Do-it-yourself projects and plans for anyone who can swing a hammer.

An Introduction to Soap Making

cold process soap 

Soap-making is one of those traditional skills that are undergoing a huge renaissance. With many people craving healthier, more natural and more personally crafted skin products, artisan soaps have turned into some very profitable businesses.

Soap making requires two basic ingredients: oil or fat, and lye (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, for solid and liquid soap respectively), typically dissolved in water. There are elaborate soap-making tutorials that insist on a very precise, scientific approach and exact measurements of the oil to lye ratio. It is important to keep in mind, however, that in the good ol' days, every household used to make its own soap from leftover cooking fat and lye produced by seeping water through wood ash. I can't imagine it was a very precise system, but it worked. 

Having said that, a reliable recipe and a digital scale go a long way towards minimizing frustration and giving you consistent, predictable, uniform results. 

Many people approach soap-making as a creative venture or micro business of its own, and stock up on supplies specifically for this purpose. For me, it was more about using up old oils that were not much good for anything else, whether it's non-food-grade olive oil we had tried to use for lighting but couldn't because it smoked, coconut oil that had gotten an off taste from sitting on the shelf too long, or almond massage oil left over from my first pregnancy a decade ago. I love the satisfaction of putting something to good use rather than throwing it away! 

Whatever oil or fat you use, look up a recipe specifically geared towards it, because the amount of lye will vary slightly for each one. Not enough lye will result in incomplete saponification, separation of oil, and messy soap; too much lye will give you a harsh, unpleasant soap that dries the skin (if this happens, though, no worries - you can grate the soap and use the flakes for laundry). 

The basic process of making soap is really quite simple: dissolve lye in water, add to oil and stir, preferably with a stick blender. The more effectively you mix, the sooner you will perceive the characteristic mayonnaise-like thickening known as 'trace'. 

Warning: lye is a highly corrosive substance, so please handle with caution. Wear rubber gloves and protective goggles, and dissolve the lye near an open window or, better yet, outside, to keep from breathing in the fumes. Never work with lye near small children. Use a glass or plastic bowl and a wooden spoon for mixing the lye solution and soap. Lye will eat through metal bowls. 

Once you gain a little more experience with making soap, there are many fun twists you can try. You can add essential oils for scents, textured materials such as poppy seeds or coffee grounds for a gentle exfoliating bar and, of course, natural colorants. With thick enough batter, you can make layers of different colors or gentle swirling/marbled effects. 

Once your soap has reached trace, pour it into molds. Silicone is best for this purpose. I like using little silicone molds in all sorts of cute shapes, but a plain old English cake mold will do as well. Unmold your soap when it's stable enough to keep its shape, but still soft enough to cut into bars (if you use one big mold). It can take several days until the soap is ready to be removed from the mold. 

After you've got your soap bars unmolded, it's time to cure them. This takes several weeks, and the wait may seem endless when you are looking forward to trying out your new natural soap, but it's very important to let the curing process take its time. While your soap cures, any excess liquids evaporate, along with remaining traces of lye. The result is a firmer, milder soap bar that cleans without leaving your skin irritated and dry. Cure your soap on a rack with good airflow from all sides.

If you have a bottle of old oil you can't bear to throw out, or if you are just ready for a few adventures, give soap-making a try. You will learn a useful skill, and who knows? You might just gain a new satisfying hobby. 

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna, her husband and their four children live on the outskirts of a small town in northern Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Author PageConnect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blogRead all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here.

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DIY Essential Oil Lotion Bars

Cover photo, essential oil lotion bar.

Winter weather is a common cause of dry skin. The decrease in humidity levels and increase in time spent indoors can lead to itchiness, painful cracks, dermatitis and eczema. Moisturizing with body lotion is especially important this time of year, which is why I made essential oil lotion bars to distribute dermatological relief alongside of holiday cheer. 

Essential-oil lotion bars are shockingly simple, requiring only 4 ingredients:

One recipe yields five, 2” x 2” lotion bars.


