We’re getting chickens. When we moved to our homestead in May 2016 with a six-month-old Kidwoods, we made a pact to not get farm animals until our human animals were more self-sufficient. Littlewoods was born in February 2018, which restarted the human baby self-sufficiency clock. Now that our human babies are three and five, we’re ready (“ready” might be too strong a word… ) to tend some animal babies.
I’m still on the fence about this whole thing, but we just spent $500 on that fence–and it’s electrified–so I’d better get off it. Before you start scrolling for baby chick pics, THE CHICKS HAVE NOT ARRIVED YET. We’re scheduled to pick them up in early May, but we started Chicken Infrastructure Prep in March.
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Why We’re Getting Chickens (the list I use to remind myself that this is a good idea…. )
The person who will be MOST excited about this is our oldest human baby, Kidwoods, the animal lover. Lover doesn’t even capture it–she communes with animals. We recently visited baby lambs at a neighborhood farm and she dove into the straw, adeptly hoisted a lamb and then sat next to the lamb’s mama, petting them both and cooing. Ditto our friends’ chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, cows, horses… Kidwoods loves them all. She loves animals so much that we haven’t even told her about the chickens yet for fear she wouldn’t sleep until they arrived.
When asked why we’re getting chickens, the rationale is as follows:
- For Kidwoods, the animal devotee who currently wants to be an ornithologist/veterinarian/ballet dancer when she grows up.
- For the eggs because we do eat a lot of eggs.
- For the chore/responsibility opportunities for the kids. I envision Kidwoods being interested in raising animals for 4-H in a few years, so this’ll be a great first project for her.
- For the photo ops. I mean come on, what’s more pastoral than a bunch of chickens derping around????
- To test our aptitude and interest in having farm animals. Chickens are the entry-level barnyard creature, so we’ll see how it goes.
The $1,000 Egg
I want to point out that getting chickens is not a route to “free” eggs. At least, not for the first, uh, ten years or so…. There’s a ton of stuff one needs to buy/procure/make in order to safely keep chickens, which is why I always get a bee in my bonnet when people espouse the beauty of “free” organic, free-range, happy eggs.
Also, these things won’t even start laying eggs for MONTHS at which point it’ll be winter and then they won’t lay because it’ll be too cold! So we’ll have eggs in… a year?
As Mr. Frugalwoods and I’ve learned with every single other homestead endeavor, “free” is relative when you consider the labor and the equipment. I’m not booing farm animals, just pointing out the economics.
What we calculate with all of our endeavors–our gardens, our perennial trees and plants, our maple sugaring operation, our chainsaws/tractors/various tools–is that eventually, over time, it might equal out in such a way that we’re saving money by, say, making our own maple syrup. But the reason we do all this farm-stuff is because we enjoy it. We love it. We want to do it.
I say this to caution anyone who sees all the stuff we make ourselves and thinks we’re saving a ton of money in so doing. I assure you that so far, we are not.
Here’s what we’ve bought so far:
1) Twelve baby chicks. A $20 deposit was required to reserve them and we’ll pay the balance when we pick them up in May. I researched breeds extensively, favoring those that do well in cold temperatures and have calm, friendly, pet-like demeanors, and landed on the following for our first flock:
- Two Black Austalorps
- Two Golden Comets
- Two Barred Rocks
- Two Buff Orpingtons
- Two Ameraucanas
- Two Lavender Orpingtons
2) A 100 foot long, 48 inch tall moveable electronet fence. This fence will surround the exterior of their coop and will (hopefully) allow them to free-range safely. We have incredibly high predator pressure here, which is unsurprising since we live in the woods. Given the prevalence of coyotes, foxes and bears, we can’t let the chickens roam around the yard unmonitored or they will be eaten (based on our neighbor’s flocks, this is essentially a 100% guarantee). Our hope is that this electrified fencing will keep the predators at bay while allowing our chickens to free range.
What We Haven’t Bought Yet
1) Most notably from a cost perspective are the materials for the coop. Mr. FW, resident handyperson and builder, is in the process of designing and building a mobile chicken coop.
This will enable us to move the chickens around the yard, allowing them to free range in different areas. The coop will have nesting boxes, a covered run, and access to the outdoors, which will be encircled with the electronet fence.
2) Baby chick feed. If you have recommendations, let me know! I’m still confused on whether they need medicated or non-medicated and if the feed should contain grit? Clearly I haven’t done much research on this yet…
What We’re Borrowing From Friends
1) Brooder supplies, baby chick feeders, baby chick waterbottles, heat lamps, brooder warmer, brooder box, etc. Before the baby chicks can go to their coop, they need to live in our kitchen and be kept warm. Allow me to tell you, on a scale of 1 to 10 how excited I am about having twelve pooping, cheeping babies in my kitchen: -5. Allow me to tell you, on that same scale, how excited Kidwoods will be to have in-home farm animals: 11.5.
Since a number of our friends have forged this path before us, they are very kindly letting us borrow their baby chick items since we’ll only need them for a few weeks. Enormous thanks to AL, RG, MH and RC for these baby pooper supplies. I guess I’m grateful.
