Our Chicken Coop Experience

IMG_4709At the end of March this year, we picked up half a dozen baby chicks.  I’ve never had chickens before, so this is new for me.  I did a lot of reading beforehand to know the basics, and one of the people in our house grew up raising chickens, so we have the experience required to keep them happy and healthy.

When we first brought them home, I had a large rat cage that wasn’t being used, so we filled it with wood shavings, put food and water in, put a heat lamp on it, and wrapped 3 sides and the top with a blanket to keep the heat in.  I kept them in my room to keep watch over them, and they flourished.

IMG_4739Now, we didn’t yet have a chicken coop set up in the yard but figured we had lots of time to set one up.  We were going to do this as cost-effectively as possible.  We had an old tin shed that wasn’t really being used, and it has some sturdy wooden shelves that had a lot of space for half a dozen chickens.  We built a door to cover the front of the shelf, filled it with straw, and when the chicks were old enough, they went out to their new home.  They were quite happy with all the room they suddenly had once they got used to it.

Our next step was to give them space to run and scratch and get fresh air.  We did this during the week that they got used to their new coop and made it their home.

IMG_4717We had a bunch of 8-foot posts that we recycled into french posts.  a couple of $25 rolls of chicken wire,
and we had our fence area.  We had the yard space, so our chickens have an area that’s about 12 feet wide, by 25 feet long.  We have a simple ramp up to the door of the coop and designed a sliding door that used our wood scraps.

Every day, we let the chickens out into the yard, and they enjoy the run.  They’re absolutely hilarious to watch, especially when one of them finds an earthworm and starts screaming in terror as 5 other chickens start chasing her for it.  They’re tame enough to pet and pick up when needed, but for the most part, we leave them alone and they work hard to clear the yard of insects.  At the end of the day, when it gets dark, they go back into their coop on their own, and we go out and close the door for the night.

It cost us roughly $100 inIMG_4773 materials total to build our coop, to buy the chicks, and to buy their food.  For six chickens, we buy an $8 bag of feed once a month, and that seems to be it so far for costs.  I’m sure that something will come up that’ll cost extra down the road, but so far, they’re doing quite well.

We’ll keep everyone updated as they grow and eventually start laying eggs.

History and Goals

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been interested in going off-grid and living sustainably for several years.  My girlfriend Amy and I have been struggling to keep bills paid and a roof over our heads for years due to a lot of different factors.  At two points in our history, we’ve actually been homeless, and that taught us a lot about ourselves.

For me, it was homelessness that showed me that things really needed to change.  I realized that living paycheck to paycheck wasn’t sustainable.  I realized that being stuck in jobs that could be lost at any moment, and losing the paycheck I needed to keep a roof over my head, wasn’t how I wanted to live.

The first time we were homeless, we lived in our van through a Canadian winter.  We were allowed to stay in people’s houses during the worst of the weather, but it was a truly miserable time for us.  We ended up collecting bottles and cans for the deposit so we could eat, and it turned out that this was fairly lucrative, and enabled us to get enough money together to get an apartment.

The second time we were homeless was really different.  This time, I was employed, but our bills had gotten out of hand, and our landlord required we move out so they could have family live there.  We couldn’t get the money together for rent in a new location, and a damage deposit, and moving costs, and even if we could, we couldn’t find a suitable place.  So, we moved out, and all our stuff went into storage, and Amy and I borrowed a camping trailer and lived in that for a couple of months on a friend’s property in the country.

I lost my job due to discrimination over my personal life during this time.  We managed to get by, as we didn’t have bills for those few months.  We had no running water and minimal electricity.  But we spent a great deal of time outside in the sun.  We woke up each morning and the fresh air welcomed us.  We had a tiny little bit of space inside our living area, but there were acres of space outside, and it was peaceful.

Time passed, and our living situation changed, and our goal is to live sustainably, and we won’t back down from that.  We have set ourselves a number of steps we need to reach to make that happen.

I moved to Kansas for personal reasons, and Amy is coming later.  The two of us have the ability to become American citizens, so we’ll be able to stay and start a new life here.  In Kansas, I have a family that I love and respect and think the world of.  They have a home, and they have a large plot of farmland nearby that we plan on using to create our sustainable life.

We have goals that we needed to set up in order to make things happen in a way that works for us.  We are not wealthy people, so we have to do things that cost as little as possible.  Below, I’ve listed our goals, and we’ll document our journey as we reach each goal.

Goals

Short Term Goals

  1. Have an income that we can set aside specifically for creating our sustainable life
  2. Start creating food options that we can raise and grow ourselves to cut down our food bills
  3. Create simple, low-cost housing that we can be comfortable and happy in.
  4. Heat, power, and water at a low cost

Long Term Goals

  1. Plan for a business we can create on the land that will sustain our lifestyle

All of these goals are possible without breaking the bank, and we’re going to show you how with each step.  Thanks for joining us on this journey!

Why Low-Budget Off-Grid

I’ve been really interested in the off-grid movement for years.  I’ve been unhappy with the rising cost of living.  The utility bills, rent, and food costs I’ve been paying have been steadily increasing, and the only reason I can see for it is greed.  When I started seeing things in my social media feeds about off-grid living, I was intrigued.

I started getting interested in the tiny house movement.  Living small with only the important possessions, and caring more about the actual life I live, was an idea that appealed greatly to me.  This led to learning about the Earthship movement, cob building, straw bale construction, and more.

There are a lot of different ways to live off-grid.  And there are many different blogs that will tell you exactly how to start.  They’ll tell you about how to buy land, and they’ll tell you how to set up your solar and wind installation.  They’ll explain how to build a great portable or self-sustaining home.

What they don’t tell you is that those options, for the most part, are for people who have managed to put away a savings fund, or have sold their house to fund their self-sustaining future.  The options they present range in the tens of thousands, to the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Those options are great for people who have that, but what about the rest of us?

Low-Budget Off-Grid is designed to help people like me.  It’s designed to help someone who has little to no savings, or that can’t get a loan or mortgage.  It’s designed for those that are struggling with the high costs of basic survival.

We’re going to show you how to build a home at low cost, heat it and power it at low cost, and how to eat food you grow yourself, at low cost.  This isn’t to say that it won’t take effort, and a lot of hard work, but that’s the way things work in the world.  You can choose to pay a lot of money, and make it easy, or you can do things at low cost, with a lot of labor.  This is also not a website that will say that things will be free. It’s possible you can source a lot of material for free, but it can’t be guaranteed.

We’ll show you things in different cost levels to help a number of people.  For some, building a tiny house for $10,000 is worth it, and is certainly a low cost to some.  For others, spending $250 on a house that will keep you warm in the winter is stretching a budget.  I’ll also show you my own journey in low-budget off-gridding over the next few years.

Read on, and we can show the world how it can be done.