Our Low-budget Chicken Coop

 

After months of work and difficulty getting out to the land in the first place, we have a completed chicken coop for our fifty chickens.  I thought I’d show it off, and explain what we did to keep costs down.

First off, we don’t currently have anything built on our land, but my girlfriend’s family has a farm right next door, and after exploring a few options for putting a low cost coop up on our own land, we took up the offer to use some unused space in a barn they have.  The barn is about 100 years old, and needed a wall built to enclose the area we were being given, but there was an old barn on the property that had been torn down a while back, and the wood from that was used to create the new wall.  It cost a box of screws.  You can see it in the image to the right, behind the nesting boxes.

Next, we built our feeder and waterer, as shown in the pictures below.

The feeder was built out of a 55 gallon plastic drum that we picked up for ten bucks.  We cut a dozen holes around the bottom, and used some 2 inch PVC 90 degree bends to make this (mostly) waste-free feeder.  The total cost on the feeder was about $30 for the drum, pipe pieces, and glue.  It holds four 50 pound bags of chicken feed, which last our chickens a month.

The waterer was built similarly.  We got another 55 gallon plastic drum, washed it out thoroughly, cut the top off so we can use the top as a lid (we wanted an easy way to open it up to clean it when needed), and installed a dozen poultry nipples around the bottom.  One thing we learned is that the nipples are often poorly threaded, so we took them apart and used Teflon tape to better seal them so they don’t leak.  The waterer holds about a week’s worth of water, which we get from the well that sits right outside the door.  We put it on cinderblocks to mount it high enough that the chickens have to reach up for water, and minimizes spillage.

Next, we built some simple roosts.  For some, we took a pallet, cut it in half, and used that as the base for some 1 inch wide wooden bars that we cut out of scrap wood.  The total cost on that was the ten screws we used.  We then put together additional roosting bars around the coop using some more of those 1 inch bars, resting on cinderblocks that we had laying around.

Our chickens were ready, by this point, to head out to the coop.  We brought them in a couple of Rubbermaid totes, and as we pulled them out of the tote one-by-one, we showed them how to drink from the waterer by tapping their beak against it.  Most of them caught on that day, with the few holdouts catching on by the following day.

We still didn’t have a yard or nesting boxes for them yet, but that was okay, as they needed to be confined to the coop for a while anyways.  We started on the yard for the coop by fencing off an area 15 feet by 30 feet.  For this, we didn’t skimp.  We bought a fifty foot roll of chain link fence, and the posts to mount it on, and spent a day pounding posts and then mounting the chain link to it.  For the gate, we lucked out and my girlfriend’s uncle (the owner of the farm) had a spare gate he let us use, and it completed the yard.  The fence cost us about $100 total for the chain link and posts.

There was already a hole in the wall between the coop and the yard, and it had been boarded up to prevent animals from getting in.  We took those boards down and spent a few hours turning that old barn wood into a servicable door and ramp.  We purchased a pair of hinges for it, and a latch to keep the door closed.  The door cost us under $10 to build.

Finally, chickens need nesting boxes.  At this point, we’re only a few weeks away from their first eggs, so it was time to get those done.  For that, we went to a local grocery store and picked up a bunch of plastic vegetable crates, free of charge.  With those, and another pallet, I created the nesting box wall.  To do this, I simply cut the pallet in half, mounted a board on the wall at the same height as the top of pallet to support the nesting boxes, and screwed the veggie boxes to the wall and to the pallets.  The fronts of the veggie boxes were cut off, and filled with straw, and the chickens are happy.  The boxes are up off the floor, which keeps eggs away from smaller predators.  Total cost of nesting boxes was almost nothing, as all we paid for were the screws.

I wanted to post this today because I’ve seen a lot of people posting chicken coops that house a half a dozen chickens, and they buy them store-bought for several hundred dollars.  They give the impression that starting out with chickens costs a lot.  In fact, I see a lot of people talk about how their first egg cost them $500 or more, and I have to laugh because these people spend so much for their tiny backyard flock of 3-6 chickens.  We spent less than that for a coop that will happily handle fifty chickens or more.

