How Much It Really Costs to Homestead on Less Than an Acre
Hello, friends! I am really excited to share this post with you. Budgeting is not easy! Ha! But that's okay. I just don't like numbers very much; but I do like making lists and plans, and I think that's why I find this post fun. It's also kind of scary. After you take a step back to look at all that you did in a year, you can either find the results terrifying, rewarding, or both! I believe there are many people who believe homesteading will be a way to save your family money and time. I am here to say that that is simply not true - at least not at first. As most of you know, this was our first year keeping chickens and growing a full on kitchen garden. We went through a lot of initial costs this year, which made it seem like we were just treading water. The beginning is hard, but once you've made it over the hump, then I do think there is some potential to make some money or at least pay for your homestead journey every year. That is, if you want to make money. Maybe you just want to do this for a hobby, and that's fine, too! If you have the money to do it, then I say go for it. That's all we wanted to do this year; experience the homesteading life, see what we could make of it, and enjoy sharing the journey. Now we're looking to monetize, and I think that's really cool that we even have that opportunity at all.
I want to share with you today how much it really costs to homestead on less than an acre of land. Our little homestead is just under an acre, which is about the size of a standard football field. It was nice of our realtor to have taken this overhead shot of our property with her drone! There it is, in all its glory. I think from our photos, it may not be apparent that this property has a lot of yard room towards the back and a gorgeous bush line that hides us from the neighbors (and hides our view of their house, too). The yards on either side of us are the same size lot, so that makes it feel like we have a lot of room to roam and spread out within our own property lines. Actually, I believe our neighbors at one time were keeping a goat in their yard. So it's possible! "Farming," if you want to call it that, is completely plausible on a small amount of land. In fact, that's how most American homesteads first started, so why not continue the tradition? The idea that the only farmers are large scale, or that commercial farmers are any less than because of that, is just silly. If you can make a buck off of what your land produces, then you are a farmer!
Here's a little walkthrough of our property to help you get acquainted:
- Two-car Garage + Art Studio
- Kitchen Garden; herbs, vegetables, and flowers (1300 sq. ft.)
- Greenhouse; 3-season, not heated.
- Chicken Enclosure
- Art Studio; second outbuilding
- Berry Bushes; blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries
- Fire Pit
- Apple Trees
- Compost Pile
I honestly love this entire property size. We could have gone so many directions with it, but I do still enjoy the set up. The second studio, number 6, was actually the original garage on the property. It was the first converted building we created and our first studio! The chicken coop is located in the back half, which is also our tool shed. The riding lawn mower is also stored inside. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it, I think! Really, the entire process in invaluable to you, your family, and especially your little ones if you have them. How much does it cost? Roughly, it costed us $5,000 altogether to get started, over two years time. I'll break it down for you! Keep in mind, a majority of these are start up costs. That means they are one time payments, and you will not have to spend nearly that much every single year that you continue to homestead. It should potentially get less expensive every year, with room for emergency costs of course.
- Greenhouse - $1500 to construct (you don't have to have a fancy greenhouse to grow plants. This was a stylistic choice. Pop up greenhouses are generally anywhere from $200-$500)
- Sod Cutter - $120 a day to rent, $240 total
- Rototiller - $120 a day to rent, $240 total (we used borrowed a friend's for free!)
- Garden Tools - $50 (most people have yard tools already or can borrow a friend/family/neighbor's. We bought a new pitchfork and hand tools because we didn't have any.)
- Clothing - $10-$20
- Seed Starting Trays - $20, about 10 trays with domes ($1.80ish each)
- Potting Soil - $160, about 10 bags ($16 each)
- Organic Worm Castings (fertilizer) - $84 ($28 a bag)
- Transplants - $200 (about $5-$8 a plant. We bought herbs and perennials this year, plus two hanging baskets.)
- Mulch - $25, for one truck bed load
- Apple Trees - $120 ($40 a tree)
- Berry Bushes - $64 ($8 a bush)
- Tomato Cages - FREE, but can be anywhere from $25-$65 (we built ours with scrap wood)
- Fencing - $1000
- Chicken Wire - $20
- Seeds - $100
- Watering - $160, $20 monthly
TOTAL: $3500; to start a 1300 square foot garden which feeds 4-12 people for an entire year!
