As the number of people interested in growing their own food continues to grow, raising a

As the number of people interested in growing their own food continues to grow, raising a small flock of backyard chickens for meat has become more widespread. From large flocks in rural fields to abandoned parking lots that harbor a handful of birds, chicken coops are popping up everywhere. Last year, when I started my own small farm, building a DIY chicken coop for broiler chickens was at the top of the priority list. At first, the task felt a bit overwhelming as I scoured the Internet and print catalogs in search of ingenious concepts. What did I find? A plethora of prefabricated chicken coops in a wide variety of designs, ranging from basic wooden A-frames to fancy miniature log cabins equipped with sliding windows and rain gutters — one or two might have even been air-conditioned. These coops were fun to admire, but they all had one flaw in common: They were out of my budget. I needed a design that was portable, protected my flock, allowed my birds to forage, and it had to be built on a shoestring budget. Blogs and forums were helpful in terms of suggestions and eye candy, but when I shut down the laptop and picked up John Seymour’s book, The Self-Sufficient Life and How to...

Having a few laying hens in the backyard has almost become the icon of today’s self-sufficiency

Having a few laying hens in the backyard has almost become the icon of today’s self-sufficiency movement. Birds kept in a portable chicken coop on pasture provide delicious, inexpensive eggs, and eggs from birds that get plenty of grass, bugs and seeds to eat are better for you than store-bought eggs (read the results of our egg nutrition testing in The Good Egg). Hens are great converters of kitchen waste into valuable manure for the garden, and every chicken owner we know takes a lot of pleasure in just watching the chickens noodle around in the yard. But free-range birds are often taken by foxes, bobcats, hawks, dogs or other predators, so unless you have guardian dogs that can keep predators away, your best option is probably a portable chicken coop that gives the chickens access to fresh grass and dirt every day while also keeping them protected. Over the years, MOTHER EARTH NEWS has offered several DIY chicken coop plans, particularly designs for portable chicken coops. It has been a challenge. The perfect coop should be lightweight and easy to build — even for a child or an older person — yet it must be sturdy enough to keep predators away from the birds, and it shouldn’...