Build This Predator-Proof, Portable Chicken Coop for Your Backyard

This low-cost portable chicken coop plan makes raising backyard chickens easier for just about anyone.

| April/May 2012

Predator Proof Chicken Coop

This new and improved incarnation of the portable chicken coop is designed for three to four chickens, and anybody can build it.


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’t cost too much money.

One early version, designed in 2003 by MOTHER EARTH NEWS contributing editor Steve Maxwell and Editor-in-Chief Cheryl Long, was a wooden A-frame affair with wheels on one end to help make it easy for one person to move. Created after Maxwell and Long conferred with poultry experts, the coop is a gorgeous piece of work (read more about it in MOTHER’s Mini-Coop) meant to last for years. However, the coop requires a fair amount of carpentry skills to build, and the cost of the materials and the required tools are beyond some folks’ budgets.

In 2007, Long presented another coop idea in Portable Chicken Mini-Coop Plan. “I set out to create a coop design that would be low-cost, easy to build, light enough to move easily and scaled to fit well even in small backyards,” Long wrote. “It’s intended for three or four hens, costs only about $100 in materials and can be assembled in a few hours from standard welded wire fencing.” This portable chicken coop plan includes an inexpensive plastic doghouse, slightly modified, to shelter the chickens. This super-lightweight, low-cost option works fine if you can place it inside a fenced yard or garden. Unfortunately, the run’s unframed wire mesh walls are not strong enough to prevent large dogs from smashing them down and killing the chickens, as Long sadly learned.

Undaunted, Long next designed an ultra-sturdy coop, MOTHER’s Mighty Chicken-Mobile, in 2011’s Build an Affordable, Portable and Predator-Proof Chicken Coop. It’s sized to fit on a raised garden bed so the chickens can till up the soil with their scratching. This portable coop with a welded iron frame is solid and predator-proof indeed, and it will last forever, but Long reports the steel frame makes it too heavy for some people to move easily (and you’d have to find a welder to build it for you if you don’t have that skill).

5/14/2015 2:42:14 AM

You shouldn’t attempt a project like this without any proper guidance because it’s more likely than not that you’d end up with a half-built project with hundreds of dollars invested with nothing to show for it. If you’re new to this or you’ve had several failed attempts before, I personally recommend checking out this guide here as the steps and plans laid down in it are really easy to follow, especially for beginners.

7/24/2014 8:23:58 PM

I can probably help out anyone having trouble their coop. A few weeks ago I was looking for a coop plan because I didn't want to wait and pay 400$ for a pre-made one I knew I could make. I couldn't really find any free information that was detailed, I needed a guide with materials listed and step by step instructions for any amount of chickens. I did find a blog though that had chicken coop plans for any amounr of chickens. You can check it out here . I used it to build a chicken coop for 6 chickens everything is step by step- only took me 4 days to build mine using the plans. Your Weclome lol

4/3/2014 11:44:26 AM

This coop is actually a really bad idea for folks just getting started with backyard birds. All though it is portable, it lacks basic protection from cold winter weather as well as hot summer weather. You would be better off building something tall enough to walk into, has enclosed storage for feed, scratch, grit, straw etc., roosts, safe electrical access for water heaters, and outside access for gathering eggs from nesting boxes is very handy. The best designs include a coop with an sturdy roof attached to a semi-covered outside run where the girls can get plenty of outside time during crumby weather. Don't waste your time or money on something that is just too small and doesn't provide the basics.

7/29/2013 7:40:10 AM

This plans is really very hard to do. I tried to build this one but I could'nt. I can recommend another plan which is much more simple than this one. You can find the plans here 

7/29/2013 7:28:33 AM

This plans is really very hard to do. I tried to build this one but I could'nt. I can recommend another plan which is much more simple than this one. You can find the plans here 

7/29/2013 7:23:12 AM

This plans is really very hard to do. I tried to build this one but I could'nt. I can recommend another plan which is much more simple than this one. You can find the plans here 

5/14/2013 10:21:13 PM

Trying build one, but bending the PVC is not simple. Looks like you need a torch and maybe  frame/ jig. To make the arches.

5/14/2013 10:20:49 PM

Trying build one, but bending the PVC is not simple. Looks like you need a torch and maybe  frame/ jig. To make the arches.

4/22/2013 7:37:04 PM

Great guide! Just a question, how many chicks can you fit in this <a href="">coop</a>?

4/8/2013 9:21:38 PM

How many feet of the corrugated plastic is need for the hoop style coop? John Campbell @

heidi hunt
10/29/2012 2:37:19 PM

You can find the link to the plan illustration and materials list here. Click on the link to the plan on the right side of the screen next to the photo of the rounded coop frame.

jenny hansell
10/9/2012 12:47:58 PM

If anyone from MEN is still reading this... do you or the designer have any opinion on whether it's warm enough for a cold northern winter? Should I insulate it with hay bales?

jenny hansell
5/31/2012 4:37:49 PM

The plans for this are really inadequate. There is a diagram on the Circo site, but for a beginner like me it's been really hard to figure out how to put all the pieces together, add things like nest boxes and perches, doors and windows that open and shut but are secure - I'm doing it bit by bit, but it's a bit of a mess so far! Really regretting that I went down this road to try and save money.

jenny hansell
5/31/2012 4:35:28 PM

Christopher, how did you do that? I'm having a really tough time making this whole thing work!

5/10/2012 8:00:12 PM

Where is the link to the actual plan?

5/7/2012 8:25:46 PM

I built this entire thing in a matter of hours using zip ties. They are durable and lightweight. I will replace w/wire as they break as needed. I did attach the wire to the bottom but used a 6x6 inch wire. I used 1'' x 1'' green welded wire for the outside and it turned out great. the only trick was how to do the drop down door and still supply my birds w/safety.

karen morton
4/21/2012 1:23:53 PM

I agree sheryl, where do the j clips go?

kim moyer
4/3/2012 5:31:41 PM

Thanks for this article! We are in the process of constructing a wire hoop coop for our eleven ladies and you gave us some great ideas to implement. So far, our coop has been very cost effective ( 12' x 4' and less than $200)

sheryl griffith
4/1/2012 5:01:46 PM

This looks good but the article needs more detail. Is the bottom wired to the frame? (In the drawing it looks as if it's not. Does the coop have to be anchored to the ground so it can't be tipped? There is even less detail on the Circo web site.

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