More Chicken Info To Come, I Promise
You’re joining us on the ground floor of this chicken adventure so, fear not, there will be lots of poultry-related content in the coming months. If you want to see the first baby chick photos I take, follow me on Instagram as my account is sure to become chicks-tagram soon.
Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$e$
I use a free online service called Personal Capital to keep track of our money: our spending, our net worth, our investments, our retirement–everything!
Tracking expenses is one of the best–and easiest–ways to get a handle on your finances. You absolutely, positively cannot make informed decisions about your money if you don’t know how you’re spending it or how much you have. If you’d like to know more about how Personal Capital works, check out my full write-up.
Without a holistic picture of how much you spend every month, there’s no way to set savings, debt repayment, or investment goals. It’s a must, folks. No excuses. Personal Capital (which is free to use) is a great way for me to systematize our financial overviews since it links all of our accounts together and provides a comprehensive picture of our net worth.
If you’re not tracking your expenses in an organized fashion, you might consider trying Personal Capital. Here’s a more detailed explanation of how I use Personal Capital (note: these Personal Capital links are affiliate links).
Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything
We buy everything we can with credit cards because:
- It’s easier to track expenses. No guesswork over where a random $20 bill went; it all shows up in our monthly expense report from Personal Capital. I spend less money because I KNOW I’m going to see every expense listed at the end of each month. .
- We get rewards. Credit card rewards are a simple way to get something for nothing. Through the cards we use, Mr. FW and I get cash back as well as hotel and airline points just for buying stuff we were going to buy anyway.
- We build our credit. Since we don’t have any debt other than our mortgage, having several credit cards open for many years helps our credit scores. It’s a dirty myth that carrying a balance on your credit card helps your credit score–IT DOES NOT. Paying your cards off IN FULL every month and keeping them open for many years does help your score.
For more on my credit card strategy, check out:
- The Easiest $486 I’ve Ever Made: How To Use Cash Back Credit Cards To Your Advantage
- The Best Credit Cards (and Credit Card Rewards)!
- The Frugalwoods Guide to a Simple, Yet Rewarding, Credit Card Experience
If you want a simple cash back credit card, here are some good options that don’t have annual fees:
1) Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express offers a hierarchy of cash back percentages:
- 3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
- 2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores
- 1% Cash Back on other purchases
- Earn $200 back if you spend $1,000 in in the first three months of having the card
- Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
- Earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases within the first three months of card membership
- Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
- Earn $200 if you spend $500 or more in purchases within the first three months of card membership
- 3% cash back on dining and entertainment
- 2% at grocery stores
- 1% on all other purchases
- Cash back won’t expire for the life of the account; no limit to how much you can earn
- Get $200 if you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening
- 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase
- 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores
- 1.5% on all other purchases
- No minimum to redeem for cash back, rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
- Earn $200 if you spend $500 in your first 3 months from account opening
The best way to find a credit card that’ll work for you is to search for it yourself; I have a guide to help you do just that: The Best Credit Cards (and Credit Card Rewards)!
Huge caveat to credit card usage: you MUST pay your credit card bills in full every single month, with no exceptions. If you’re concerned about your ability to do this, or think using credit cards might prompt you to spend more, stick with a debit card or cash. But if you have no problem paying that bill in full every month? I recommend you credit card away, my friend! (note: the credit card links are affiliate links).
Cash Back Earned This Month: $38.85
The silver lining to our spending is our cash back credit card. We earn 2% cash back on every purchase made with our Fidelity Rewards Visa and this month, we spent $1,942.56 on that card, which netted us $38.85.
Not a lot of money perhaps, but it’s money we earned for buying stuff we were going to buy anyway! This is why I love cash back credit card rewards–they’re the simplest way to earn something for nothing.
To see how this adds up over the course of a year, check out this post: The Easiest $486 I’ve Ever Made: How To Use Cash Back Credit Cards To Your Advantage.
Where’s Your Money?
Another easy way to optimize your money is to use a high-interest savings account. With these accounts, interest works in your favor as opposed to the interest rates on debt, which work against you. Having money in a no or low interest savings account is a waste of resources–your money is just sitting there doing nothing. Don’t let your money be lazy! Make it work for you! And now, enjoy some explanatory math:
Let’s say you have $5,000 in a savings account that earns 0% interest. In a year’s time, your $5,000 will still be… $5,000.
Let’s say you instead put that $5,000 into an American Express Personal Savings account that–as of this writing–earns 0.40% in interest. In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,020. That means you earned $20 just by having your money in a high-interest account.
And you didn’t have to do anything! I’m a big fan of earning money while doing nothing. I mean, is anybody not a fan of that? Apparently so, because anyone who uses a low or no interest savings account is NOT making money while doing nothing. Don’t be that person.
Be the person who earns money while sleeping. More about high-interest savings accounts, as well as the ones I recommend, here: The Best High Interest Rate Online Savings Accounts.
Yes, We Only Paid $24.87 for Cell Phone Service (for two phones)
Our cell phone service line item is not a typ0 (although that certainly is). We really and truly only paid $24.87 for both of our phones (that’s $12.44 per person for those of you into division). How is such trickery possible?!? We use the MVNO Ting (affiliate link).
