A friend of mine saw a notation her doctor had made suggesting she had OCD, to which she retorted “I don’t have OCD, I’m German”. I can’t lay claim to being German – the folks known for their trains that are never late – but I’ve always been a meticulous list-maker. Even as a kid I catalogued all my trick-or-treat goodies at Halloween, crossing them off as I ate them. A few years ago I decided to make annual records of everything I got for free, which has proved to be both fun and informative.
This post is about my chicken related finds as an inspiration to others about how you can save things from the landfill, help others who are on a budget and challenge yourselves to spend less.
I live on Gabriola, a small gulf island (pop. 4000) and commute to work via ferry to a small city (pop. 80,000). Most of my finds come from either of those communities. I’m lucky to live in a place where people value recycling and like to help each other out.
I buy, sell and trade lots of things online and consider myself to be the ‘Queen of Freecycle’. Before undertaking a project I post online ads to see if I can find things without buying them. If I have leftovers, or things I don’t need, I pass them on for free as well.
Last year Tracy and I renovated a 4’x8’ coop, which I later enclosed in a 480 square feet pen. That required loads of materials and lots of scrounging. This year I was able to relax a bit, but I’m always on the lookout for free stuff.
My best score this year were, no surprise, chickens. I was given 5 Hens (3 White Ameraucana, 1 Welsummer x, 1 Crested Cream Legbar x) and 7 Pullets (2 Barred Rock, 1 Silver Grey Dorking, 5 Easter Eggers). I got them from five different people who, for various reasons, had to re-home their birds.
My next big score was a high quality 10’ x 20’ carport structure. When I first went to look it was fully assembled and I intended to return in a couple of hours with help to take it apart. But when I returned the owner had not only disassembled it, he had kindly marked all the components with numbers on two different colours of painter’s tape (for the right and left sides). It didn’t come with a cover, which was fine, as I only wanted to tarp 2/3 of the top and leave the sides partially open for my fruit trees.
Our local grocery store participates in a food recovery program. Their fruit and veggie trimmings are picked up daily by volunteers and sorted into three streams: for the food bank/soup kitchen, animal feed or compost. I work 4 days a week and can only pick up on my days off, but even then, I was able to get 293 boxes of fantastic produce. What the chickens won’t eat went into my compost bin.
The social service agency that organizes the volunteer sorters was closed for almost two weeks at Christmas. I volunteered to pick up the fruit and veggie donations from the local grocery store and drop them off to the various chicken keepers I know who could use them. During that time we had a major windstorm and power outage for several days.
The grocery store dumped more produce than usual because their refrigeration systems were down. I picked up 65 boxes in December, triple my usual number. Not only did my birds benefit, but so did other flocks, which included other livestock: alpacas, donkeys, rabbits, goats and horses.
I also get unsellables from a local grocery store in the town where I work. Fruit, veggies and bread are put on their loading dock daily for people to help themselves. It’s hit or miss, in terms of quantity and quality, but I managed to get 66 boxes and 71 loaves of multigrain bread over the year.
Some days I could have taken more, but during the week I commute as a foot passenger on the ferry, and then the GERTIE bus, and am limited by what I can carry. My bus driver on the way home is Tracy. I try to divvy up what I get for her birds. She’s done lots for me over the last couple of years, so I like to share the bounty.
Here are some other things I got this year (I’m only listing chicken-related things, the complete list is much longer):
- 4′ x 8′ mobile chicken tractor
- 1 bucket waterer, 3 feeders
- huge piece of fishing net (reinforcing fencing)
- 52 buckets: ashes (dust bath material)
- 55 bags: wood shavings
- 11 bags: stall dry
- 8 bags: leaves
- 1 bag: chick starter
- 15kg oyster shell
- 25 bags: shredded paper (lining transport boxes)
- chicken medications/supplies
- 2 bags dry dog food
- 31 cans pet food
- 1 box berries/tomatoes
- 3 packages of lentils/quinoa
- 30 containers: greek yoghurt
- 8 packages: tofu
- 44 packages: organic sprouts
- numerous egg cartons
- dozens of clean, dried egg shells
- 36 concrete core cylinders (closing gaps at the base of fencing, holding down netting
- 25 glass bottles w/droppers (for chicken meds)
- 17 golf balls (fake eggs in nest boxes)
- litter scoop
- 2 dog crates (infirmary/broody hens)
- PVC pipes (for DIY feeders)
- 2 gate handles,1 barrel bolt
- gutter netting (fencing around the perimeter to keep chicks in)
- roll: plastic deer fencing
- chicken welcome sign
People always want to know where/how I get things. Not spending money costs something: time and energy.
- You need to check the online ads daily (& better yet, several times a day) or post wanted ads.
- Contact your local food bank to see if they have a program that gives produce to farmers.
- Set up a pick up system at your local grocery store (chains usually have disposal contracts), restaurants, bakeries or juice bars.
- Ask your local veterinarian what they do with canned and dry pet food that reaches their best before date (mine used to compost theirs until I asked for it).
- When you see a building site ask the workers what they do with off-cuts and scraps.
- Find out what local woodworkers do with their planer shavings.
- Ask all your friends and neighbours to save you their wood ashes from their woodstoves and fireplaces – or arrange to get them from a chimney sweep company. Just make sure the wood is untreated and doesn’t contain any metal bits.
- What does your office do with their shredded paper?
- Go to garage sales – there are amazing things for cheap or in the free pile.
The other critical piece is to be reliable, considerate and not poach other people’s freecycle sources. If people are giving you free stuff then show up, and show up on time. I hear lots of complaints about recipients being unreliable. Sometimes that’s worked to my advantage because I got things someone ahead of me failed to pick up. I usually send an online thanks and sometimes send photos of what happened with the things they gave me (i.e. chickens playing in their maple leaves or how I’ve converted their building scrap, etc).
In my experience, word of mouth is a great way to find things and being considerate is the way to keep folks wanting to help you out.
Tomorrow is the first day of the New Year: start freecycling and post some of your good scores. Good Luck and Best Wishes for the New Year.