I know that not everybody has a neighbor that can loan them space in a barn, but there are so many alternatives to buying a pre-fab coop that anyone can build.  Using pallets is my favorite way of repurposing and saving money.  One of the options we had looked at, for instance, was that a local trailer park was getting rid of an old mobile home that wasn’t fit for human habitation.  They were looking for someone to take it for free, and they’d even haul it to our farm for us at no charge.  If we hadn’t been offered barn space, we’d have used that route, though it would have taken a while to clean out the mobile home and make it fit for the chickens.  But the point it, if you look around, there are so many ways to repurpose things and save money that it boggles the mind.  You just have to look.

 

Raised Bed Garden That Cost Nothing

 

One of the many important things to do when you’re going off-grid is to learn to grow your own food.  I decided to tackle that this year, on top of the chickens we’re already raising, and will be working with a few different ideas here at the house.

First of all, we needed to have a raised garden bed, and it needed to be high enough to not bend over at all.  In our household, we have someone that is ridiculously tall, and has health issues that make it nearly impossible to bend over to do any kind of gardening.  Secondly, I wanted to follow the concept of square foot gardening, which I’ve been reading about in a great book by Mel Bartholomew.  I’ve posted a link below to it if you’d like to check it out.

My idea was to use pallets and build the raised bed with those.  First, I connected them all together in this 1 pallet by 3 pallet rectangle.  Yes, I know I should have found ones that match better, but these work.  Once I had the walls put together, I stapled old chicken feed bags to the inside.  This will hold the soil and compost material in.  I’m aware that they’ll break down over several years, but that’s okay for now.

With that work done, at a cost of absolutely nothing (free pallets, and we had the feed bags already from feeding our chickens), it is now time for me to fill the box.  It was suggested to me that I build a tray on top and fill that with soil to grow in, but I decided to fill the box from bottom to top with compostable material.  We have lots of it, after all.

I started with a pile of tree branches I had that was going to be headed to the dump.  Instead, it’ll be a slowly decaying base that will take several years to fully compost.  On top of that, I have my dead leaves.  We had a yard full of them, and they filled the box nicely to the halfway mark.

I have a lot of yard cleanup to do as well, so I’ve been taking all the weeds and vines I’ve been pulling out, and throwing those in as well.  They’ll compost well and give the soil a lot of nutrients.  By burying them deeply, I’ll ensure the weeds don’t pop through into my growing area.

This is where I am so far with this build.  From here, I’ll be topping up the bio-mass, and then adding soil that we’re going to pull from our land north of town.  It’ll cost a bit of gas and the time it takes to shovel into the back of the truck.  Within a few weeks, we should be able to start growing our first vegetables.

As I mentioned above, I plan on using the square foot gardening method.  While the book recommends using a 4 foot by 4 foot growing area, I decided to use a 2 foot by 12 foot area instead.  This gives me 8 extra square feet of growing space, but also allows for easy reach with this raised bed.  If we were using beds that were lower, I’d probably use the suggested area sizes.

The growing area will be divided up into one foot square sections, in which we’ll grow different vegetables in each.  As we harvest each plant, we’ll replant something else in that square immediately.  This will allow us to have a continuous supply of veggies throughout the rest of the growing season.

When I started thinking about setting up a garden, I originally planned on a much larger area, to grow lots of vegetables for the family, and I figured I’d learn canning and preservation methods.  The more I thought about it, though, the more overwhelming it seems to be.  So, I decided to follow through with the strongest recommendation I’ve been given: Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  So, I’m starting small.  One raised bed is a good start.  If and when I feel comfortable expanding, I’ll make a second raised bed.  If I need a third, I have room in the yard for it.  But this small garden will be good practice and it’ll give me the chance to make sure I am not over-extending myself.

