Keeping Chickens On A Budget: Tips From 'The Queen of Freecycle'

A few years ago I decided to make annual records of everything I got for free (ok, so I’m a bit OCD, but its been fun and informative to look back on them). I place online ads or answer them; finds things at the side of the road or in the free pile at a garage sale; get fruits and veggies from our local food recovery program, ask for scrap material at building sites, etc. This post is about all 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 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.

I live on a small gulf island (pop. 4000) in the Pacific Northwest in Canada 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.

My best score this year was a 4’x4’x8’ structure that I think was built as a rabbit hutch (it was complete but never used and left on the property after they moved). I had friends move it and found most of the materials to convert it for free. A friend helped work on it – for free.



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 full-time and can only pick up on my days off, but even then I was able to get 326 boxes of fantastic produce.





For a while I was getting things from a local restaurant. They had two bins (one for uncooked kitchen scraps and one for coffee grounds) that I picked up once or twice a week. After a few months, they produced more than I had time or space for so I passed that task on to a friend that was happy for the chicken feed and compost.

Here are some of things I got this year (I’m only listing chicken things, the complete list is much longer):

· 12 Hens, 1 rooster & 22 chicks

· 8’x4’x4’ Rabbit Hutch

· Chicken Coop (small)

· 7’ x 10’ Shelter Frame

· 10’ x 20’ Carport Frame

· Coop Building Materials (dimensional lumber, metal roofing, plywood, hardware)

· 8 Plastic Milk Crates (for nest boxes)

· Chicken Coop Signs

· Bird Netting

· 2 Linoleum Rolls (coop flooring)

· Yoga Mat (nest box liners)

· 4 Windows

· 2 Gates

· Galvanized Chicken Waterer

· 3 Plastic Chicken Waterers

· 39 Bags Shavings

· 35 Bags Leaves

· 23 Buckets Ashes (for dust bathing)

· 17 Bags Shredded Paper (nest box material)

· 16 Buckets of Coarse Wood Chips

· 15 Bags Wood Chips

· 4 Bags Sawdust

· 3 Dog Crates

· 1 Bag of Chick Crumbles

· 12 Cans and 6 Bags of Cat Food

· 200 bunches of herbs (dried & used in their nestboxes)




People always want to know where/how I get things. Not spending money takes 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 (not chains as they have usually have disposal contracts), restaurants, bakeries or juice bars. Ask your vet 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). If 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. 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 and considerate. If people are giving you stuff for free show up when you said you would. Don’t keep folks waiting or be a no-show. I usually send an online thanks and sometimes send photos of what happened with the things they gave me (i.e. chickens playing in the maple leaves, what I’ve turned their building scrap into, etc). In my experience, word of mouth is a great way to find stuff 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.
About author
I live on a small Gulf Island in the Pacific Northwest off the the coast of British Columbia.

I've kept chickens for the last 9 years and although I have some purebreds I love to breed crosses that look interesting (i.e. crests, muffs, beards, frizzles, patterned, spangled, etc) and also lay coloured eggs.

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Great, I like ideas about using unorthodox materials, love the pics too.
It's amazing what you can find when you really look for it!


This is great, and I love the fact that most of not nearly all your set up is recycled. Now if only more of us around the world could take this approach, imagine how much less waste we could generate!
Its amazing what you can rescue from the landfill once you start looking. Here's the link for my article about building my second freecyced coop:

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