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’...