If you don’t have a formal freecycling network in your area, you’re probably engaged in the giving or receiving of goods with no monetary exchange or trade regardless. I love checking out the free section of online classifieds or local Facebook community bulletin boards. Even better are the free piles at yard sales where I have picked up all kinds of things I would have been happy to pay for.
My mum was frugal and loved getting a bargain. When she came to visit and later, during the six years she lived with my partner and me, we spent every Saturday hunting down treasures at garage sales and our local recycling centre and Re-Store. When my mum saw how much free stuff I hauled home (I used to have a pick up truck) she encouraged me to keep a list. I’ve been doing that since 2013. The first few years were kind of slow, but in 2016 things took off: I started picking up unsold produce at our local food recovery program and from a grocery store in the town where I work, and I was more proactive on the trail of freebies.
I travel a fair amount with my job and have even managed to pick up stuff from other communities while I’m there. (And don’t tell my boss, but I’ve delivered chickens and hatching eggs as well).
In 2017, I was given a 4’x4’x8’ structure that my friend Tracy and I (more her, than me) converted into a coop using pretty much all salvaged materials. That year I was also given 58 bags of shavings, 35 bags of leaves, feeders and waterers, hand painted coop signs, a new chicken tractor, two 10’x20’ car shelter frames, and of course, more birds: one rooster, 12 hens and 22 chicks.
Since then, I haven’t bought wood shavings for my coop. I have either put online wanted ads for, or responded to ads from, wood workers looking to give away their planer shavings. I pick up unsold pet food from with my local veterinarian once it reaches the best before date (they used to compost it before I came along).
Over the past five years, I’ve received loads of stuff, including lots which is specific to chickens. Covid-19 has put a dent in my search for free stuff and chicken treasures this year. I worked at home much of March- May. When I did go back it was only for two days a week; by late August I was up to three. I’m a Health Promotion Educator and travel to a number of communities in my region, but that all changed. The pandemic didn’t just have an impact on my work, but on my hobbies as well. All my travel was cancelled and my freecycling slowed right down. I was still able to post ads on my local Facebook community bulletin boards and lots of folks are aware that I am on the hunt for chicken related stuff, but I didn’t find anything outside of the small island community where I live.
I took a break from building projects related to my flock and instead focused on chores around the house. I stacked 5 cords of wood and roped my friend Tracy into helping paint the exterior of my house and change out 524 screws in the metal roof on my cottage. Of course, I also took that opportunity to keep my blog going, posting here every Monday and Thursday.
So this year’s list may not be quite as long or memorable as some of my previous finds (a microscope and supplies to do fecal float tests; coops and chickens), but I’m still satisfied that I’ve managed to keep my costs of keeping chickens low, to keeping stuff out of the landfill by reusing it and to meet lots of interesting folks along the way.
Here are the highlights for 2020:
- 227 boxes of produce
- 37 buckets of ashes (dustbath material)
- 36 bags of shavings
- 72 packages of tofu, 52 packages of veggie burgers/hotdogs, 12 loaves of bread, 22 containers of yoghurt
- 6 bags & 17 cans of pet food
- chicken first aid supplies, Turmeric paste
- egg scale, leg bands
- fused glass chicken
I deliver eggs to one of my customers, a single senior who doesn’t drive. She leaves the money in a bag by her gate and I drop off the eggs. She doesn’t always get around to eating the produce from her farm box program or have room in her fridge so my flock (and my partner and I) have been the appreciative recipients of her downsizing. There are usually some treats in the bag: packages of pasta, beans, rice and oats; fruits and veggies, cheese and yoghurt, tofu and tempeh. My dog got the dried seaweed. When she had no room in her freezer she passed along: spot prawns, lobster tail, halibut, chicken breasts, lamb chops, burgers, ground beef and smoked salmon.
This was my last pick up of the year: 12 totes full of hundreds of pounds of unsold produce and 10 boxes of dairy (e.g. yoghurt, buttermilk, milk and cheese). Ordinarily it would go to the food bank and the food programs on the island, but because of the holiday closures my friend Thomas and I sorted it into three categories: people, animal (e.g. chickens, pigs, alpacas) and compost and distributed it all. The 17 cans and 4 bags of pet food and the bucket of ashes will go to my flock.
My intention in sharing my year-end lists isn’t to brag, but to inspire others to do the same. 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; or 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. If you can’t find what you’re looking for ask around through word-of-mouth or post your own wanted ad.
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.
Today is the last day of the year: if you haven’t freecycled yet, try it. I guarantee you’ll be bitten by the treasure hunting bug. One of the benefits of freecycling is sharing. I love to pass on my unwanted stuff which might be a treasure for someone else. And don’t think that my flock can eat 200+ boxes of produce – it often gets dropped off at other chicken keepers for their birds.
If you have some interesting freecycling stories I’d be happy to hear them.