Wants, Needs, Chook Tractors and Learning to Budget

I recently made the decision to purchase a chook tractor (mobile chicken run). I got very excited, because we can’t really put our chooks in our veggie garden (aka weed farm) at all now, with risking the dog eating them, because from there they can get up onto the deck. Plus, the kids shut the dog in the veggie garden the other day* and he pushed a whole through the fence that keeps him out of said garden. That’s easily fixed (I hope) but just shows that that fence is not really dog proof, if he’s motivated to get through.

We used to have our chokes in a home made (by my brother though, not us) chook tractor, but it was made out of bits and pieces of timber we’d salvaged which weren’t necessarily all that appropriate for the job, and eventually it fell apart (ie rotted). I’m sure if we really put our minds to it we could make another one – in fact I’ve been wanting to make chook domes a la Linda Woodrow for years – but at the moment we have a few other projects on the go (particularly getting ready for an overseas trip) and we just cannot fit that one in this Spring.

So, I got all excited about the idea of buying one of theseΒ  (even though I’d prefer one of these, but they are just a little too pricey). I was a little concerned about finding the money, but then the Mister reminded me about some money we have put aside, that I had somehow completely forgotten about. So I started planning how we could rotate the chooks over the veggie garden – rearranging the beds a little for a better fit – to get rid of all those weeds so we could actually plant seedlings out later in the Spring.

Then I looked up the bank statement of the account we had that money in, and I’m sure you’ve guessed already what I saw. We transferred (most of) that money into our main account months ago to pay school fees. That’s why I’d forgotten it was there – because it wasn’t! It’s amazing how much savings you go through when one of you is on (unpaid) maternity leave for a couple of years.

Now, we do still have enough money in the bank to buy that chicken tractor if we really want it. But we have other expenses coming up, like the ongoing school fees, we’re about to get cavity wall insulation put in, we might need some plumbing work done… So probably we should just leave the money where it is, and do without a chook tractor for another year. And without a vegetable garden for another season if necessary.

I recently introduced a guest post on Sustainable Suburbia by talking about how living within one’s means is an important aspect of sustainable living. Living on credit – or on savings – is just not sustainable for the long-term. I think I need to take some of my own advice. I will soon be negotiating a return to work, as my parental leave entitlement is coming to an end, which could mean

a) I go back two days per week and the mister drops down to three days, which because of the disparity in our salaries (and may I say that I always earned more than him before we had children?), means we’ll likely be worse off than we are now, though I haven’t looked into it properly yet, taking into account tax rates and things, or
b) I go back almost three days and he drops down to three days, we find childcare for Eliane on the shared work day, and I finish in time to pick the kids up from school at 3pm, in which case we should be slightly better off than we are now, financially speaking (as long as we are not using paid childcare), or
c) (if I can’t negotiate hours that work for us) I end up quitting my job altogether and we stick with our current arrangement.

So what all this means is that pretty much regardless of our work situation next year, we need to start budgetting better and sticking to it. Which likely means, no chook tractor just now.


*Our yard is divided into three unequal sections – from smallest to largest: veggie garden and paved clothes hanging area (maybe 1/5 of the yard or a bit less) chook run Β & access to shed (about 1/3 of the yard); the rest – containing the ‘lawn’, the deck, the swing set and the big boofy Labrado (actually, if you include the deck area in the calculation, this is probably easily 3/4 of the yard in total).

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8 comments to Wants, Needs, Chook Tractors and Learning to Budget

  • It’s all about balancing things out, isn’t it! It’s esp. hard when you get all excited about something, thinking how perfectly things will work out, then doh! reality hits.

    Can you hire or rent a chicken tractor instead?

  • I thought about it, but it would end up costing not that much less, so we might as well save our money and just do the work of making one ourselves in the summer. Or here’s a radical thought – actually save up for it πŸ™‚ We’ll see…

  • Hi Kirsten – we got our secure chook house made to our specific requirements by a guy through Bellchambers rural supplies inFyshwick. It was very cheap and is very secure so I’m sure if you went and talked to them about what you’re after, they would be very helpful. Ours is not portable but I’m thinking of going to talk to them about my ideas for a mobile home for my girlies, so if you go, p,ease blog about it.
    Cheers Greenie x

  • Murra Mumma

    Hi Kirsten,

    Met you at the first UHC club πŸ™‚

    We are onto our second chook tractor. The first, in which we extended a smallish one off ebay to suit our gardens, didn’t work overly well as the dog kept breaking the wire – not to get to the chooks, but to get to their food! And after constantly repairing it every night with tire wire, more sheets of wire and barbed wire, we got cranky and decided to spend the money on a ridgey didge heavy duty chook tractor that we bought as flat pack and I actually put together myself! (I am proud of that fact!). Happy to say no probs since!!

    So when you are considering one to build, make it as strong as possible first time so your dog can’t get in otherwise once they realise they can get in, they will keep doing it and doing it.

    On the upside, we have ours over our garden beds which we move around as one bed has finished and it works great!! Good luck!

    • kirsten

      Thanks for the advice Murra Mumma! I think it was actually you talking about your chook tractor that started me thinking about buying one. One day…

  • Emma Watt

    Hi Kirsten, thanks for sharing a great post with us. As a newbie to raising backyard chicken, I shared the same problem with raising chickens and dogs in the same backyard πŸ™‚ Chicken tractor can be very pricey, we bought our coop from an online store My Chicken Coop, their product is very affordable (it’s even cheaper than DIY) and they deliver Australia wide. Do you get your chicken tractor yet?

    • kirsten

      I ended up building a chook dome, a la Linda Woodrow after all, but smaller (just for our three chooks). It worked a treat, and was really, really cheap to make, especially because I was able to scavenge chook wire and shadecloth from aroud the garden. I think I only had to buy the piping & some cable ties to hold it all together.

      But, I didn’t go it before we went overseas. It had to wait until the following summer.

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