Internet controlled donkey treat dispenser for a nonprofit and for smiles

Edited. I bought a remote button activated treat dispenser. New question at the bottom for KISS principle.

My goal is to allow people access to a public camera on my donkey and to have the option to send a donation to a nonprofit I am starting involving animals and people with PTSD/depression/autism and or on hospice care.

To thank people for their donation and to insentivise donations, I want to give people the option of despensing a predermined treat. My donkey already enjoys an apple a week and two cookies a day. Lots of love and scratches. She is so so cute when she gets an apple, I think people would love to be able to watch it live on their time. I want to share the joy.

I have been looking into Anduino for this project. Now however, I have found this lovely build:

It would be easy to build something that could open a despensing door with just a string pulled.

With SmartThings, could I have this triggered by donations in any way? Or can I give people who have donated access to it and have it be maret baised, say, requesting they only do one treat a week to save the rest for others, while tracking which treat dispenser they used and how many times?

The dispenser with this style will be a one time each thing. Say, I can fill one with an apple, it drops, and is done for the week. Other smaller dispensers will have a cookie. In winter of course she will still get her warm banana apple oat muffins fresh from the oven for everyone to see :slight_smile:

It would also be awesome if somehow we could remotely squeeze her rubber chicken a few times. It makes her smile and bray in joy. She thinks it sounds like another happy donkey.

If anyone would like to help, when this is done I will share more information about the nonprofit and of course a camera link. :slight_smile:

Edit: oooh I just bought this: “Train N Praise Potty Training System”

It can be controlled with a button!!! :sunglasses:

Guess that means my question is now: can I make a button press with donations?

I will have to figure out a large scale one for an apple. Those are her favorite. She smiles in between every single bite. I want people to be able to see that.


Very cool idea. 🫏

There are obviously two parts to this:

1) can you automate a button press?

Absolutely! I myself am quadriplegic (use a wheelchair and have limited use of my hands), so there are lots of buttons around my house that I can’t work by myself. But fortunately, there are now available, automated button pushers, essentially a little robot finger, which you can Literally stick on the activation button for anything from a coffeemaker to a DVD eject button And automate a previously dumb device that way. I like the SwitchBot brand And use those, but there are some even less expensive ones from Tuya called the Fingerbot. So that part is quite easy.

I have a thread in this forum about how I use them to turn on a television which was Smart once it was powered on, but needed that one button push to get started, that has all the details. :sunglasses:

2020 Switchbot Review ( robot button pusher), integration through IFTTT or SmartThings app

  1. now the donation part. this one gets trickier, but it’s doable. You can use an email or a text with specific content as the trigger in some home automation systems, although not directly in SmartThings. The problem is being sure that it’s exactly the right event. But it should be doable If you do some research to find the right ones. Some candidates to research:

A) if you have an iPhone and set up Apple Home, this is built into a feature called “shortcuts.“ you can create an automation based on a specific text or email.

  • Subject Contains: Triggers your automation when you receive an email with a subject containing the phrase you’ve added to this field.

Communication triggers in Shortcuts on iPhone or iPad - Apple Support

Pros: this is an official HomeKit feature, which is very easy to use. Free.
Cons: really only suitable for people who already have the Apple devices needed to set up Apple HomeKit.

B) if you have an android phone, you can do something similar with the third-party app Tasker To process the text/email and another third-party app, sharptools, to then do something in SmartThings.

Pros: works for those who don’t have the Apple devices needed for option A.
Cons: requires paying for and using two third-party apps, and that makes the setup a little complicated

C) you can also look at doing this with IFTTT. But while IFTTT used to be completely free, now you have to pay for a subscription for many of the features, and set up, has gotten more complicated.

Pros: more incoming options, and works for both android and iPhone.
Cons: as stated, above, now probably requires an ongoing paid subscription, and it can be tricky to figure out exactly how to set everything up

I’m sure there are other options as well, hopefully people will post if they know of some but basically IF you have a way for the service that you are using to collect the donations to send you a text or email which is specific enough to use as a trigger, you should be able to find some service that can receive that alert and then act on it.

Good luck! :sunglasses:


Forgot to mention, you can simplify this process somewhat if the receipt page that you display online after someone has made a donation can add a clickable button there, which then sends a webhook to let you know that a new donation has been received. You might even be able to include the amount of the donation in the payload for the web hook.

This requires the person clicking on that button, but once they do, you can receive it in either Ifttt or Sharptools, or write your own smartapp to receive it. (although that’s more work), and then that becomes your trigger for an automation. That will tend to remove any false positives, but it does require that the person making the donation take the extra step of clicking on the “feed Gracie“ button.

Also, there are automated treat dispensers for dogs, even some that will dispense a rubber Kong or tennis ball, so those would be big enough for an apple. But they tend to be quite expensive, around $200, and not weatherproof. So I don’t know if you’re interested in talking about any of those or not. They typically have their own app, but in many cases, you can use the SwitchBot to press a button on the dispenser itself to get an integration. So doable, but it didn’t sound like quite what you were looking for. :thinking:

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I am sorry I haven’t replied yet. I am so excited I don’t know what to say on this topic currently, especially with both of your comments. So, very, excited.