In the meantime, I’ll keep you all updated on my progress.

This is the book I have been reading.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

Chickens, chickens everywhere

Hello faithful readers!  I haven’t had much to post this past few months, but today, I’m going to get you all caught up on what has been happening with our homestead.

First off all, I learned something important.  If you store your chicken feed in a plastic bin, you’re going to have issues with squirrels and other animals.  I woke up one morning, and found this lovely hole in the side of our feed bin.  I have since purchased a stainless steel feed container.  It holds a 50 pound bag of chicken feed easily, and has yet to be broken into.

I have to point out that I used the plastic bin because it was the cheapest option available.  And this is where I have to mention that “low budget” sometimes means paying a little more up-front in order to save money down the road.  Using a cheap or free plastic bin cost me more in the long run, as I had to buy the metal bin anyways, and lost some chicken feed in the process.

In other news, I have officially been raising chickens for over a year now.  I’ve learned a considerable amount, and decided that it was time to try to earn some more from chickens than I have been.  We checked with our local extension office, and learned that we can have up to fifty laying hens without needing to be licensed by the state, and can sell those eggs directly to consumers.  Any more than fifty chickens would mean that we’d have to have our eggs graded and sized, and the cost would become prohibitive.

Our chickens started out in a brooder for the first 6 weeks of their lives, on our dining room table, with a heat lamp keeping them warm.   We learned that we’re not fond of having the house smell like chicken poop, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.  Consistent cleaning keeps the smell down, though won’t eliminate it entirely.  We kept the chicks in a kiddie pool with mesh over it so they’d stay safe.  That’s the picture at the top of this article, with some of the chicks checking out their new temporary home.  It wasn’t a perfect solution, but we had the pool laying around and it only cost us a few bucks to put their brooder together.

Several weeks ago, we moved them out to their coop.  Since we’re working on staying low budget, we looked at a number of options for a chicken coop before we settled on our final solution.  We had thought of building a coop out of pallets, but couldn’t collect enough pallets to make something decent in time.  Then we came across someone giving away an old, falling apart mobile home.  It wasn’t something that anyone could live in without a great deal of work, but it could be turned into a chicken coop extremely easily.  We were going to use that option, and have the mobile home moved out to our land, when the family member that lives next door offered the use of his barn.  All we needed to do was clean it out, put up one wall, and move the chickens out.

We have a roof over their heads, and they’re quite happy.  We built a waterer out of a 55 gallon barrel and 12 poultry nipples.  The barrel cost us five bucks, but you can get them for free sometimes.  The poultry nipples are about four bucks per package of 4.  Our chickens took a bit of time to learn how to use the new waterer, but now that they know how it works, they’ve been happy to use it.

We built a simple feeder out of another barrel.  It holds several hundred pounds of feed, and there’s little wasted food.  I’ll show that feeder in my next post in the next few days, and teach you how to build it.  It can easily be adapted to smaller sizes as well, for those of you with just a backyard flock.

We have a few things still to do.  The barn we’ve got the chickens in is about 80 years old, and we have to level some ground and put up the fence for their run.  Following that, we’ll be building their nesting boxes so they have a safe place to lay eggs in a few months.  The chickens are staying inside until the fence is up, and they get used to their living space.  They’re happy, healthy, and will be a great source of income when we start getting eggs from them.

I suppose I should mention how we plan on selling those eggs.  There’s a farmer’s market in town, and we’ve already spoken to them about having a table there.  With only 50 chickens, our income from these chickens won’t be huge, but any money coming in will be better than nothing, and will help us work on our next project.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting in Shape While Off-Grid

When you live an off-grid lifestyle, there should be a lot of things you’re doing in a healthier manner.  Being off-grid usually means a lot of physical labor.  Whether you’re working with animals, doing gardening for food, or building yet another wind turbine, you’re probably fairly active.