2 ounces of Coconut Oil
3 ounces of Beeswax
1 ounce of Shea Butter
60 drops of Essential Oils

Other materials that you will need:

Kitchen Scale
Sheet Pan
Silicon Spatula
Silicon or Aluminum Foil Molds
Leaves, Needles, Berries, Flowers, for Decoration


1. Decorate molds with leaves, berries, flowers, etc. 

2. Place molds on a sheet pan. Do this step in advance to prep for pouring the hot liquid. 

3. Measure the coconut oil, beeswax and shea butter and add to a saucepan. 

4. Place the saucepan on a burner on medium-low heat and stir ingredients until melted.

5. Remove from heat. 

6. Add the essential oil drops. I used Young Living Thieves, Orange and Peppermint essential oils for the first batch (20 drops per oil) and Young Living Lavender & Lemon essential oils for the second batch (30 drops per oil). 

7. Pour the liquid mixture into the molds and be sure that the liquid fully covers the added decorations.

8. Let the lotion bars cool in the fridge or outdoors for 10-15 minutes.

9. Carefully remove bars from the molds. 

10. Wrap in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

To use, gently rub on skin. 

Making the bars.

With beautiful results and a quick turnaround, this is an immediately gratifying project. Plus, you get the benefits of essential oils. According to Dr. Axe, general health benefits include: balanced hormones, boosted immunity, supported digestion, boosted energy levels, improved brain function, reduced emotional stress and anxiety, alleviated aches and pains, boosted skin and hair health, reduced toxicity, relieved headaches and migraines, and restful sleep. 

3 finished batches.

From aromatherapy to cleaning products to naturopathic care, essential oils have become increasingly mainstream. Because of the newfound popularity, it is increasingly harder to navigate which brands are reliable. Essential Oil Haven offers a review on how to distinguish trustworthy products in the 10 Best Essential Oils for 2018. Personally, I am a member and distributor of Young Living Essential Oils. I value their Seed to Seal promise—commitment to providing pure, potent essential oils in an environmentally sustainable manner. This is one of the brands that I feel comfortable to ingest as well as to use topically or with a diffuser. 

Young Living Oils

The five following essential oils were used to make these lotion bars because of their benefits:

Young Living Thieves essential oil is powerfully fragrant and rich in a combination of Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus Radiata and Rosemary. Thieves essential oil has potent antiseptic, disinfectant and antibacterial properties. 

Orange essential oil is derived from cold-pressing the outer peel. Orange essential oil is an immunity enhancer, natural antibacterial, a natural remedy for lowering blood pressure, an anti-inflammatory and skin treatment. 

Peppermint essential oil is also an antimicrobial and antiviral, and is one of the oldest European herbs used for medicinal purposes. Peppermint essential oil relieves muscle and joint pain, assists with sinus care and other respiratory benefits, alleviates headaches, relieves itchiness and boosts skin treatment. 

Lavender essential oil is arguably the most versatile essential oil. Known for its calming effects, Lavender essential oil also supports brain function, helps heal burns and cuts, reduces the appearance of blemishes, supports aging skin and promotes healthy hair. 

Lemon essential oil is derived by cold-pressing the lemon peel. Refreshing and purifying, Lemon essential oil relieves nausea, improves digestion, nourishes skin, stimulates lymphatic drainage, and works as an antimicrobial agent....

In pairing together essential oil blends that are cold/flu fighting, natural skin treatments and soothing scents, these lotion bars are a perfect winter gift. The only challenge that you may encounter is convincing your friends and family that the bar is in fact, not soap.

Lyndsay Dawson Mynatt is a dedicated forager, outdoor enthusiast, and blogger for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Her published articles include: Build a DIY Cider Press in the 2015 September/October issue of GRIT and 5-Minute, 5-Ingredient Mayonnaise in the 2015 Best of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Follow her adventures at A Faithful Journey, and read all of Lyndsay's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Diversification: Using a Sawmill Brings Profitability for Farmer

Grange Farmhouse 

Henry Brown has worked the Grange Farm with his father and now as sole proprietor in the village of Rosedale Abbey in England for more than 20 years. On the 300-acre farm located in the heart of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, Henry and his wife manage 400 mule breeding sheep, 1,200 pigs, horses, two bed & breakfast cottages, and a timber business. “I have such a varied job description,” Henry laughs. “Whether it is managing the cottages, the farming side, the timber side, every day is different.” However, diversity to keep the farm consistently profitable was not always the case.

“As a young man, it’s a great idea to spend your days farming, running around on quadbikes, tractors, and it all seems great fun,” recalls Henry. “The next minute, you have a wife and children. And suddenly, it was appearing [to us] that a hill farm was not going to generate the income that our family required.”

