I’m a big fan of freecycling – the giving, or receiving, of goods with no monetary exchange or trade. When I have items I don’t need I donate them to our local recycling centre that operates a re-store or I post them on our Facebook community bulletin board. And the converse is true as well – when I need something I post an ‘in search of’ (ISO) ad and have been rewarded with lots of useful things.
For me, it’s a combination of upcycling things that might otherwise be destined for the landfill, cutting my budget and the thrill of the hunt. There’s something of a rush when you find just what you are looking for, and for free. If I end up not using it I pass it along to someone else – for free.
Keeping chickens is relatively inexpensive, but the costs can add up: birds, housing, feed, shavings, equipment, first aid supplies, vet bills. There are some things that you can’t eliminate, but there are ways to trim your spending.
In the fall of 2017, my friend, Tracy, and I renovated a (free) rabbit hutch with the goal of not spending a dime. We came pretty close: I’ve ended up with an 8’x4’x4’ coop divided into two sections, each with nesting boxes, windows, opening clean-out doors, pop doors and ramps. Total budget: $40. You can check out our story here.
This year’s construction project wasn’t quite as ambitious, or as time consuming. I asked Tracy to replace my existing roost bars. Her design was based entirely on the materials I had on hand (previously freecycled from Anne) so it cost me nothing. It’s not only practical, it looks great. Freecycling shouldn’t mean it doesn’t have to be attractive.
I’m both a volunteer with, and a recipient of, our local food recovery program. People For A Healthy Community have partnered with the only grocery store on the island to reclaim unsold produce, dairy, bread and occasionally, cut flowers. Volunteers pick up and sort six days a week. My shift is Saturday. I generally transport 6-10 large totes of produce to my friends, Thomas & Elizabeth’s, where we sort and have a distribution hub. They take what would be considered compost; we split the chicken appropriate perishables and the people grade food gets given away.
We’ve also set up a little free store where people can leave, or take, useful things. Last year my chickens were the happy beneficiaries of 384 boxes of fruits and veggies. I often get herbs (dried for the nest boxes), yoghurt (probiotic), sweet potatoes and yams (cooked, are a great source of nutrients) and garlic (crushed and added to their water).
A small grocery store in the town I work in puts all their unsellable perishables out on their loading bay daily. It’s hit or miss, in terms of quality and quantity, but last year I got 53 boxes of produce and 41 loaves of whole wheat and multigrain bread.
My veterinarian used to compost their pet food when it reached the best before date. For the last couple of years they’ve been giving it to me. In 2019 that totaled 26 bags and 53 cans of dog and cat food.
I wanted to teach myself how to do fecal float tests so I could monitor my flock for intestinal parasites. I posted on our Facebook community bulletin board in search of a microscope to buy. Val, a total stranger, who has loads of experience working at a veterinary clinic and in a raptor rescue centre came to my place to give me a lesson. In addition to her instruction, she gave me her microscope, Gail Damerow’s Chicken Health Handbook and all the supplies I’d need to do the tests.
I have some egg customers I deliver to – no charge – if they are on my errands route on my days off. Sheila lives on the street where I walk my dog. She leaves a zippered bag on the outside of her fence. I put the eggs in and return it to the inside of her fence. We’d been doing this for awhile before I ever met her.
A few months ago she started clearing out her non-perishables and asked me if my chickens would like the items she wasn’t going to use. Sometimes it’s cereal or pasta. Last month it was a pumpkin, a squash and a tomato. Just before Christmas, the bag was full of packages of pasta, granola, dates, taco shells and guess what? Eight eggs – my eggs that I had delivered a couple of weeks ago. Turns out she bought more and then didn’t have room for everything in her fridge.
I often post my finds on my Facebook page in what I call ‘Free Stuff Friday’ – an assortment of freebies acquired that week. Here are some of my chicken related finds:
- 436 boxes of produce
- Hens (2 Frizzles, 1 Silver Laced Wyandotte)
- 57 Bags Shavings/Sawdust
- 46 Buckets Ashes (for their dustbath)
- 20 Bags Shredded Paper (lining transport boxes)
- 26 Bags & 56 Cans of Pet Food
- 19 cans of corn, beans, fruit, sauerkraut, pumpkin
- 13 Cans Tuna/Salmon
- 44 Containers of Yoghurt, 34 Veggie Burgers, 27 Packages of Tofu
- 2 Bags of Chick Starter
- 12 Golf Balls (fake eggs in the nest boxes)
- Dimensional Lumber
- 2 Nets, 6 Bungee Cords, Fencing Staples
- 4 Chicken Figures, 5 Rooster Mugs
- Chicken Health Handbook
- Fecal Float supplies (solution, slides, cover slides, poop holders, parasite chart)
- Fly Strips & Insecticidal Spray
- Plastic Waterers
Before you buy something think of where you might get it for free: building materials from construction sites; shavings from wood workers; unsold perishables and produce from your local food bank, food recovery program or grocery store; online classifieds that have a free section; egg cartons and egg shells from your customers; expired pet food from your veterinarian.
If you can’t find things for free, try not to buy new. There are loads of things you can find at yard sales or by scanning the online classifieds. I picked up two 10’x20’ car shelter frames for free: one from an online post and another in the free pile at a yard sale. If you can’t find what you’re looking for ask around through word-of-mouth or post your own wanted ad.
I also have a growing collection of chicken-related stuff that I post in my Bargain Hunter Treasures piece. All the items were purchased at thrift stores, yard sales or given to me for free.
Negotiate a trade. When I had broody hens, but didn’t want to deal with re-homing chicks I made arrangements with folks who wanted chicks. They gave me their eggs (often purebreds), which I hatched under one of my broody hens. When she was done with them I got to keep a pullet of my choice and they got the remaining chicks back. Win-win.
FYI: Just in case you were wondering how my birds can eat that much, they don’t. I often share the produce and food I get with other chicken keepers. I figure what comes around, goes around and am happy to share the wealth.
A big thanks to all the folks who have donated things for my chickens this year, and throughout the years. Your generosity is much appreciated.
Tomorrow is the first day of the new year. Challenge yourself to spend less, upcycle more and if you haven’t already, start freecycling. Keep a list and post your finds as inspiration to get others involved in keeping things out of the landfill, while saving money at the same time.
If you want to check out some freecycling tips and see some of the big scores I got in 2018 check this out.
All Photos: Bitchin’ Chickens Featured Image: hubpages.com