Two Roosters, Two Coops, and girl named Alexa


(John Rucker) #1

Thanks to my wife’s love for her chickens our friends and family would have no problem describing what “chicken people” are. You would swear the room just got brighter when she is asked, “Charlene, how are your chickens?” This summer will be the sixth year she has had chickens and what a ride it has been. She still has two survivors from the original group. Both are Australorps, a hen (Britta) who has averaged 3 eggs a week for 5+ years and one battle hard very protective rooster (ole Roo). She is proud of the fact that they will be 6 years old this summer, not bad for free range chickens (They have never been fenced in).
Last spring I built a coop for our daughter-in-law. She and Charlene picked out 6 chicks (5 hens and 1 rooster). Like the first coop, I integrated the coops with SmartThings by installing a CoopBoss in the new coop, and placed it right beside the old one in our back yard. I looked forward to seeing how the chicks would interact with the older hens. Over the summer, Charlene and our daughter-in-law enjoyed watching the chicks grow and I enjoyed watching the young rooster (Bruce) pick fights with ole Roo. Ole Roo would shut it down every time by just pecking him on top of his head and walking away. Mind you, Ole Roo has no problem picking fights with my son’s pit bull. He is an aggressive bird and was being gentle with Bruce. As time went on and Bruce got his spurs, Ole Roo had to draw blood to shut down the fights. It was just a little dot of blood on Bruce’s comb and would that work for about a week then Bruce would be back for more. Things weren’t headed in the right direction. Charlene started keeping the young birds separated from the older ones as they seemed to be fine if they stayed in their groups and didn’t meet up. She turned the auto open feature off on each CoopBoss and started staggering when the coops opened with her phone. She would open the young chicks coop first and give them time to move on and then open the older coop.
Late in the fall Ole Roo started to molt and it was a bad one. For those of you who are new to chickens a molt is a 6 to 8-week period of the chicken’s body rejecting its feathers and growing new ones. Some seasons are worse than others and you never know how bad it’s going to be. It is especially tough on the older birds. They stop laying and stop being social. They look and act like they are miserable, have no energy, and don’t like anything touching their feathers. Even the wind bothers them. This is when the tables turned on Ole Roo. One morning Charlene yelled down saying, “I can’t find your rooster”. So, we both started looking and calling for him and found him burrowed deep in a bush with a bloody comb. I pulled him out and he wasn’t too bad just a few peck marks on his comb and face. Bruce had finally won! He beat the old bird down and made him run and hide. We decided to put Ole Roo in his coop and let him heal up for a few days. That was tough on Ole Roo and Charlene. He didn’t want to be in. He wanted to be with his hens and Charlene had to open the coop every time a hen wanted to go in and lay an egg. She would have to keep an eye on the coop and if a hen wanted to go in she would have to stop what she was doing, find her phone, open the SmartThings app and wait for it to load, and then push the button to open the door. Still a heck of a lot easier than walking outside and opening the door but frustrating to do several times a day.
Around this time I installed @MichaelS Alexa Helper for SmartThings and made a few minor tweaks to make it work with the CoopBoss. I typed up a list of coop commands to tell Alexa and tapped it to the Echo in our kitchen to see if Charlene would use it. I knew Charlene’s frustration level was growing from the extra work “my” rooster was causing. She never said a word but being married to someone for 30+ years you get to know when they are agitated. So, I didn’t push using Alexa very hard, I just showed her how it worked with my voice and said she could use it or the phone like she had been doing. She gave me the look. That is real nice, sweetie, now get out of my kitchen look.
A few weeks went by and Ole Roo was starting to get back on his feet and she was letting him out and the frustration level was subsiding. One morning we were sitting in the kitchen while she was on her phone in Facebook or something listening to the weather on TV. As soon as she heard the weather was going to be nice (with her phone in her hand) she turned towards the Echo and said “Alexa, tell SmartThings to open the South Coop”. Alexa said “Opening the South Coop” a few minutes later she then repeated it for the north coop. She looked back at me and said, “What?” So, I guess you use Alexa. You just told her to open the door and you have your phone in your hand. She said, “I use her most of the time I don’t have to find my phone, unlock it, and load SmartThings.” I just smiled and thought, well if that is not a win for the Alexa helper I don’t know what is!! I have put her through so many useless “it’s going to make your life easier” solutions, it was very rewarding to see one that did make her life a little better.
Michael has offered to work with me to create a custom version of his Alexa Helper for the CoopBoss. This would allow me to streamline the install for my customers (yes i’m the maker of the CoopBoss). I wanted to share this story with my existing customers to see if there is an interest in adding Echo support for their CoopBoss. If so please respond here or send me a private message or an eMail at

CoopBoss is certified! Chicken coop door controller for SmartThings
CoopBoss is certified! Chicken coop door controller for SmartThings
(Christopher) #2

I don’t even have chickens, but that post was a great read! Thanks for sharing.

(Michael) #3

You have an easy to read writing style. Great post! You’ve almost tempted me into getting some chickens of my own.