Wooden garden furniture

In the early 2000s, Henry and his wife began looking into ways they could supplement farming to raise their profits. “[Profitability] while farming is a common problem, certainly up in these areas,” Henry shares. “I have two or three friends that have also diversified – one into steel fabricating and another into stone. I wanted to make sure that when I diversified into something else, that it was actually a love, and not just because I had to do it.” His wife Jane had always wanted to run a bed & breakfast and holiday cottage. Together, they remodeled an old barn into a charming B&B, which they now rent out to people looking to get away from the bustle of city life.


Henry had gone through a forestry apprenticeship at nearby Castle Howard and decided that he could make a go of producing timber after working with a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill for a year. He went on to purchase a basic but competent Wood-Mizer LT15 sawmill because of his low budget. “People are shocked when they see what [the sawmill] turns out, what it can produce,” Henry shares. “It was good to start with a mill like the LT15 to open up the marketplace, without having to spend vast amounts of money not knowing what the return would be. We started up slowly, just processing some oak locally for people. And it’s grown ever since.”

Sheep on England farm

Timber can be a difficult market to get into, as established sawmill companies often have very loyal customers. Henry differentiated his services by being available for consultations and to make deliveries on weekends and being open to try anything to satisfy the client’s needs. “We get a lot of different projects put in front of us,” shares Henry. “And we never have the attitude of, oh, that can’t be done. I like a challenge! We have a varied client base, which I love – everyone from builders, architects, landscape gardeners, all the way to your weekend woodworking enthusiast.” Clients visit, inspect the logs that Henry keeps in stock, and can browse already dried timber to find the perfect piece they are looking for to complete a project. “There was one gentleman who came and ordered a large load of ash – nothing unusual about that,” Henry relates. “But it was for 10mm (2/5") by 75mm (3") strips… he was building coracle (small, rounded) boats! He folds and intertwines the ash around.”

Wood-Mizer LT15 portable sawmill

Approximately 75% of the timber Henry processes is oak, in addition to larch and silver birch. “Most customers like to know where their new beams or garden furniture is coming from,” says Henry. “We like to source our timber locally. For example, I acquired a beautiful piece of sycamore that was destined to be chopped and burned, and milled it instead. It had stunning grain timber with stunning character in it. Here, there is no waste.”

Handcrafted wooden gate

After several years, Henry decided to upgrade to a larger Wood-Mizer portable sawmill. “I wanted to start to push the business on,” Henry recalls. “I had a herd of Aberdeen Angus cows, which were inside six months a year and were not generating a vast profit. I sat down and decided I would rather grow my timber business. Selling the herd allowed the introduction of the [portable mill], and it has certainly produced a larger profit on a yearly basis than the herd had."

Wooden small table

“Being able to go out and do mobile milling has helped to grow the business,” explains Henry. “We are not on the main route, so that ability to do mobile sawmilling did open up our name. We also revamped the website, and it helped dramatically. In this last year, I have been astounded at how busy we’ve been!”

Sawmill cutting with sawdust flying

Adding a kiln to dry timber for use in indoor projects has really helped to expand what he can offer clients. “My love is with the small interior and exterior finishes, that’s where I see the business going over the years,” says Henry. “That is an area I would like to develop – showing wood off in its true, natural look. The great thing is, with this type of sawmill, you can do that. There are so many angles that you can mill a piece of timber on it. For a wedding, we cut oblique disks, because we could stand the log up and cut slices from it.”

Geese on farm

With the timber business expanding, Henry is considering hiring someone full time to manage the farm for him, which will free him up to focus on the timber side, which is his passion. To others interested in doing what he has done, he shares the following advice - “If you are going to buy a sawmill, know the direction that you are going to take it in. When I started here, we focused on the oak route, nothing else.” He mentions that although they have received requests, they have turned down work for post-and-rails and flooring, choosing instead to focus and grow their niche for tailored projects for specialist clients.

Wood-Mizer LT15 portable sawmill

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Easy Dyeing Fabric Craft Project With Markers and Rubbing Alcohol


Tie Dying is making a comeback in fashion this year. . .even though I always thought it was wonderful. You can make the same look an easier way without the messy containers of dyes, rubber bands and stained hands. Here is how I do it:

Use any 100% cotton, silk  or wool garment. I buy cheap cotton T-shirts but you can also use what you have. 


