ZigBee based Chicken Coop Door


(John Rucker) #1

Just thought I would share a project I have been working on. I have automated my wife’s chicken coop door and created a custom device type to control it. You can see more information here: http://forums.parallax.com/showthread.php/161007-Coop-update-Caught-the-Mink-and-ZigBee-enabled-door-control-works-great

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(Pamela) #2

Wow. That’s my dream for our own coop, but this seems a little out of my league, technically-speaking. Still, great to know it can be done!

(John Rucker) #3

On the parallax web site I’m getting enough interest I’m thinking about making this into a kit. Take a look at this video on how the Coop Boss joins the SmartThings network. https://youtu.be/-86V70SnNj0

If you could order the hardware all together as a kit would it still be too complicated? You would have to hook the actuator to a sliding door that may be the toughest part.

(Pamela) #4

I don’t think it would be too complicated if it were a kit, but I’m particularly attracted to DIY solutions because I’m cheap. Or, perhaps I should say I am budget-challenged or that I am attempting to have a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget :wink: Also, I like figuring things out.

I suspect you’d have to charge more than for the typical alternatives on the market because it has so much more functionality – but the market is a bit smaller as you need people with both home automation and chicken keeping as hobbies.

If you need a beta tester at some point, I’d be happy to try it out, provide feedback and write it up on my blog http://free-range.org – perhaps give you a little publicity, assuming it works (eventually) as well as I’d hope. Perhaps with that help, we could work out some sort of financial arrangement that would be more in line with my budget. (I’m also holding off a little, to be honest, as we are building a new chicken coop and our current one is an A-frame and not as well-suited for that type of door.)

Anyway, something to keep in mind. I’ll keep following your exploits with the Coop Boss!

(Eric R) #5

I would love it as a kit. That would be awesome.

(John Rucker) #6

Great Blog! I will forward to my wife she reads several free range related blogs. We get a lot of great information from them.

Her chickens are 100% free range not a fence in site, their only protection is a three year old rooster (old Roo) and the coop. We lost 3 hens to a mink earlier this spring when we forgot to close the door one night. We now have 5 new hens in the coop and this door better close at sunset even if we forget to close it! I’m not going through that again!! Her heart was broke!

(John Rucker) #7

Thanks Eric! Do you have a coop now? What type of door do you have?

(Eric R) #8

We just finished building all of the big parts of the coop (enough so chickens can live in it and go out into the run. Currently, there is no chicken door. We do have a human sized door going into the run that we are using to let the chickens out. We do intend on putting a chicken door in eventually. I have a 14.5" wide space to put in a vertically opened door.

Also, I have ST at my house, but this chicken coop is at my fiancé’s parent’s house. Kind of a long story, but the short version is that we would build the coop and they would take care of the chickens. With ST completely in the cloud (and their internet is not that great, being out in the country) and still a little unreliable without someone tech savvy around, I didn’t want to set them up with ST yet. I do like that you had the switch on the Coop Boss, so it can be done manually at the coop. Is there a way to program the times around sunrise/sunset without ST? Eventually, when there is local control of ST, I hope to hook up the coop to ST.

(John Rucker) #9

This sounds like a great project. When you put in your small coop door make sure it slides 12 inches. The Actuator I use has a 12" arm. You can use others that have a longer arm if you like.

The Coop Boss has to have SmartThings to change the Auto Open and Auto Close settings. But I bet it will be set close enough to work without a change. If you like you can set it up at your house connect it to your SmartThings hub and get everything set just they way you like. Then turn it off move it to your in-laws and hook it up to the door. It will work just fine.

