSBbi - Which is designed to be mounted in the same way as the VSB but inside the hen house. It includes an external light sensor on an extension wire, designed to be mounted outside the hen house. This is the option I have always gone for as firstly it makes the VSB unit much less obtrusive and secondly provides extra protection for the unit against harsh weather conditions. Although the unit is mounted inside a plastic box, there are still holes on the bottom of this for the cord and (optional) timer cable to pass through. When mounting the unit inside, the sliding pop hole door should also be fitted to the inside of the hen house but do be careful as not all hen houses can accommodate the VSB and an internal pop hole door inside.
There is a battery timer (available separately) for the VSB pop hole opener that can override the VSB opening and closing signals from the light sensor. The reason for wanting to do this is that the standard unit will open the pop hole when it gets light so during the summer months when it gets light at 4am, it stops the automatic door from opening when birds such as cockerels can disturb your sleep and before people are around. Remember, you can still have a visit from Mr. Fox in the early hours when things are quiet.
I set the timer to open the door at 7am, and then it closes as normal at dusk. The timer is powered by one D Cell Battery, and is very easy to install by pushing on two connections to the main VSB door opener.
The photos on the left of the page show the internal VSBbi and a timer in a Chicken House.
As you will probably appreciate, now owning 3 VSB automatic door keepers must say something about how useful I find these units. The units are well constructed using modern surface mount technology and are suitably weatherproofed for their environment. The real test has been the test of time and other than replacing the batteries and replacing the cord once (on a pop hole that is made from 18mm ply and is rather heavy) in 4 years, I can recommend these units without reservation. The cost of the VSB far outweighs the cost and pain of losing your chickens to a predator and you won't have to worry about locking the chickens up again if you are away when it gets dark, providing you replace the batteries every year and check the cord over for wear and tear from time to time.