However, sometimes this isn’t enough, or you want to step up your game, and maybe get into better shape than you are now.  That’s what I wanted for myself, and I looked at a lot of ways to get healthier and work out in a way that was interesting, fun, and didn’t cost me a lot.  I also wanted something where I knew I would see results, but that wasn’t something that would burn me out on my first day.

I found DDP Yoga.  Now, before I say anything else about this, I’m not being paid to write a review, nor am I receiving any kind of compensation for this article.  I have just seen a number of videos on Youtube, which I’ll show you below, and then I started using the workouts myself.  Diamond Dallas Page created a program that you can start out simply with, that you can work at your own pace, and step up as you’re able.  It pushes your body without straining you to the point of collapse, and is a no-impact workout that you can do even if you have joint problems.

Here’s a video to show you one of their success stories:

 

This is another of the amazing transformations from this program:

 

And another:

 

Alright, so now that you’ve watched those really amazing, heart-rending videos, you’re going to go and buy the DVDs so that you can get started, right?  Or, you’re going to ask “Hey, wait a minute, those DVDs cost money!  Why is he suggesting we buy them when this is supposed to be a low-budget blog?”  That’s a really good question.

Yes, you could ignore these, and try to find videos on Youtube that teach you how to work out.  And they’re going to be disjointed, nothing is going to be one specific workout program, and eventually, you’ll lose hope because all the disjointed information will contradict all the other information, and you’ll probably give up.  These DVDs, while they cost a little bit, are a lot cheaper than other workout programs.  Those other programs are harder, much more expensive, and in my own experience, not as motivating.  DDP Yoga actually works to keep you going, because they also build a community on their website so you can talk to other people in the program as well.  The other thing is that if you get the DVDs, the only other things you really need for equipment are a decent yoga mat, and possibly a heart rate monitor.  The DVDs are a much lower cost than other programs out there, and I think you get a great deal for your money.

So, here is a link to the DDP Yoga webpage where you can order the DVDs.  It’s not an affiliate link, and I’m not making a penny if you buy from this website.

ddpyoga

 

If you do buy the DVDs, and you’d like to get a decent yoga mat and heart rate monitor, here are links to some decently priced products on Amazon for you to buy that are a lot cheaper than other places. I do earn a small affiliate commission if you follow my links to buy them.

 

So, if you give these a shot, or have tried in the past, let me know.

How to Keep your Chickens Cool

If you live pretty much anywhere in the US, you’ve probably noticed that summer is here.  It’s brain-meltingly hot here right now, and temperatures are in the 90s and 100s over the foreseeable future.

This can be dangerous for your chickens.  Overheating can cause your chickens to have heatstroke and die, just like people.  In the video below, I’ve shown you what I’ve done to keep my chickens cool in the summer, and as always, we tried to keep things low-budget.  None of these things cost much at all.

Upgrading the Chicken Coop

Yesterday, I decided to get out to the coop and do the upgrades it needs.  The chicks aren’t really chicks anymore, and they’re getting close to old enough that they’ll need some nesting boxes.  The roosts I had in there aren’t supporting their weight anymore.

I created 4 nesting boxes out of old plastic crates I got from a grocery store for free, and the roosts are old branches I screwed together.  The total cost of the upgrade project was… well….  I guess whatever the cost of a half a dozen screws was.  Under a dollar.  And a punctured finger.  And the headache I got from doing the work in 90 degree heat.  But other than that, it was free…

Here’s a little video I put together to show the results.

Reasons for Creating Low-Budget Off-Grid

The other day, I was going through the many off-grid blogs out there, and realized that Low-Budget Off-Grid was fairly unique.

I’ve found that there are a few different kinds of off-grid blogs out there.

  1. There are the off-grid blogs of those that wanted to just live an easier, more self-sufficient lifestyle, so they sold their house and emptied their savings account, and bought a bunch of land, threw up some solar panels, and spent only $50k or so setting up their sustainable life, or
  2. They are off-grid sites that teach you how to prepare for living sustainably because the government will be declaring martial law any day now, or there will be some sort of natural disaster that will cause the complete breakdown of society.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not knocking either of these types of sites.  The first type of site is great for those that can afford to go that route, and if you have the money to spend to bring your off-grid utilities up to the same standard as you had before going off-grid, go for it.  The second type of site is important if you do believe that there’s a chance of society ending, and they will certainly help you prepare.