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Thank you for your patience and your help, @JDRoberts. I can not say enough how much your time and experience to help me with my little project means to me. My mental health is no good, my mind broke under abuse in 2020, I was strong and abused til 18, got away, then it suddenly was bad in my 30’s the bad people came back in 2020 and murder and abuse and I realized I was being abused still even though I thought I was free. Like, the man on my birth certificate who warped my bones was squatting on the one piece of land my grandma gave me with bruises on herself while giving the rest to people who bruised here’s. I got rid of them again, legally and in the right (eviction). I went about my life. But my mind is broken. It is a very strange kind of PTSD where I do not feel safe. I am the safest, and have the most love around me than ever, but now, this sewage corporation is trying to take my ESA donkey from me.

I really want to do my non-profit and help people with PTSD/Autism/Depression and on hospice care. This is the first dream I have ever had beyond food on my plate and a roof over my head. I am up 40lbs from being 85lbs at 18. Maybe 45lbs, I dunno, I look beautiful with weight on me and hope other people feel beautiful with weight on them too.

I know the dispenser is a little thing, but I really want to share the joy of my donkey eating a treat for those who want to help the non-profit. It isn’t even a money thing; support means so much to me. I can afford all the out of pocket expenses to start my nonprofit, and I will, but right now … … … a sewage corporation is trying to take my ESA donkey from me? For breaking a non HoA covenant they themselves broke and many neighbors still break? With public records of it being broken as old as 2013 that they are refusing to give me open record requests of public documents of…?

The same sewage improvement corporation that endangered my life at the start of the pandemic because I wouldn’t … mow … my flowers?!

deep breathe

I really want to help people who need the nonprofit I am starting. Awareness and sharing the good of it to all, with a free webcam, and they can like, donate a single dollar and see the donkey run to the treat dropper for joy. Just because I can afford my donkey and the nonprofit doesn’t mean that I am not open to tiny tiny bits of donations but more than that, support. I can’t just let people over feed my donkey treats; her health is at the top of importance here.

I really need the support and I think this will make people smile. Long term, when my non-profit gets going and I can help people for free with ptsd/autism and on hospice care, I think they will like seeing the mini-cow for Hug A Moo when they can not themselves go to see it in person. I intend to have wheelchair accessible areas for people to come pet my trained mini-cow for therapy. That’s my nonprofit. Having a mini-cow, and sharing it with people FOR FREE who can not have a mini cow due to land/experience/time/money.

I do not have an iphone, but I do have an android. I have some experience with PHP Databases and web-controlled systems, just, outdated from the early 2010’s. Also my mind wasn’t broken when I was able to do all that.

Having a receipt page that has a button seems do-able!

I think it would be great if people could play a noise before the treat is dispensed. My donkey absolutely LOVES the sound of a rubber chicken, especially if you give it a few small squeezes before a deep squeeze while relaxing the chicken slowly.

I DO have a tennis ball launcher with a button!!! Carrot, my donkey, actually prefers that her apples are smashed so she can eat them. Sometimes we throw them and she runs and noms them all shattered! Sure, her favorite is when I take a bite of the apple and spit it out while we go on walks and she picks it up, or even better, I hold the apple and we take turns taking bites, but I never thought of using the ball thrower for apples!!! I already have one!!! AND it has a remote!!!

Here is a gif of the tiny treat dispenser working in a way I might modify. I can take the bits apart and use light weight materials such as aluminum to drop her favorite larger horse cookies.

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Can Smarthings somehow honk a rubber chicken? It can either compress the chicken, or compress a sponge. Maybe it can even simply blow air.

My donkey prefers it when there are some small gentle bursts, then long, gentle bursts.

She smiles like crazy when I do this with a rubber chicken.

I will never, ever, replace care with robots so long as I am physically able, but I really want to make it remotely accessible via webcam for the tiniest donations possible for support and for those who need to see a donkey or mini cow smile because of them. I really want to make zero income from my non-profit. People who can’t afford it? And need it? Sure, they can have a few treats a year for free to honk at and give the donkey on webcam. The only limit is that well, too many treats aren’t good for the donkey.

I love my donkey so much that I have set up a godmother for her. My donkey will live another 20 years, I might not.

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There are several ways you could do this, but I would think one of the best long-term would be to put the rubber chicken so that it is sticking out of the drawer in a small dresser, and then automate closing, and opening that drawer. So that it closes on the chicken. You could probably even set it up so that there were different closing positions, which could then make different sounds.

I’m not great at this kind of maker project, I just know that it’s possible. People in the past have definitely automated things like projector doors closing and cabinets closing. So I’ll leave that discussion for people who are better at that skillset.

I would probably avoid using anything with magnets to make sure that the donkey couldn’t accidentally get to it and swallow it. But you should be able to use a regular actuator.

@johnconstantelo or @blkwll might have some ideas.

And here’s a thread that discusses the idea as it applies to several different kinds of use cases

Controlling a linear actuator with Alexa


I’m sure a linear actuator could be used. Not sure if enough air could be displaced to make the rubber chicken squawk quickly.

I’m imagining something like a PVC pipe with the part of the chicken coming out of the front end, with an actuator plunging from the back end, similar to a syringe plunger, to help displace the air forward. The air displacement, I’m imagining would be difficult without something along these lines.

This sort of thing is hard to not ponder… lol

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For most squeaky toys, the compression has to be sideways to the toy to get the squeak. That’s why I thought of a dresser drawer – – I have inadvertently squeaked a dog toy more than once trying to put it into a drawer and closing it while The toy was still sticking part way out. :grin:

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that makes sense… a rubber chicken is probably the most irregular-shaped of squeak toys, and I really can’t remember ever laying hands on one.

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