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20 Cheap Tricks Around the Farmstead

By Stephanie Dayle

Here is a list of some top tricks that have saved me money and time around the farmstead. Most of these have become second nature to me so I had kind of a hard time thinking of them. Some of them are so farm kid 101 that I just assume everyone knows this stuff, but if it helps someone out its worth it. Do you know of another one that should be on here? Add it to the comments below to help others out! 


Make your own chicken waters and feeders. Simple poultry waters and feeders can be made for under $10 using repurposed materials. They work just as good as store bought ones at a fraction of the cost. Click here to for an article on how to make traditional waterers and feeders. Click here for and article on how to make nipple waterers.

Compost manure, garden waste, and yard clippings to add back in your garden later. It's cheap and more organic than fertilizer. Click here for an article on how get your own compost started.


Install a drip irrigation system for your garden and fruit patches. It will pay for itself in one season and as a bonus it can be used in conjunction with rain barrels for off-grid watering. Click here for an article on how to do it! 

Toothpaste works great for cleaning horse bits or anything made of stainless steel around the barn.

Photo Credit: 1001pallets.com
Pallets are forever handy. A lot of lumber stores, give away used wooden pallets. Grab a couple and keep them on hand, they can be used in chicken runs during bad weather to give the birds an option to get out of the mud. They also work well keep hay off the moist ground, holding garden equipment and can be reposed into so many things.

Use wood burning pellets to soak up minor annoying puddles in or around the barn or the farmyard. The pellets expand and soon you will have a small pile of sawdust to sweep up instead of an annoying puddle or wet spot.

Those cheap laundry buckets you can buy at Walmart or Bi-Mart, are really Muck Buckets in disguise. Use them to clean out stalls or chicken coops, as stools to stand on, or put them in a stall or pen as an extra large water bucket. You have to refill these once for every 3 or 4 times you’d have to refill buckets. When they go on sale at Bi-Mart I can get them for $5 each.

Keep a used horse shoe or two that’s in ok shape after a farrier visit – throw it in in your barn, you may use it as an emergency replacement shoe one day. Even completely worn out horse shoes have many uses.

Keep a small stash of bailing twine around at all times for tying things up in a pinch.


Wood burning pellets can be used as inexpensive bedding. For poultry and other animals. They are more effective than pine shavings at absorbing moisture and keeping odor down, WAY easier to compost, they are considerably less expensive than shavings. Again turning into saw dust as they absorb moisture for easy clean up. Wood burning pellets are also cost less than the 'special wood pellets' made for animal bedding. You can, in fact, find 'pine only' burning pellets (see above picture) but a mix of hardwood and pine is ok too. Per EPA regulations there is no additives or glues in wood burning pellets. Click here to read an article on using pellets for bedding.

There are a few types of hardwood that should be avoided for use with animals but those woods are not commonly used in wood burning pellets. The concern I commonly hear about oak is a result of waste wood from furniture building. Oak used for furniture making is commonly treated with ammonia to enhance its appearance and prolong it's life. Oak treated in this way should not be used as animal bedding however, ammonia treated oak cannot be used to make wood burning pellets, so it is a non-issue.

You can open a hay bale with another loose piece of bailing twine: run one end under the twine on the bale (assuming you are dealing with bailing twine here and not metal straps or wire) grab the other in your other hand – saw back and forth briskly – the friction created will quickly create heat and burn/melt through the strap with a satisfying 'pop'. Simply repeat on the second piece of twine.

If you have to store a stock trailer outside park it on wood before the winter so it doesn’t freeze to the ground and so that it doesn’t sink in the mud and become stuck come spring time. This practice will also prolong the life of your tires.


To fight flies, and wasps around the barn, use simple homemade fly traps. Cut a plastic 2 liter bottle in half, flip the top upside down and insert back into the bottom half. Fill with a cup of fly attractant solution. Try diluting some cat food in water, old buttermilk, or some rotten meat in water as an attractant (do not use sugar or you will catch honey bees). Flies get in but they can't get out and drown.
It's important to get these traps set out in the spring as they need some time to ferment to work effectively, the worse they smell the better they work. Using organic attractant means if one of the traps breaks and falls (and the chickens eat all the dead flies - which they will) no harm will come to your chickens or any other animal that may get into the nasty smelling fly trap.

Olive oil from bulk buy stores (like Costco) works great for oiling and conditioning leather products, and is considerably cheaper than the chemical filled products you find at tack stores.

Get your work boots re-soled after you’ve worn them out – it costs a fraction of the price of new boots and will last you another couple years.

White vinegar can be used for a deep cleaning of moldy leather products. It will kill all mold spores. Vinegar will also remove buildup and stickiness on leather.

Listerine in a spray bottle is an all-in-one liquid cleanser use on horse bits or dirty hands, as a disinfectant or as a brace/liniment, it also works as a tail rubbing solution for horses.

Use old stock tanks that no longer hold water as chick brooders. They don't have to hold water for this purpose and they have steep tall walls - perfect for hatchling chicks

Knock sparrow nests down by spaying them with a tight steam of water from the hose – although keep in mind, if they are allowed to nest in areas that aren’t a fire hazard they are a great fly control system.

Pick up an old wool blanket – the thicker the better, from your local Goodwill store for a great livestock 'cooler'.' These blankets will soak up sweat after a heavy work out, during an illness, and they work great for wrapping baby goats, calves, and foals in. They work better than fleece and will keep livestock warm even when damp.

Again if you have some ideas of your own - add them to the comments section below! Hope these ideas help someone out there - they sure help me.

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  1. Another use for Listerine... I've found it to work well on scratches, especially useful with a horse that's not great with it's legs being dealt with (just put it in a spray bottle and shoot)

    Great source for 5 gallon pails, restaurants. Pails are always handy to have around.

  2. Even though on the other side of gobe, these tips are very helpful! Thanks a lot.

  3. Evem on the other side of globe, these tips are very useful!


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