An old trampoline serves as a shade for the animals in the summer. Also we hand food and water from this area.
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How to Cut Costs on the Homestead

Dream vs. Reality

Technology can be a great thing when we begin homesteading.  It’s great to have ideas for building and learning how to take care of animals. Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube… all have great ideas and will teach you how to get up and going.  However, a lot of these, although beautiful, can add up.  Let’s face it.  Homesteading takes time and money. We are always looking for ways to cut costs on the homestead.

The reality is that it takes a discerning eye and some careful thought to look for ways to make things functional and affordable. There are ways to save money and still get the job done.  During our time on the farm, we have realized there are some things worth spending the money on and other things that are not worth the expense.  Here are some ways that we have cut costs on our farm, and they’ve worked.

Livestock Fencing

When we first started on the farm, we thought it was great that we had some areas with pasture and could allow our chickens to free range.  That would be so wonderful, wouldn’t it?  Wake up in the morning with a cup of coffee and take a few minutes to hear the rooster crow and watch the girls peck around, hunting for a meal. That was until we lost half of our flock of 20 in a single morning to two wily foxes.  We knew right then, that our free-range dream died with those birds.  So, we started researching the most economical way to protect whatever investment we made in our birds and future livestock.  We settled on this 2”x4” no-climb fencing and installed it with T-posts.

Now, this may not seem like such a deal.  100 feet of fencing = $150 (plus tax), plus t-posts.  At the time of this writing, t-posts are up to $5 apiece. You can shop around at different locations or even look online at Craigslist or Marketplace and sometimes you can get lucky.  Even so, if you had to buy new, installing a t-post every 100 feet, you’d need 10 t-posts.  That’s an extra $50 plus tax.  Think about it.  You could create a 625 s.f. area for a total of $220. 

As a side note, do NOT buy those clips for the fencing.  We found that wire works just as well and can be used for other farm projects. 

For gates, we used cattle panels cut to the size we needed. We then used carabiners to lock the cattle panels to the no-climb fence. This has successfully worked with LGDs and full-sized goats for 4 years. We have no reason to do anything else.

We have used this method for four years with no issues.

Pre-Fab Coops, Hutches, and Sheds

We received a “hand-me-down” coop from a family member that he had hand-made.  We used it for a while, but kept it indoors (inside the barn) as the design was lacking and not prepared for outdoors.  But it served its purpose for a time. 

Next, we bought a pre-fab one (of which it seems I never photographed) and we quickly realized this small coop was a big mistake. The coop itself was about 3 feet tall, and had a “run” but it was very small and would only fit about four to six chickens, even then not comfortably. For the $200 we spent on this small coop, it quickly fell apart. 

Buying Pre-Made Does Not Equal Savings

In retrospect, it was a complete waste of money because it was so cheaply made, there wasn’t even a way to recycle parts! So we decided from there that all of our animal housing we would build ourselves. So, instead, we built this coop for basically just a few dollars more than what we spent on the prefab coop.

We made this from some 2x4s, two 8 ft 6×6 posts as runners, 4 pieces of plywood and tin roofing. Currently, it holds 27 chickens with room to spare.  Much better use of our money. Now, these were all pre-pandemic prices, however, comparatively speaking, you will get a better quality and more room for your birds by making it yourself.

Here is a step-by-step tutorial on how to build your own.

Our coop that we designed and built.  It's a simple 4x8 coop. You can build it easily!
Our coop that we designed and built. It’s a simple 4×8 coop. You can build it easily!

We saved by building our duck hut, rabbit hutch, and our milk goat stanchion (which was primarily out of pallet wood).

Making our own duck hut helped to cut costs on our homestead.
We made this “duck hut” from scratch.
Here is our stanchion made from pallets and scrap wood. We spent $30 on a stall mat and feed bucket.
We built this hutch ourselves.  We got the plans from The Rabbitry Center website and modified it for our own needs.
We built this hutch ourselves. We got the plans from The Rabbitry Center website and modified it for our own needs.

Garden Fencing

If you have a place where you can grow things, that usually means there are varmints.  They can be big or small varmints, but they are all a pain. The locals all told us we needed to build either really high fencing or put an electrical wire about a foot off the ground to keep deer away. 

However, after some investigation, we found that the secret is 30 lb fishing line and t-posts. Again, placing t-posts (or garden posts) no more than 10 ft apart and creating “fencing” with fishing line actually keeps deer out. See, deer won’t jump what they can’t see.  They bump into the line, get confused, go a different way. 

It MUST be 30 lb fishing line. This line will be sturdy enough to handle them bumping into it and yet thin enough that they cannot see it. Since using the fishing line, I have not had deer eat away at my plants. This was a huge way to cut costs on the homestead.

Our added garden.  It shows recycled black plastic and using fishing line and t-posts as a deer-proof fence.
Our added garden. It shows recycled black plastic and using fishing line and t-posts as a deer-proof fence.
Our garden surrounded by t-posts and four levels of 30 lb fishing line used as "fencing".  Three years, this has been 100% effective in keeping out deer.
Kitchen country garden with fishing line and t-post fencing. 100% effective in keeping out deer to cut costs on the homestead.

Repurposing

Find a second use for everything!  It’s just smart.  I use old lard tubs and plastic coffee cans as planters by burning drainage holes in the bottom of them.  We used black plastic to cover areas where we want to kill grass to plant in the next year. It may last a year or two or three, but when that plastic is all torn up, we use it as a border, along with bricks to hold them down, to keep bermuda grass from creeping into our garden. It does cut costs on the homestead!

We also repurpose our old trampolines to be shade for our animals. It gets pretty hot here in the South. We take the parts that hold the netting and they become legs for the shade. We use rope to hang waterers and feeders as well. May not look too amazing, but it does the job!

An old trampoline serves as a shade for the animals in the summer. Also we hand food and water from this area.
An old trampoline serves as a shade for the animals in the summer. Also we hang food and water from this area.
Our first coop was mostly made from broken down pallets.  Dishpans were our nesting boxes inside.  This was our desert coop.
Our first coop was mostly made from broken-down pallets.

Moving into a “Ready-to-Homestead” Property

If you can afford it, move onto a piece of property that is ready to start homesteading on.  This will save you a lot of money to get started.  It helped us a lot that there was already a little lean-to barn on the back of our shop and that there were already designated pasture areas and mature fruit trees. Buying property equipped with some infrastructure gave a little jumpstart on our homestead and some of the things we were looking for were already there.   The property may be more initially than buying a rough piece of property and trying to do it all yourself. However, in the long run, it is a great way to cut costs on the homestead.

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