When I first started my homesteading journey with chickens I will be the first to tell you I was NOT a handy person (I’m barely handy now but I’m learning). I didn’t trust myself to put together a toilet paper holder let alone something an animal would have to call home. So we went out and bought everything BRAND NEW. A new coop, feeders, waters and food. I wanted to get them off to the best start,after all I’d been waiting years to get to raise chickens.
But the BEST doesn’t have to translate to the newest and most expensive. Since adding to my homestead (mostly out of necessity) we have learned how to come WAY down on the cost of raising animals. And for the most part the animals pay for themselves!
Getting a Deal and Free Stuff
Facebook Market Place, Craig’s List and the like is your new friend, get chummy. If you need an animal crate (and when DON’T you need a crate on a homestead) instead of heading to the store to buy one ALWAYS check Facebook market place. I have gotten all of my animal crates for free. Today I scored a ton of free straw to use as bedding for the goats. I’ve even found FREE cable spools to make my goats’ playground (Goat Playground). NEVER turn down FREE PALLETS, that’s one of my top pieces of advice NEVER EVER EVER turn down free pallets.
Do it Yourself
Unless you absolutely have to don’t hire people to do work on your homestead. It’s not hard to put up animal fencing and there are tons of YouTube videos to teach you how to do it. You can save tons of money by buying the material and renting the tools and making a family experience out of it. If you don’t teach your child the proper way to hammer their thumb with a rubber mallet who will? That being said if you really don’t feel like you are capable of doing the work don’t try and mess it up and waste time, money, and materials and then still have to hire it to be done. Weigh the options and choose which decision is right for your situation.
Put those animals to work
Homestead animals aren’t pets they need to work to earn their keep. You aren’t there to wait on them hand and foot they work for you. A foreign concept for me because I’m a spoiler, all of my animals are very spoiled and that’s ok, BUT these animals have a purpose and they are meant to provide . My chickens work the compost that’s their job (Click Here to see how I put them to work) and that’s how they earn their food–LITERALLY. I feed my chickens from a feeder, but they get a large amount of their food from the compost pile. I encourage my chickens to forage as well.
I also use the chickens to provide their own feed. The money I save by not having to buy eggs and selling eggs pays for their feed and bedding for the month.
With the goats we calculate their yearly feed costs and take that into account when we sell off their babies. The cost of the babies should more than cover their feed costs. Surprisingly it costs LESS to feed the goats than it does the chickens because they are able to provide so much of their own food by browsing.
Saving NOT Hoarding
When you’re done a project save your left over and scrap materials. You never know when you’re going to need a small piece of wood, a random screw, a 14″ x 7′ scrap of chicken wire. When you take down a fence (even if you’re 1000% sure you’re never getting that particular animal back and don’t need a fence) roll the fencing back up and store it and the T-posts for your next fencing project…you know all too well that there WILL be another fencing project…there is ALWAYS a fencing project. You’re going to go to a homestead swap and see an adorable little sheep and wouldn’t you rather just go in your shed and already have the materials on hand. No one can resist baby farm animals, those are just the facts Jack (yes I know you’re name really isn’t Jack)! BUT FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S GOOD AND HOLY DON’T BECOME A HOARDER! That can cause frugality problems all it’s own. If you have so much stuff that you don’t even know what you have, chances are you can’t find it any way and when you need an eye hook you’re going to run out to the hardware store and purchase one, when you have a bucket with precisely 421 eye hooks buried under your small mountain of burlap squares that you thought sure you would have used by now. So keep your materials semi organized and don’t get carried away.
FREE PALLETS. You can always find free pallets…break them down and use them for wood. Our goat shelter (Building a Goat House) and milk stand (Building a Milking Stand) is built from pallets and re-purposed wood. That’s a country mile away from a brand new chicken coop but it looks great and serves the purpose.
Improvising when it’s safe
You don’t always have to have the exact tool for the job (although sometimes you really really truly do need specific tools) sometimes there is a similar item laying around that will work just fine. Case and point, an old fashioned potato masher makes and excellent little garden rake when you’re potting plants and cooking spoons make excellent trowels. A dog crate wrapped in blankets works well when you don’t have a Dogloo for baby goats.
So if you haven’t started homesteading or have been hesitant to expand your homestead because of financial constraints you may want to try some of these tips. Now hang on there a second Nancy (I also know your name isn’t Nancy), I’m not saying you can toss your budget out of the window and go whole hog and buy an emu (so please no emails from angry spouses because you’re broke and being chased by an emu…I did not authorize that). I’m saying that with some careful adjustments you may be able to save some money and then use that to buy an emu.
And I’d emus aren’t your thing have you ever seen a baby goat?
Happy (FRUGAL) Flocking!