Here is how it works without SmartThings: The embedded processor I’m using to drive the Coop Boss is an 8 core Propeller from Parallax. The Propeller has 8 COGs (processors) that allow me to have independent sets of code (methods) dedicated to specific functions all in a single $9 chip. So I have a Cog dedicated to watching the ambient light and making a determination if the door should be opened or closed. That same Cog also monitors the button on the coop and will toggle the door if the button is pushed. So if the door is open it will close and if it is closed it will open. The communications with SmartThings (ZigBee) is done with yet another Cog. The code in that cog will spend all day trying to connect to a ZigBee Home Automation network (SmartThings Hub). If it doesn’t find one it will just keep trying and trying. This will have no affect on the cog that controls the door. So your coop door will continue to open at Sunrise and close at Sunset.

As noted above the Coop Boss uses sunlight to determine if the door should Auto Open or Auto Close not time (so you don’t have to worry about setting a clock or having a time source available). I also have a way of determining the difference between sunset and a dark storm so you wont get a false close. The details on that bit I’m keeping to myself for now but it will be in the shipping product. If there is a shipping product!

(John Rucker) #10

How about this for local in house control:

There has been a lot of talk lately about this three button switch http://smartenit.com/product/zbws3b/ and how it can be used to trigger events in the SmartThings cloud. Well it is also possible to bind one of the switches’ buttons to the Coop Boss so when you push the toggle it would be the same as pushing the button out on the coop. A ZigBee bind requires a coordinator (SmartThings Hub) to set it up but once the switch has been bound to a device the ZigBee coordinator is not required unless it is the only router between the two devices.

So at your In-laws that have a bad Internet connection they would still have to have a SmartThings hub for this to work but the SmartThings hub wouldn’t have to be connected to the cloud all the time. This way your Mother in-law could push one of the buttons on this switch to toggle the door closed or open any time she wanted.

I know SmartThings is coming out with a new hub that will allow apps to run local but a ZigBee bind is built into the ZigBee protocol and what I described above works with today’s hub no problem.

I don’t have this feature in the firmware but I’m going to add it. Thanks for taking the time to chat on this its great to get input form users!!

(Eric R) #11

I finally put in the door. I currently have it hooked up to a pulley system to open it from outside the coop and run

(John Rucker) #12

Awesome!! How about some pics!

(John Rucker) #13

Progress on new Coop Door circuit board:


Awesome , watched the link you emailed me earlier.

John are you using a custom board for your build? I noticed I could not find a version of the propeller board that you were using.

(John Rucker) #15

Yes this is a custom board I made two weeks ago to test the new object detection circuit I designed. I will be making another one in a week or two with a few tweaks I would like to see and if that one test out I will send the files in for mass production.


I was looking at the videos and I noticed some temps, does the unit have a temp sensor to put in the coop and for the outside to measure temps. I believe I saw it on the SmartThings interface you built.

I am in the Northeast in NY so the winters, like last years was a little harsh. Although my chicks made it out with no frost bite, I used a wireless temp prob to monitor them. Tomorrow I am going to measure my coop door to see how much travel it has. My coop has a door that slides from the left to the right on the front of the coop so some modifications will has to be made but I already have some ideas on how to mount your setup in the future.

I saw you are using the Duff Norton LT series Linear Actuators to close the door with, wow those are a little pricey. Do you have any ideas on something cheaper that would do the job?

(John Rucker) #17

@JohnN, your dead on with the temperature sensors. There are two probes and they can be put anywhere in the coop or outside. My plan is to put one in the nest area and the other up around the perch. It gets cold here in Illinois as well and last year our rooster had frostbite on his comb. As you noticed I make the temperature information available to SmartThings so now you can have a heat lamp come on if the temp is too cold or a fan if it is too warm. This will be done with a smart app you install to work with the CoopBoss. I will put up a video of that when I have it all working to my satisfaction.

I agree with you on the Duff Norton price it is just expensive. But I have to say it is a rock solid reliable actuator that works in extreme environments. However, I have been looking for a less expensive alternative and came across this actuator http://www.progressiveautomations.com/mini-linear-actuator for around $110. You can order different stroke lengths if your door needs it. The motor driver circuit wont care how long the stroke is as long as the actuator can drive to its limit switch.

I have one on order to test and will know more soon but I bet it will work just fine!


