Real Estate Roundup: Living in the country has extra expenses |

Real Estate Roundup: Living in the country has extra expenses

Linda Hansen & Mary Huffine
Real Estate Roundup

Most of us think it would be great to have farm fresh eggs for breakfast and own “a little place” in the country. It’s a fun idea, but can prove a little costly.

First, you have to buy the chicks and raise them to layer size. That entails feed, water and heat to keep the baby chicks warm, dry and fed. Unless your farm came with one in place, you will need an enclosure to keep them safe from predators like snakes, skunks, coyotes, foxes and weasels, all of which like to eat or just kill chickens.

So, you’ve built your chicken house, bought the chicks, feed, water system and heat lamp. Now the work begins. Maybe in 8-9 months, you’ll have a few producing hens, after you’ve disposed of the roosters that came inadvertently in the supplied chicks.

All is going well. You’re getting eggs every day and then – oops – a fox gets into the henhouse and kills off half your layers. Well, it’s too late in the year to get new chicks, so you re-secure the wire perimeter and make sure the hens are closed up at night so no more hens become prey to the pesky predators.

Then along comes winter. The cold sets in and the hens stop laying. You still have to feed them and you have to heat the drafty henhouse in some fashion to keep their combs from freezing, since they roost up high. More dollars going out for feed and heat, and you’re now buying eggs at the store.

Pretty much the same scenario applies to raising ducks, but they can swim away down the irrigation ditch and disappear forever, too.

Let’s move on to raising horses in today’s economy. Have you priced the cost of hay lately? Ouch! Better love those horses a lot or have sufficient land and water to raise your own feed. Putting up your hay requires big dollars in equipment or paying someone to cut and bail for you. Sometimes, summer rains ruin the hay to the point where it can only be used to feed cows, not horses. Today, it costs nearly as much to maintain a healthy horse as it does to keep a child clothed and fed. There is the vet bill, the feed bill, the bill for the farrier, the cost of the tack, plus the truck and horse trailer to transport the equine animal. And good fences are needed to keep your livestock in, although Colorado is a “fence-out” state. There are noxious weeds to be sprayed and defeated in order to keep your hay safe for horse consumption, and elk like to consume your valuable stacked hay, too.

Maintaining horses is time consuming, a wonderful relaxing job, yet it can shrink your wallet with additional costs. An electric heater on the water tank is needed to keep the water unfrozen, plus there is the waste to take care of – you can’t just keep piling it up. Not too many wild critters bother horses, except cougars in the springtime when colts and fillies are young, but the lowly mosquito can bring a virus that kills them.

Cows are another preferred farm animal. It’s wonderful to have farm-raised, grass-fed beef. Among the pitfalls are that calves can come early in the year and be lost to the cold or the dampness of the weather. They can be carried off by coyotes or lost to the trauma of birth. They need veterinarian services and feed once they are old enough to be separated from their mothers. Then there is the cost of getting them to market. We take so much for granted when we buy our beef in the supermarket these days, but ranchers have a hard job raising beef in a winter climate, even if it is only for their own consumption.

If you are lucky enough to have rural land with sufficient water, both for your household and for irrigation, just taking care of the water can be labor-intensive with cleaning ditches and moving pipe or sprinklers – usually a combination of all three.

We enjoy selling rural property and we enjoy having our farm animals. We don’t necessarily love all the work and difficulty that goes with raising livestock in the country. But don’t let it dissuade you. All people should experience their own time in the country, just to appreciate the hard work of the farmer and rancher today.

May your holidays be happy and your New Year wonderful, too.

Linda Hansen and Mary Huffine are brokers at Real Estate Out West in Rifle.

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