MOTHER's Chicken Mini-Coop

How to construct this small home for chickens, including chicken mini-coop framing, installing the wall-sheathing, bringing the trusses together and diagrams.

| February/March 2003

The chicken mini-coop can be easily moved around the yard and garden by just one person, so the birds can feed on fresh grass and bugs as much of the year as possible.

The chicken mini-coop can be easily moved around the yard and garden by just one person, so the birds can feed on fresh grass and bugs as much of the year as possible.


Keep backyard chickens with class in MOTHER's chicken mini-coop.

Build MOTHER's Chicken Mini-Coop

There are so many good reasons to keep chickens that even city folks really should have a few birds. But too many backyard chicken operations look like something plucked out of a John Steinbeck novel, and that's a stumbling block for many. While the chicken-shack lifestyle is fine for some folks, the cause of sustainable, small-scale food production will never make serious headway unless its presented with a touch of class and style. That's the goal of Mother Earth's mini-coop, which makes it easy to keep a few hens even in the fanciest neighborhood or smallest back yard.

Our design team (myself and Mother Earth News editor Cheryl Long) sought the advice of several poultry experts in our quest to come up with a coop design that keeps the birds safe and productive, makes daily care as easy as possible, and looks good enough to park on a front lawn in town. The mini-coop keeps the birds safely fenced in, but can be easily moved around the yard and garden by just one person, so the birds can feed on fresh grass and bugs as much of the year as possible. The sheltered coop area is about 4-by-4-feet — a perfect bedroom for three or four hens. The attached chicken yard is 4-by-5-feet, or you could make it longer if you want to.

The mini-coop is a great project for kids. It's easy for children to help build the unit, then take complete responsibility for overseeing the egg production, giving them valuable, hands-on experience. You can even slip the coop into the back of a pickup truck — chickens and all — and take it to schools for demonstrations. We predict your local schools will be glad to host this egg-mobile.

Building the Chicken Mini-Coop

The coop is framed with a series of truss-like triangles connected by a ridge board at the peak and a floor frame around the perimeter. The grazing area is enclosed in predator-proof, 1-inch galvanized welded-wire mesh, while the indoor roost is protected by shingle-covered 1/4-inch exterior plywood. If you've got two people to move the unit, you can simplify the project by omitting the wheels.

Study the drawings in the image gallery and then begin by cutting parts for the five triangular trusses you'll need to make the coop's frame. The main feature of the truss frames is that they be identical and rigid. To make them, you'll need 10 rafters, five cross ties, and three end spacers: one for each endmost truss frame and one for the frame, that divides the interior and exterior sections. I used cedar because it's lightweight and rot-resistant — desirable attributes for this project. You could substitute construction-grade softwood, although it will add more weight to the coop and will be less durable.

Bill Raymons
4/1/2011 10:24:39 PM

There is a "sidebar" containing "article tools". Click on "image gallery" and you can go thru the images associated with this article. There are drawings of the coop and drawings of some construction details as well as a couple of photos. It is unfortunate that the whole article cum images can't be accessed as a .pdf, but the info is there if you look.

3/26/2010 1:19:34 PM

I think it is obvious that the article was not set up to show you how to build the coop. Lack of a pdf with the drawing plans show this fact as obvious. They want you to buy the books and make them some money. Even mother earth doesn't give it's secrets away for free....sigh. guess it will just do as I always do and wing it. this is stupid and a waste of my time coming here. come here to just get rooked into buying something with a crappy layout of info..thanks guys

3/24/2010 11:46:54 PM

I would be very interested in building this coop but I think some diagrams would be very helpful here! Some folks can imagine this in their head but folks like me...we need all the visuals we can get.

mary ann frazier_1
3/10/2010 1:41:13 PM

I can't read the black writing when it is on dark blue...please don't do this.

3/10/2010 8:06:23 AM

Another thing you can do, specially if you are plagued with Japanese beetles. Attach a beetle trap to the outside of the coop and put a section of 3" PVC piping underneath it to funnel the beetles into the coop. The biddies will gobble them up and add more protein to your eggs. The only problem is that it leaves an opening into the coop that may allow snakes and other small critters in. To remedy this just place a pipe cap over the pipe when you check for eggs in the evening after the bugs are less active. Remove it again in the morning. I have a larger hen house for my 12 hens, and do the same thing. This smaller coop would be more effective in this aspect since you could move it around and direct the bugs away from the garden.

Rick Langkamp
3/28/2009 12:39:22 PM

I found the plans in my old mother earth news magazines for February/ March 2003 , there are complete photos dimensioned dwgs in the article, I ddin't find a materials list but may add one later as I plan to build this coop for new chickens, I suppose you maybe able to get an old copy of the magazine from somewhere or order their cd for the 2003 year.

2/24/2009 11:08:03 AM

yes i am also looking for plans for this coop. any help greatly appreciated.

Jerry Sullivan_1
1/16/2009 2:21:53 PM

I would love to build this chicken coop for my grand-daughter, however it would be a lot easier if I could obtain plans and list of building materials. Jerry Sullivan

Sue Mo
1/14/2009 3:31:35 PM

I agree. A materials list, and some sizes to cut, would be most appreciated.

12/8/2007 1:31:56 PM

I'd really like a materials list that I could take to the lumberyard with me. Trying to put one together from the article, with the help of two wailing toddlers, just isn't going well, so I don't know that I'll ever get it built. It might be easy to have kids help build, but my 16 year old son sure couldn't make heads or tails of the list of materials and the drawings, at least not enough to make a materials list. He said, "This is really easy to build, but I can't figure out exactly what to tell you to buy...sorry".

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