Coop Boss (Chicken Coop Management with a Propeller and SmartThings)

Inspiration Author: 
John Rucker
  • Chicken Using Coop Boss
  • Close-up of Coop Boss Circuitry
  • Close-up of Coop Boss Components
  • Close-up of Coop Boss Circuitry and Components
  • An Installed Coop Boss System

It was the first warm evening of spring and I just sat down to watch TV after dinner.  I picked up my iPad and tapped the link to our chicken coop’s web cam.  Instead of the usual bobbing heads of sleeping chickens I only saw one chicken and noticed the coop’s floor was covered with feathers.  With a gasp my wife put down her Kindle and stood up asking, “WHATS WRONG?” as she could tell by the look on my face something horrible had happened.  That night we both forgot to close the coop door and a mink got into the coop and slaughtered her chickens.  The mink walked right up the ramp and pulled three of our five chickens off the roost one at a time and just ripped them apart.  She has had those chickens for three years and they have supplied my lunch for most of that time.  Each chicken had a name and she spent time with them every day rain or shine.  I felt horrible, as I built the coop to protect the chickens and it let her and the chickens down.

At work I have been working on several Propeller / ZigBee Home Automation projects and thought it wouldn’t be a huge effort to modify existing hardware and software to automate the coop’s door.  Well, a few days later I had a working prototype that allowed her to user her iPhone to remotely control the coop door and automatically close it if we forgot to do it.  The next day she came home with five, one week old baby chicks and put them in the garage under a heat lamp in a tub.  The chicks would be in the garage for about four weeks before they would be moved to the coop.  I used that time to come up with a solid solution based on my prototype and the Coop Boss was born.


  • Designed to be self-sufficient
    • The Coop Boss does not depend on any external signal to function correctly.  Even though you can control the coop over the Internet with the SmartThings iPhone app the coop doesn’t need SmartThings or the Internet to perform an Auto Close in the evening or an Auto Open in the morning.
    • Once setup the Coop Boss only requires a reliable 12v DC power source to operate.
    • The Auto Close and Auto Open feature is not time based so there are no clocks to set or lookup tables for sunset / sunrise.
  • Monitors ambient light to Auto Close and Auto Open the coop door at sunrise and sunset.
    • The amount of light to trigger an Auto Close or an Auto Open had to be settable as we want to give the chickens enough time to get into the coop at night.  Interfacing with SmartThings allows us to adjust the setting from the iPhone based on our chicken’s behavior.
    • Intelligent enough to tell the difference between a stormy dark sky and sunset. This was a big one for my wife as the chickens will run into the coop to get out of the rain and therefore that door better not close solely on light level.   You’ve heard the saying “Mad as a wet hen”. Well that’s nothing compared to how my wife gets if her chickens are wet.  I have been sent out many a times to fetch a chicken lost in a storm.
    • Disable the Auto Close and Auto Open features if desired and still use the SmartThings app to close and open the coop door.
  • Close and Open the coop door from a button physically located at the coop.
    • When the door opens or closes it sends a ZigBee report to the bound SmartThings hub updating the status on the iPhone.  She always knows if the door is open or closed by simply glancing at her iPhone.
  • Easy setup with SmartThings
    • The Coop Boss starts looking for a ZigBee Home Automation network to join as soon as it is powered up. 
    • Once the Coop Boss joins the user’s SmartThings network a wizard for application setup is triggered in the SmartThing cloud, walking the user through setup.
  • Standards Based
    • The Coop Boss is based on the public ZigBee Home Automation profile and uses public clusters for door control, management, and temperature reporting. 
    • Since the Coop Boss is standards based the Coop Boss will work with other ZigBee Home Automation networks.  If the Coop Boss is used with a non SmartThings network a custom user interface will have to be developed to communicate with the Coop Boss.  I will be happy to work with anyone who is interested in this.
  • Open Architecture
    • The Coop Boss firmware is written in SPIN and is based on the Propeller P8X32A Open Source Design.  
    • Public Cluster Profiles and attributes are used wherever possible.  A few custom attributes were added and are documented in the SPIN source code
    • The iPhone Interface is written in Groovy and runs in the SmartThings cloud.

DipTrace Schematic files are in the included zip archive. All code is available upon request. Please send an eMail to

See the full story in the original Parallax Forum post:

Winner of the “Show Us Your SmartThings contest” by SmartThings!