What’s an MVNO? Glad you asked because I was going to tell you anyway: It’s a cell phone service re-seller.
MVNOs are the TJ Maxx of the cell phone service world–it’s the same service, but A LOT cheaper. If you’re not using an MVNO, switching to one is an easy, slam-dunk, do-it-right-away way to save money every single month of every single year forever and ever amen. More here: My Frugal Cell Phone Service Trick: How I Pay $10.65 A Month*
*the amount we pay fluctuates every month because it’s calibrated to what we use. Imagine that! We only pay for what we use! Will wonders ever cease.
Expense Report FAQs
- Want to know how we manage the rest of our money? Check out How We Manage Our Money: Behind The Scenes of The Frugalwoods Family Accounts
Don’t you have a rental property? Yes! We own a rental property (also known as our first home) in Cambridge, MA, which I discuss here.
- Why do I share our expenses? To give you a sense of how we spend our money in a values-based manner. Your spending will differ from ours and there’s no “one right way” to spend and no “perfect” budget.
- Are we the most frugal frugal people on earth? Absolutely not. My hope is that by being transparent about our spending, you might gain insights into your own spending and be inspired to take proactive control of your money.
- Wondering where to start with managing your money? Take my free, 31-day Uber Frugal Month Challenge. If you’re interested in other things I love, check out Frugalwoods Recommends.
- Why don’t you buy everything locally? We do our best to support our local community and buy as much of our food as possible directly from our farmer neighbors. Our town doesn’t have any stores, so we rely on online ordering and big box stores for necessities. The closest stores are 45 minutes away and Mr. FW goes once a month to stock up on what we can’t get from our neighbors or online.
But Mrs. Frugalwoods, Don’t You Pay For X, Y, Or Even Z???
Wondering about common expenses you don’t see listed below?
- We pay bills in full the month we receive them. That’s why you won’t see monthly payments for things like car insurance or property tax. These expenses show up as the full annual (or bi-annual, etc) amount in the month we pay them.
- We don’t have any debt (other than our mortgages) and we paid cash for our cars.
- Our health insurance is paid for by Mr. FW’s employer (who he works for from home).
- Here’s how we make charitable contributions: How We Donate To Charities Like Billionaires and also How We Make Meaningful And Tax Efficient Charitable Donations.
- Here’s an overview of how we save for our kids’ higher education: How We Use 529 Plans To Save For College
- We live on 66 acres in rural Vermont, so our utilities and household expenses are different from traditional urban and suburban homes:
- We don’t pay for water, sewer, trash, or heating/cooling because we have a well, a septic system, our town doesn’t provide trash pick-up (we take it to a transfer station once a week in bags we purchase from our town), we heat our home with wood we harvest ourselves from our land, and we don’t have central air conditioning (we use window units during the hottest parts of the summer).
- There are, of course, costs associated with maintaining these systems (such as having our septic system pumped and inspected) and those expenses show up in the months we pay them.
- We have solar panels, which account for our low electricity bill.
- For more on our rural lifestyle, check out my series This Month On The Homestead as well as City vs. Country: Which Is Cheaper? The Ultimate Cost Of Living Showdown
If you’re wondering about anything else, feel free to ask in the comments section!
Alright you frugal money voyeurs, feast your eyes on every dollar we spent in March:
|Electronet Fencing||$507.53||48″ electronet fencing for mobile chicken coop action|
|Gasoline for cars||$138.08|
|Craft beer||$114.72||Lovely, local, expensive craft beer for our beer tasting hobby.
If you’ve ever wondered why we spend so much money on beer, it’s not that we drink a ton of it; rather, we savor small amounts of very, very expensive liquid. We split one beer between the two of us on weeknights for our daily date.
We also view buying super local beer as a good way to support local industry here in Vermont during the pandemic (and after the pandemic too!).
|Three pairs of prescription glasses for Mr. FW||$106.35||Purchased online from Eye Buy Direct (affiliate link).|
|Seed starting compost soil||$93.98||120 qts of Vermont Compost Fort Vee for starting our vegetable garden seeds|
|Liquor and wine||$55.54||Including bourbon to soak wood in for wood smoking meats.|
|Household Supplies||$46.43||Thrilling items such as: toilet paper, toothpaste, craft supplies for the kids, vitamins, etc.|
|Children’s books||$38.14||Ok these were an impulse buy, but I don’t regret it.|
|Face Shield for metal grinding||$32.87||Another item for our repertoire of safety equipment: a face shield to be worn while grinding metal (affiliate link).|
|Art markers||$27.82||Art markers for me. I mean THE KIDS, definitely for the kids… (affiliate link)|
|Cell phone service for two phones||$24.87||This is so cheap because we use an MVNO called Ting (affiliate link). MVNOs resell wireless service at discounted rates (but it’s the same service).
MVNOs are the TJ Maxx of cell phone service. If you’re not using an MVNO, check out this post to see if you can make the switch. The savings are tremendous.
|Utilities: Electricity||$24.14||We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied|
|Baby chick deposit||$20.00||The deposit to reserve our 12 baby chicks|
How was March for you?
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Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses and recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.