Markers- thick chisel style because they have more ink.
Rubbing alcohol
Dropper and or spray bottle to apply alcohol
Plastic covering for your table
Gloves(not required)
Ironing board/iron to set

Step 1

Lay the plastic down to protect your surface and lay your garment flat on plastic. Try a few spots first by making a few dots with the marker. If you have a t-shirt or a folded garment - it will bleed to the back too. That is OK and what you want. Apply a squirt or spray of rubbing alcohol on top of the color marks. Watch as it expands and creates a neat design.

Step 2

Let go of expectations and continue adding more colors with the marker on the dry fabric areas.  Warning:do not draw an image- for example, a cat - and expect it to come out looking like a cat. The colors once, the rubbing alcohol is added, will spread and seep into one another. Let go of expectations and see what happens. 

Step 3

After you get the design you want - just iron to set the colors! You can throw in a hot dryer alone to set too. I have been known to take white garments with stains on them and do this process too. It is a great way to refurbish a piece of clothing. I have also colored numerous silk scarves as gifts, white cloth shoes, a white cotton back pack and a makeup case. Use your imagination and create!

Tina T. Ames is an artist, homesteading and blogger and simple living instructor in Western New York State. Connect with her at Simply Abundant Living, on Facebook and Etsy. Read all of Tina’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Best Resource for Building a Cabin

Photo courtesy of Getty Images/franckreporter

I come from a long line of outdoor enthusiasts, and we spend every summer vacation at our family log cabin in Colorado. My grandparents bought a 2-acre lot in the mountains back in the 70s, and built the family cabin in 1994-’95. Ever since then, the cabin hosts a constant stream of family and friends all summer long.

In the years since the log cabin was built and the younger generations have married, had kids, and we continue to bring friends with us, sleeping space becomes a premium. We don’t spend much downtime inside during the day, because if the sun is out, we’re either fishing, hiking, swinging in the hammock, or sitting around the fire. But when it’s time to stumble sleepily off to bed, the majority of us prefer a spot inside four walls. Tent camping is great, but to fully recoup our energy for the next day, a soft bed close to the woodstove fits the bill.

We’ve started tossing around ideas about building a cabin or bunkhouse with just a woodstove and beds, enough to sleep extra bodies. But I’ve been thinking that if we’re going to the effort of putting another structure up on the lot, we might as well make it another cabin with a few more amenities and a bit of living space for those occasional rainy days when we are indoors playing board games and reading.

We knew we wanted something small, and when I started researching tiny house plans, I ran across the book Compact Cabins by Gerald Rowan. It pretty quickly became a staple on my nightstand for nighttime reading. I spent many hours perusing the pages of this book, and then pestering my family with ideas from it. This little bible of small cabin plans is full of design ideas for all kinds of terrain and environment, and author Rowan draws from his many years of experience to consider a multitude of variables to take into account in order to build a cabin or cottage that best suits a person’s need, location, and budget.


Probably a bit wide-eyed of me, I figured we could just pick a tiny-home design we liked aesthetically, decide the square footage we needed, and go with it. But there were some things to consider that help determine the final design, like did we want a three-season log cabin, which materials we plan on using, and what we wanted out of it. Rowan helps get the wheels turning toward a tiny home design that the owners will not only love, but a design that is also comfortable and functional. He lays out the decisions that a person may have otherwise forgotten to consider, and he offers suggestions as far as labor, cost effectiveness, and where to go looking for materials. He’s just there to guide the reader through the process.

We wanted to build a log cabin with a few of the amenities we were missing in the first cabin, but with a design and style similar enough to the first that it felt like a continuation, not a departure from the original. We knew we wanted to be able to sleep quite a few people comfortably, and we’d need some decent bath space - maybe not a full bath but at least a half bath. (The original cabin didn’t have a bathroom, but rather an outhouse away from the cabin. We wanted to plan some bath space in the new cabin with just a sink and a solar shower.) And we usually only spend our summers there, but we’ve talked about snowshoeing in for Christmas, so we’d need good insulation and a hefty fireplace. Several of us love to cook for the whole gang, so kitchen and counter space is a priority. And last but definitely not least, a porch or deck for everyone to sit and enjoy their coffee in the early morning but that would be undercover when the sun starts getting hot midmorning. The only thing we really didn’t need was a lot of living room space, since we’re outside so much; and if we’re ever there in winter, we’ll want a pretty compact and cozy common room anyway.

