Continuous Integration for Github Pull Requests with Teamcity

By: on January 13, 2013

Most developers with an interest in open source software these days have seen the Github interface for handling pull requests, and relatedly, Travis CI’s support for pull requests. And so we thought it’d be useful to have something similar for our internal CI system.

So, Github has the rather nice (albeit poorly advertised) feature that whenever a pull request is raised, they add a reference for both the HEAD revision of the remote branch, and a commit which merges said HEAD revision into master. For example:

: ceri@misssplendid; git ls-remote origin | fgrep pull 9d1b88f3a67d2704e08b142b776136ddb1bdf3c1 refs/pull/1/head 454fd4ab3d439e5b10c68b98ea60fbf7a0bf81cb refs/pull/1/merge 80b11080005b5176564c369e1b4053268d3d4efb refs/pull/2/head 2222b016401e0b3dc9e7455aeeeeef9a2c4a3b26 refs/pull/2/merge 358197ab037e5f50417ed7f5ea3d977e53a08006 refs/pull/3/head 371e7f88898217a72d5bd8322304bc1fc6b8e8ee refs/pull/3/merge : ceri@misssplendid;

Now, it’s possible to Configure git to fetch pull requests so you can check them out locally, but we can use this same trick to configure Teamcity (or another build CI system) to build and test our pull request applied to master.

Assuming that we already have a configuration to build the master branch of a project, then under “Version Control Settings”, and within the appropriate “VCS root”, add the following to the “Branch Specification” field:


Once that’s saved, Teamcity will start polling all references for merged pull requests from github. Then the next time someone pushes to a branch referenced by a pull request, then it should show up as a branch under the build in Teamcity and (if configured to do so) be automatically built.

We haven’t gotten around to shaving the Github commit status API integration Yak just yet, but we’d love to hear if anyone has.



  1. Dmitry says:


    here is a TeamCity plugin that sets a github commit status: For some reason github shows status only for refs/pull/XXX/head, but not for refs/pull/XXX/merge.

  2. Ceri Storey says:

    Sorry it took so long to approve your comment Dmitry, I’ve only just seen it. :/

    You’re right, it looks like github’s status api associates the status with the commit id, and so because the merge commit from refs/pull/XXX/merge isn’t actually contained within the pull request, it doesn’t get shown.

    I guess what’s needed is to put the status on the mainline parent of the generated merge commit, if that’s possible.

  3. Brandon says:

    Hello, I have Teamcity setup as described such that it picks up the pull requests. However, the builds are not automatically triggering.

    From your article:

    “…then it should show up as a branch under the build in Teamcity and (if configured to do so) be automatically built.”

    I can’t for the life of me figure out how to configure Teamcity to automatically build the pull requests, can you describe to me what I am missing in order to get the builds to fire automatically?

  4. Ceri Storey says:

    I’m afraid I don’t know off-hand. Assuming the branches are showing up under “Branches” in the project, and if it’s picking up and auto-building changes from master then it should be working fine.

    Two points that I can think of to look at would be:

    • This will only work if the pull request is mergeable–github will not create a merge refspec if the merge would result in conflicting changes.
    • Checking that the remote github references are actually getting updated: a good way to do this is to use the git ls-remotes command in the article to check that the remote merge refs are changing.

    Otherwise, it should work as with any other set of branches. Sorry I can’t be of more help :/ (and for the late reply!)

  5. Brandon says:

    Thanks I appreciate you taking the time. The pull request branches do show up under ‘branches’ and when I push to the master, the builds auto trigger, but they don’t auto trigger on the pull request. They just sit there in TeamCity as pending changes. I have to manually run the builds on that branch. There are not any merge conflicts either. I am pulling my hair out.
    Thanks again. Despite my problem, this article was a big help.

  6. Steve says:

    Did Brandon’s issue get solved? I’m having a similar issue.

  7. ankit says:

    Running into the same issue. Was anyone able to resolve them?

  8. Jai says:

    Did Brandon’s issue get solved? I’m having a similar issue.

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