ANNUAL UPKEEP: Seeds + Transplants + Potting Soil + Fertilizer + Mulch + Watering = $630
Now, that's if you were to purchase the same exact products all over again. If we were looking at exactly how our family was going to work it, I would be cutting out the cost of worm casting/compost fertilizer because I make my own (though the worm bin can cost money to establish). I can also make my own potting soil, but that still costs money, so I kept it the same. Transplants would be cut in half most likely, if even added in at all! We only bought transplants for perennial herbs (which apparently don't often survive winters in Iowa) and perennial shrubs/flowering plants. That means we don't have to buy them again!
- Chicks - $12, about $2 a chick
- Brood Tub - $70 (this was also out of desire. You can literally brood chickens in a cardboard box, though it's a fire hazard. We bought a large horse feeding trough and then used it to grow cherry tomatoes!)
- Heat Lamp - $12
- Chick Feeder - $15
- Chick Waterer - $15
- Coop + Run - $200 to construct
- Hen Feeder - $26
- Hen Waterer - $32
- Water Heater (for winter) - $50
- Supplemental Feeders - $24, $12 each (for oyster shells and grit)
- Feed - $240 a year, about $20 a month for locally milled, organic feed (having less chickens means you go through feed more slowly! I don't know, some people have to buy feed multiple times a month. We go through a 50 pound bag about once a month.)
- Treats - $228 a year
- Bedding - $60 a year, about $5 a month
TOTAL: $984; to keep six chickens.
ANNUAL UPKEEP: Feed + Bedding + Treats = $528.
Now, this sounds like a lot of money up front for some chickens, especially when you're not guaranteed to receive 6 eggs a day. We definitely do not keep chickens for egg production. We keep them as pets and never expect them to lay eggs to "pay us back." I read this awful blog post the other day where the author said they, "don't allow any freeloaders" and will kill a chicken that does not produce for them at their standards. Yikes! I don't know, maybe I'm a softy, but I just cannot bring myself to force any being to do something if it does not want to. So, how much are you really saving on eggs? If your flock were extremely productive and laid 6 eggs a day, you'd have 3.5 dozen eggs by the end of the week. However, that's highly unlikely, so let's say you get 4 eggs a day. That makes about 2 dozen eggs a week. In Iowa, at the local grocery store, a dozen free range, organic eggs are about $5 a dozen.
Let's add that up for the entire year, 2 dozen store bought eggs a week: $520
Honestly, I just laughed adding that up! It costs you the same; you break even. Doesn't that make you kind of feel bad for the farmer? But it also makes you feel better if you were to buy yourself a tiny flock of hens. You won't really lose any money, other than some initial costs to build the coop and get the girls grown and ready. Plus, you get even better eggs than the ones at the grocery store (you know, those fancy $6 eggs with the pretty packaging) because you actually have no idea where those eggs came from!
There you have it! All of the costs we went through this year. I also tacked on our honeybee costs to the grand total of $5,000, though we are still working on the costs of that. We still have remaining supplies to gather, though I am not entirely sure what all that will be just yet. You can read more about which initial supplies you'll need for beekeeping HERE.
Is it what you expected? I suppose it was for me, but seeing all of the individual and broken down costs kind of freaks me out. The nice thing is that it lessens by quite a bit after the first year. You know, the getting started year, when you start to panic that you overdid everything. Trust me, we all get there. The cool thing? You will eventually settle in and possibly even start making money if you really want to! Again, that's not for everyone. Been there! It was fun to see what we could produce with the size plot we have. The answer: we overproduced. We actually could have sold quite a bit of what came out of our garden this past year, though we gifted most of it, and also composted a lot of what we couldn't get to. So there was lost money! Though you can't put a price tag on amazing organic compost, right? Ha!
Overall, with a similar upkeep cost, you'd be spending somewhere around the ballpark of $1000 a year. That's not too shabby! If you plan on making a lot of what you put into your homestead yourself, as well, like potting soil, compost, worm castings, chicken treats, chicken feed, rain water, etc. then you're even better off! There are a lot of ways to save money on the homestead, and I wouldn't mind getting into that area of expertise later on down the road. For now, this is where we are at. I just wanted to share because I know a lot of you are curious about the reality of homesteading. It's not cheap, and it's not any less time consuming than any other type of lifestyle. That's just reality. Again, it's really more about your passion for living more simply in your everyday tasks, about reconnecting yourself to the land, about growing something with your own two hands. I wouldn't trade that for anything! Plus, I know somewhat how to survive when the world starts coming to an end, right? (;
Have any questions? Leave a comment or send me a message!