As far as building materials, we want to source the logs from a local mill, just like we’d done for the original log cabin. Rowan talks about energy options, which was helpful because our lot is off the grid, and he had a couple suggestions for just such circumstances. The original cabin has no electricity, but we’ve talked in recent years about implementing solar or wind energy, just enough to run a few lights, a miniature refrigerator, and a small hot water heater. (No more frigid mountain river baths! Although, that is half the fun.)

I really appreciated Rowan’s encouragement to build in stages over time, for a couple of reasons, namely to save on costs and to modify the design as we go so we don’t rush through it and end up with decisions that can’t be changed or will be costly to change down the road.

Our family is the type that has a lot of fun working together on labor-intensive projects. I relish stories from the years the first cabin was built. So spreading the building out over a couple of years sounded like a great plan to get us all up there together at the same time, making memories for stories to tell in another 25 years. This book got the whole family excited about a project we had only been talking about for years, and we’re several steps closer to making it happen.

Compact Cabins presents 62 design interpretations of the getaway dream. Whether it be a small cabin on a sparkling lakefront, a breath-taking mountaintop, an expansive beach, or some other peaceful location, there is something in this book to please every taste. Best of all, the small-footprint designs are affordable and energy-efficient without skimping on comfort and style. The cabins range in size form a cozy 150 square feet to a more spacious but still economical 1,000 square feet, and all include sleeping accommodations, kitchen and bath facilities, and a heat source. Complete chapters on low-maintenance building materials, utilities and appliances, and alternative energy sources supply you with the options for living efficiently in small space.

Reusable Household Wipes

household cleaning wipes 

These homemade household cleaning wipes look downright cheery on a kitchen or bathroom counter. Photo by Ron Wynn

We’ve grown accustomed to associating the smell of bleach with cleanliness. But clean isn’t a smell, and bleach can be problematic: its fumes irritate eyes and respiratory systems; it can both trigger an asthmatic attack and cause asthma.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to bleach when it comes to housecleaning. Here’s one I picked up from my natural-ingredient-loving sister-in-law: reusable household wipes. They’re environmentally friendly, inexpensive, convenient, and pretty on a kitchen or bathroom shelf. They smell good, too.


• 1 cup water
• 1 capful liquid castile soap
• 15-30 drops (any combination) of your favorite essential oils


Wide-mouth glass jar; fabric scraps made of t-shirts, preferably 100% cotton. If you don’t have discarded ones at home, try a local thrift shop or a t-shirt-quilt-making friend. You can by new ones on the cheap from certain big-box craft stores. Use multiple colors for a bright, colorful effect. I like mine about five or six inches square—about the size of a potholder, but any size that works for you will do.


1. Layer ten or more folded cloths into the jar.

2. Combine ingredients and pour over cloths. If you have more than ten, try filling the jar with half the cloths, then add half the mixture; repeat.

For a quick daily rubdown, simply pull out a cloth and wipe. It takes just seconds. When you’re done, you can hang your cloth over the faucet to dry, where it will continue to release a subtle fragrance. Throw it in the next washload, then reuse. Easy peasy.

Three Caveats

It is not recommended to use essential oils on granite or marble.

Some essential oils can be toxic to cats. 

My sister-in-law has more cats than I can count (seriously—they’re in and out of the room with such frequency that I never know how many there are), and they’ve not had any problems. It’s probably a matter of concentration, but to be on the safe side, check with your vet if you live with cats.

To qualify as an EPA-certified disinfectant, a product must be 100% effective against pathogens. Essential oils don’t meet that definition, though they come pretty darned close. Rather, they’re best described as anti-microbial, very effective ones. Combine the cleaning power of soap and water with essential oils’ antimicrobial properties and your own elbow grease for an excellent kitchen and bathroom cleaner.

What You Need to Know

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a study to determine antibacterial and antifungal activity of ten essential oils against twenty-two bacteria and twelve fungi. The ten oils were aegle, ageratum, citronella, eucalyptus, geranium, lemongrass, orange, palmarosa, patchouli, and peppermint.