The thing is though, that I know a lot of people that don’t have that hefty savings account.  They don’t have a job that will allow them to put together significant amounts of money that they can use to buy a large amount of land, and a bunch of solar panels, and a contractor to build their off-grid home for them.  The people I know that want to go off-grid aren’t interested in doing it because they think society’s collapse will happen any minute.

Instead, they’re just people that are struggling with bills, struggling with debt, struggling with putting food on the table for their kids.  They’re people that want to go off-grid as cheaply as possible, because they don’t have any other way.  They’re people that are willing to put up with a bit of hardship for a while, and build systems slowly, so they can work while they build and live within their means.

I’m not a prepper.  Most prepper sites I’ve seen come at the idea from a right-wing viewpoint.  The viewpoint seems to be that godlessness is causing a breakdown of society, and will end with anarchy and war or something along those lines.  Now, I’m not knocking people for having a different viewpoint, as they’re entitled to believe as they do.  I do tend to agree with them that there is a growing breakdown in the way people treat each other, but my view is colored by my much more liberal viewpoint.  I believe that going off-grid and living sustainably is important because of issues with climate change, and with the increasing disparity in income that the working class are subjected to.  I believe that off-grid life can help ease the pain of those issues and try to bring things back on track.

I’ve seen information all over the internet on how to create certain systems cheaply, but the information is spread out everywhere, and there’s no easy place to track that information down.  I decided I wanted to compile all that information into one place.  I know I’m not the only one that needs this information, and I know that my friends aren’t the only ones I could share it with.  I know there are literally millions of people all over the US and the world that are struggling to make ends meet, and dreaming of going off-grid, and all I want to do is help make it easier for them.

This *is* possible.  Finding that piece of land to build on, and putting up a simple home, and powering it, and providing water, and feeding yourself and your family, and staying warm in the winter, and….  well, you get the idea.  Those things are all possible, and *anybody* can do them with the right mindset and determination.  Yes, it may require a major change in lifestyle to achieve, but it is attainable.

Together, we can all do this.

Our Chicken Coop and Run

I thought some of you might like to see what our chicken living conditions look like.  They’re pretty simple, and the chickens are quite happy.  They’re not quite big enough to be giving us eggs yet, but that’ll happen soon enough.

Start of a Visit

I mentioned in my History and Goals post that I had come down to Kansas for personal reasons, and that Amy would come down later.  Well, Amy isn’t yet able to come down here permanently, but she did get the chance to come down for a vacation.  We haven’t seen each other for almost 8 months, and we’re working hard on working out some problems that had caused me to head to Kansas early.

Yesterday afternoon, I picked Amy up from the Kansas City airport.  Reuniting was amazing, and while it was emotional, it was also wonderful because there’s a feeling of familiarity and comfort that I wasn’t expecting.

We drove home, stopping in Lawrence for a bit and took some pictures.  We’re both huge fans of the show Supernatural, and Lawrence, KS has significance in the show.

After that, we drove home, and I introduced Amy to my family in Kansas.  She’d talked to Brie online, but this was their first meeting.

This coming week will be fun.  I’m going to show Amy around town, and show her the land we’re going to be building on, and spend time with the family.  I’ll keep up on the blog posts, but they may be a bit shorter this week because I’ll be out and about.  I will take and post pictures though and keep everyone updated.

Where I get Some of My Ideas

So, there’s a new social media platform called Bloglovin, which is specifically for blogging and those that follow blogs.  If you sign up, you can follow a number of blogs, and know when they post new updates.  It makes things easy for you, and easy for us blog owners to keep our fans up to date.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

That’s all I have for today.