Spring is a great time to add chicks to your homestead. If you are thinking about chicks and not wanting to spend a fortune you are in the right place. My husband and I are frugal to the bone. We are even borderline cheapskates. We started raising chickens when we lived across the street from Walmart.
We have always desired animals and land even when we lived ina 1300 sq ft. house and 3/4 of an acre. ( I tried many times to convince my husband we could hide pigs in the little-wooded area we had. ) In due time and extremely trying times we finally found our little piece of heaven.
This is the time it’s so hard to pass by those little chirping cuties in your local farm store.
Just like all baby animals they grow up quickly and need special care and treatment.
If you want to get started with chicks there are five frugal things you should have all set before you bring your little brown box home.
BUY THEM FOR THE BEST PRICE
You may think all chicks are priced the same, but they are not. When you start seeing the signs for “CHICK DAYS” at Tractor Supply, or page through your local farm store ads, you may want to hold off.
This year one month after Tractor Supply announced their “Chick Days” starting the most expensive bird they had was 50¢. I know it’s crazy. Last year we got our ducks on clearance. Yes, folks, you can get birds on clearance. This year they had Cornish Rock Cross for 50¢. It took all my that’s a stock up price deal to walk away because at the moment we didn’t have a place ready for them.
Looking back I think I probably should have, but I knew we wouldn’t be ready for butchering with that time frame.
That’s the difference between being frugal and cheap. When you are frugal you can look ahead and make sure that cheap price is going to work for you in the future. This is something my husband has taught me. I came from a straight up cheap girl, to not caring so much about quality or the after-effects other than getting it for almost free.
(Guess that is why God continues to encourage me with my coupon blog)
So shop around. Don’t be quick to jump on the first ones you see. In our area Runnings offers competitive pricing on chicks. Plus they price match.
Tractor Supply loves to put up a clearance price on their birds. You could even call your local store to find out when they get new birds into gauge when the markdowns start happening.
Or just visit the store every couple days to keep your eye on the price. That’s what I’ve done forever, I know the extreme cheapskate in me still comes out.
This is a five- gallon bucket just cut down. Works great!
USE WHAT YOU HAVE
If you plan on raising birds for meat and are going with a breed like Cornish Cross, you don’t need any type of coop long term. Those chicks won’t be around for more than 10-12 weeks. We have done ours around the 9-10 week mark.
Here is a list of some of the items we use at no cost to us along with ideas from others:
- A 5-gallon tote to use for chicks- temporary will need an actual coop- $4 ( I get ours at BJs)
- Heat lamp with bulb- $8 ( These are on clearance now)
- Pine Shavings- $6 ( one bag has always lasted us with six chicks until they could go out to their coop) We use this.
- Egg carton for feeder-free ( Try to avoid the cardboard ones, they don’t hold up as well.)
- Waterer- You can upgrade once they are larger. We have cut a five-gallon bucket in half and even to a quarter size for food and water. My husband gets buckets for free so cost is $0! We have used this one in the beginning for chicks.
If you are new here, know this, I don’t edit any photos or get the photo ready. Life isn’t like that. There are times we can prepare but how can I give you an example of what it’s really like if I make everything perfect? If you were to stop over right now you would see everything like it is here.
You will have to upgrade your feeder and waterer but these are just the cost of supplies you will need while they are chicks
HAVE AN OUTDOOR RUN OR FREE RANGE
Depending on where you live you can choose to free range your chickens or create an outdoor run. I can tell you from our experience when you free range them from sun up to sun down your feed cost is less. The past couple weeks I have been keeping the chickens in the barn until later afternoon and I can’t believe how much feed we are going through.
Letting them roam free for even a few hours will help on the cost of food. If that isn’t an option and you aren’t doing meat birds and want layers to give an adequate space for roaming.
You could also bring out the cheap side and feed them only in the morning and night. I personally haven’t done this with chickens but you could supplement with items from the garden or any kitchen scraps during the day.
This coop is now just about 4 years old. We have had to make some adjustments to it for the winter but it works super and is sturdy! No raccoons have been able to get int.
PREPARE YOU AREA FOR NESTING BOXES
I would like to assume you didn’t grab one of the beautiful but oh so overpriced and honestly a little small, Tractor Supply chicken houses with a built-in nesting box.
I would like to think you are either building it yourself( Or your spouse) or you are using what you have and want to make nesting boxes from some of the ideas below.
When we lived in the town and we started with our first six chicks, my husband built a chicken coop from one I picked on Pinterest. I am so very blessed indeed. ( Check out all the stuff he is doing building our new barn on our Farm Vlog here.)
When we moved out to the country we took advantage of using sections from our 1850s barn. If you watched our first Vlog video you will see she is a wee bit crooked, and not the safest, but we are cheap folks. It’s how we roll.
I saw this shelf that was in the bottom of the barn and decided to use it for our little chickies. I tried different nesting boxes and most didn’t work. The keyway I got my girls to continue to lay in the nesting boxes was putting up the fabric. They like their privacy. Who can blame them?
The fabric you see hanging used to be an old tablecloth. I would always buy fabric that was water resistant and use it as a tablecloth. I just stapled the top on and cut the slits you see.
Here are some other ideas you could use:
- Tidy Cat Litter Boxes – Turn Sideways for nesting boxes.
- 5 Gallon Buckets
- Old Tires cut in half
- Cat litter boxes with a lid
If you want to see more Frugal Household Items to use for your chickens read or pin this article.
Consider Buying Extra Chicks & Selling Eggs
Here is an option if you come across a killer sale at Tractor Supply- like 25¢ sale and want to get extra birds for eggs. We decided to have extra layers to sell the eggs.
Okay honestly we got so excited when we moved out here to the country we bought cute little birds ( Easter Eggs, Silkies) and some more Rhode Island Reds and realized we had way more eggs than we could keep up with. We started giving some to friends and family and then it dawned on us. Let’s sell them at the road.
After realizing this we now have our chicken feed paid for by selling the eggs. If you are getting caught up in the oh so cute chicks, just tell your spouse you’ll sell the eggs 😉
READ OR PIN: 6 Fun Tips To Sell Eggs From Your Home
If you have any extra frugal tips to consider before purchasing chicks leave a comment below. I love hearing from you all and we all know everyone’s chick story is different!