Lemongrass, eucalyptus, peppermint, and orange were effective against all twenty-two of the bacterial strains tested. Aegle came in with twenty-one, while patchouli and ageratum were effective against twenty, citronella against fifteen, and geranium against twelve.

Aegle, citronella, geranium, lemongrass, orange, palmarosa, and patchouli inhibited all twelve fungi tested. Eucalyptus and peppermint were effective against eleven fungi, and ageratum inhibited four.

NIH also reviewed antimicrobial properties of plant essential oils against human pathogens and concluded that essential oils “possess strong antimicrobial activity against various bacterial, fungal, and viral pathogens.” 

The Atlantic even published an article on the likelihood that essential oils might become our new antibiotics. 

All in all, using homemade reusable wipes for household cleaning chores rates an A in my book. You might even want to give a colorful jarful of wipes as a gift.

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts here.

You can also find Carole at Living On the Diagonal where she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How to Build a 4-by-3-foot Chicken Coop: Step-by-Step Project Diagrams

If you’ve checked with your city’s zoning department and learned that it’s permissible to have a few chickens in your yard, this DIY chicken coop plan might be ideal. It’s perfect for housing three to six adult birds, as long as your yard is free from any threats of predators. 

With 12 square feet, it won’t take up much yard space and its ramp lets the birds come and go at will. Latch the door at night to keep the birds safe from strong winds or storms.

One of the reasons this chicken coop is perfect for do-it-yourselfers is that it’s moderately simple to build: The roofing material for the coop and the attached nesting boxes consists of sheet metal, which is easy to attach and affordable. The coop has a simple, amply-sized entry door with a built-in window for natural daylight.

The nesting boxes sit at the side of the coop and hinges on the roof make egg collection quick and easy. There’s no need to walk inside the coop and disturb your birds unless you need to clean it, what is very easy to do by opening the front door and sweeping out the floor.

Because the coop uses 3-by-4 construction, you can pull wires inside to provide light anytime or heat for the winter. And because the coop’s roof is fixed and sturdy, you can also attach a solar panel to generate its own power. Put insulation between the plywood ceiling and the corrugated metal roofing material, and birds will be more comfortable year-round.

Although there’s ample space between the wall studs for insulation, you’ll have to find a material that the birds won’t peck. You can also insulate them and cover with 1/8-inch plywood sheathing. Chickens are known to peck at drywall and it will harm their health.

If your yard isn’t completely fenced, it would be easy to enclose the coop with a protective fence or build a chicken run along its side. The height of this plan gives it greater flexibility as well since the coop stands just near to 6 feet high. It’s narrow enough to tuck into a corner of your yard and short enough so that it won’t be visible from the standard 6-foot yard fence.

Let’s begin.

Step 1: Assemble the Floor Frame

1.1 Using 3 ½ inches x 3 ½ inches (4 by 4s) pressure-treated lumber, cut four studs and four joists.  Use the illustrations on this page as a guide.

1.2 Use 1-inch wood screws and 4 1/2 inches by 4 1/2 inches x 1/2 inch corner braces and to secure each corner.

1.3 Check corners with a carpenter’s square or a speed square to verify that each is 90 degrees.

Step 2: Frame the Floor

2.1 Cut five joists using 1 1/2 “ x 3 1/2 “ (2 x 4s) pressure-treated lumber using the illustration below as an example.

2.2 Screw the joists to the bottom frame with 4x5" wood screws.

Step 3: Assemble the Rafter Bays

3.1 Use ¾-inch by 3-inch and ¾-inch by 3 ½-inch lumber and cut four rafter bays measuring 1-3 ¾-inches long. Refer to the illustration at the bottom of the page.

3.2 Cut the top edge to the proper angle for each bay to join them with rafters.

3.3 Use 2-by-3-inch wood screws to attach them.

Step 4: Install Plywood for the Floor

4.1 Cut the 9/16-inch sheet of plywood for the floor deck according to the drawing. Make the openings for the studs by measuring each side.

4.2 Use 2-inch screws to attach the plywood to the floor joists.

Step 5: Frame the Right Wall

5.1 Use pressure-treated 1 ½-inch by 3 ½-inch (1-by-4s) to cut the three studs that will form the wall and attach them using the drawing as a tool.