Awesome that is a much better price for my budget, let me know how the testing goes on that and I will pick one up for testing on my coop later if they pass muster for you. That way I can start modifying my coop door to accept that actuator. With your costs do you have a idea of what you will be selling the board for yet? Like I said willing to be a beta tester for you and provide any feedback you need.

Just some ideas in-case you are still working on the system, will it be able to support -10 to -15 degrees in the winter? We hit that a couple of time in the winter and also will the controller be rainproof. I saw the case its in and it seems sealed. I don’t have a place like yours were it will be under the coop as mine will have to be mounted on the side. I will probably have to provide a custom enclosure to keep the element out as much as possible for both the controller and actuator.

Also maybe for your V2 or V3 board do you have any plans to support a humidity sensor for the inside of the coop? That is one the biggest reasons for frostbite on a chicks comb in the winter. I usually end up leaving my windows open about 1/4 in the winter and that seems to remove the exhaust from there breathes with proper venting. Also I would not suggest a heater in the coop, your chicks can die if your heater went out and there is a big swing of cold temperatures, its just best to let them adjust to the temps, they will huddle together for warm. I have heard of people loosing entire flocks when there heaters when out on them.

Also do you now what power requirement will be needed as I have to run electric out to my coop in the coming months before winter hits. I plan on putting a wireless cam in my coop so I need power for that and I am running a outside cam IP66 with POE to power it to monitor for predators. Not that I am worried about it , we lost a chick to hawks last year and I ended up putting aviation netting over there pen, they have a quarter acre run completely fenced in and covered. High enough for me to walk in, my wife calls it Fort Knox, with 1/4 hard wire cloth a foot in the ground, 4x4 posts, and electrical fence wire with a solar charger at the top for those dam racoons.

I am thinking about going ahead and getting the hub soon if 2.0 does not come out soon, as I want to run some custom settings for my house that I can do there, that I cant do with the WINK hub. That way I can start playing with the SmartThings environment.

My coop is one of those out of the box types and not custom build because of time constraints. When this one goes, I will be building a more solid one. The one you build was it from plans online or did you build it on your own?

(John Rucker) #19

Mounting the CoopBoss outside of your coop away from direct water contact is the goal. The PCB will be inside a weather tight aluminum enclosure with all wires sealed in weather tight grommets. The circuit should be good to 30 below I will verify that when I have everything finalized. Just as an FYI the circuit board and enclosure is based on a solution we make for solar array trackers. We have several of those units running outside in the very cold winters of Alaska and hot summers of New Mexico. With that being said I have added a few new components and when I document everything that is when I will finalize the specs. I bet the actuator will be the biggest concern in regards to temperature.

This is fantastic input!! I think your right on with the heat lamp we used one last year for a few days as it was so cold our heated waterier was freezing up in the coop. The chickens never came out while we had it on and they seem to do just fine no mater what the temperature is. Thanks for the good advice I think we may just get a bigger heater for the water.

Adding a hygrometer may not be that big of a deal as I have left room on the board for expansion. Curious, if you knew the humidity in the coop what would you do with that information? Open a window, turn on a small exhaust fan?? It may not make it into this version but I think it is a great idea for the next.

(John Rucker) #20

I will have a 12v wall-wart that will power the CoopBoss and the actuator. It will need to be mounted out of the elements so please take that into consideration when you run your power out. It wont require much power so a standard 15amp AC circuit will be way more than what I need. I also plan on offering a solar option with battery. That is down the road and will add to the price quit a bit. If you can run power out to the coop that would be the way to go.

We have hawks here too and to this point they have not been interested in the chickens. We live out in the country so its okay for us to have a rooster and he keeps a constant eye on the sky. If those hawks are up there he makes his airborne predator sound and you should see the hens run for the bushes.

I made our coop from scratch I created the plans based on my wife’s height so she can look into the windows. It is all drawn up in Google Sketch-up and I would be happy to eMail the files if it will help. We also plan on making a few coops to sell around here as a complete system with the door controller built in.