Easy Backyard Chicken Coops

Construct this easy DIY coop, and keep your own chickens for delicious, nutritious eggs.

  • ChickCoops
    A slightly remodeled plastic doghouse and a wire pen make a perfect home for two to four hens.

  • ChickCoops

There are dozens of reasons to keep a few hens in your backyard, including pest control and sheer entertainment. Fresh eggs may be the most popular reason, and eggs from hens allowed to do what comes naturally — roam and peck at grasses, weed seeds and bugs — not only taste better, they’re better for you than eggs from cage-raised hens. Free-range eggs are higher in vitamin E and beta carotene, and lower in cholesterol. (Look for the exciting results of recent research in the October/November 2007 issue of Mother Earth News).

Break with Tradition

Keeping chickens should be fun and require little management. You don’t need to spend lots of money and time to get set up. You can let them out to range, and they will instinctively return to their roosts at dusk. Just be sure to keep them penned up for a few days before you let them range for the first time; it takes them awhile to learn where ‘home’ is.

If you’re thinking of a walk-in shed with a small outside run of barren earth, it’s time to change your thinking. There’s a better way to keep your hens. Instead of a traditional chicken shed, use a small moveable pen that allows chickens to eat bugs (ticks, grasshoppers, worms, fleas, etc.), grass (yes, chickens do eat grass and plants) and weed seeds. Let your chickens graze in the yard and move the pen every day or two. This creates a synergistic relationship — both the chickens and the lawn benefit.

Predator Protection

Whatever coop style you choose, be sure it’s secure. Even in an urban environment, predators can be a serious problem. Dogs, cats and wild animals and raptors will help themselves to a free chicken dinner if you don't stop them. To get to your birds, predators will fly into, dig under or gnaw into any coop they can.

So you must plan to provide protection against predators. Chicken wire keeps your chickens in the coop, but it may not be strong enough to keep dogs or coyotes out. Heavier gauge mesh or woven wire are options to consider. Electric poultry netting (light and easily moved) is also a popular option to keep predators out and chickens in. A small doghouse inside a portable wire pen makes a great fortress for two to four hens. Click here for details on this low-cost option.

Most dogs can be trained not to bother chickens, and a dog’s presence will deter many chicken predators, too.

4/7/2010 1:12:42 PM

I used a trampoline someone gave me for a chicken coop. I attached an old 4 by 3 (large dog house)building on one corner and wrapped the frame with fencing that was also given to me.Just leave the black cover on it. you will have to put some kind of support in the middle of the trampoline for water run off . It works great ,my husband doesnt like it,but it works great

Lucinda Hough
5/26/2009 2:48:50 PM

This year I raised meat chicks and they grew out of the box I had them in so fast! I went to the grocery store and asked for a box that watermelons come in. They were happy to give it to me, and it works awesome for my growing chicks! It is the perfect height and width and they have plenty of room to move around now.

Aggie Janicot
5/23/2009 12:16:59 PM

I have a chicken tractor based off the traditional "chicken ark" design. I really love it. I made mine from scratch for about 175.00 of new lumber, but it could have been done a lot cheaper with recycled wood. I suggest doing a search on 'chicken tractors". You'll find lots of wonderful pictures and ideas!

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