5.2 Cut the top edge of each stud to the correct angle so that it fits snugly with the rafter.

5.3 Use 4-by-3-inch wood screws to attach the wall studs to the rafters and joists.

Step 6: Frame the Back Wall

6.1 Use pressure-treated 2 x 4s (1 ½-inch by 3 ½-inch) to make the studs for the back wall. Cut to fit and attach them following the drawing below as a guide.

6.2 Use 4-by-5-inch wood screws to attach them.

Step 7: Frame the Left Wall

7.1 Use pressure-treated 2-by-4s (1 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches) to cut the three studs for the back wall and attach as shown in the drawing below.

7.2 Measure the angle between the stud and the rafter. Cut the top edge of each stud to the exact angle so that they lie flush with the rafters.

7.3 Use 4-by-5-inch wood screws to secure them.

Step 8: Install Plywood for the Roof

8.1 Cut a sheet of 9/16-inch plywood for the roof deck to the measurements shown on the drawing below.

8.2 Attach the plywood with 2-inch wood screws.

Step 9: Assemble and Install Coop Doors

9.1 Frame out the door for the chicken coop using 2-by-4s a and 2-by-2s) (1 ½ inches x 3 ½ inches and 1 ½ inches x 1 ½ inches) pressure-treated lumber and attach with 5-inch wood screws.

9.2 Use pressure-treated 1 x 3s (2 1/2 inches x 3/4 inches) lumber to make the door trim and use 2-inch screws to attach it.

9.3 Using 1/4-inch-by-3/4-inch pressure-treated wood, cut and install a starter course.

9.4 For the exterior siding on the door, use ½-inch-by-6-inch siding boards shown in the illustration as a guide.

9.5 Assemble siding shields with 2-inch galvanized nails.

9.6 Attach two 3-inch door hinges using 2-by-1-inch wood screws. Attach a 4-inch surface bolt and 6-inch door pull to finish installing the door.

Step 10: Nesting Box Assemble

10.1 Using 2-by-3 (1 ½ inches x 2 1/2 inches) lumber, make the frame for the nesting boxes as shown below. Take note of the 9-degree slope needed for the roof of the nesting boxes.

10.2 Cut 9/16-inch plywood to fit to cover the top and bottom of the nesting boxes. Secure with 2-inch wood screws.

10.3 Prepare and install a starter course using ¼-inch-by-¾-inch pressure treated wood strips with cross section ¼-inch-by-3/4inch. Cut the ½-inch-by-6-inch wood siding boards to the exact length in the needed amount according to the drawing. Cut the shield’s top portion to the precise angle of the slope of the rafter. Use 2-inch galvanized nails to attach it to the frame beams.

10.4 Prepare the wall's trim boards from the wood with a cross-section of ¾-inch-by-1-inch, ¾-inch-by2 ½-inch, and ¾-inch-by-3-inch. Cut the boards to the proper angles along the siding profile for the framing.

10.5 Assemble the door frame using 2-by-3 (1 1/2 inches by 2 ½ inches) wood according to the below drawing.

10.6 Install two 3-inch door hinges with 6-by-1-inch wood screws. Finish the door by attaching a 4" surface bolt and a 6-inch handle.

10.7 Cover the roof of the nesting boxes with a single sheet of corrugated metal roofing and secure with 1 ½-inch sheet metal screws using waterproof rubber or neoprene washers.

10.8 Install the nesting boxes by using two 4 1/2 inches by 4 1/2 inches by 1 1/2 inches corner braces and 1-inch wood screws. Connect the box frame to the coop's frame by using 5-inch wood screws.

Step 11: Install Corrugated Roofing

11.1 This chicken coop requires 23 square feet of corrugated roofing panel to cover it. The length should measure 5 feet 10 inches and the width 4 feet ¾ inch.

11.2 Use 1 ½-inch sheet metal screws and neoprene washers to attach the roofing panel to the nesting box.

This 3-by-4-foot chicken coop gives you a good place to start raising your chickens, whether you want them for fresh eggs or simply as backyard companions. The plan is ideal for a small flock of backyard birds since it gives them all-weather protection and a protective place to roost.

Dave Malcolm is passionate about woodworking, gardening and, last but not least DIY projects. His goal is to share inspiration, practical suggestions and comprehensive how-to guides. If you enjoyed reading this tutorial please visit Dave’s website for more inspiring DIY ideas.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

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