I get emails pretty often from folks who want to build a chicken coop of their own but just don’t have the skills or the time or even the ability due to age or disabilities. To them, I generally give one big suggestion that I am going to share now: time banking.
If people have even heard of time banking at all they generally think that they couldn’t possibly have anything to contribute or that they just don’t have the time to participate. 99.99% of the time you’re dead wrong to think this and it’s just feeding yourself negativity. Think positive!
First I should backtrack and address what a time bank is and how to find one. Wikipedia defines a time bank as: the practice of reciprocal service exchange which uses units of time as currency.
So a time bank in practical terms is a group of neighbors who get together to exchange labor with each other for credits in the form of hours. So let’s say I go and build a coop for a local dentist who is part of the time bank exchange and I spend 10 hours of time building that fancy coop for him, then I have a credit of 10 hours in my time bank account that I can ‘spend’ with anyone. In that instance, I used those credit hours to get some dental work done at a big discount (only charged for materials) and I got my wife a well-deserved massage with just enough left over to have free babysitting for our anniversary. See how it works? Most people don’t earn big chunks like I did that time – it’s usually in drips and drabs – but they add up!
To find a time bank in your area that is already established, or for information about starting one locally, go to timebanks.org. If you’re outside of the US, I believe there are links to the international organizations on that website but you can also google time banking in your country for more information.
Back when my wife and I first started getting into time banking, perhaps 3-4 years ago, my wife didn’t want to even bother with it because she didn’t want to just be a ‘taker’. In her mind, she had no skills or anything of value to contribute. After the first meeting she sat down and started thinking of all the things she could do as “just as a housewife”:
- She could drive using our van. People just needing a ride from point A to point B gave her a call or sent an email if they needed to use her ‘time’. She even picked up the local time bank coordinator’s kids from day camp for a week and earned 15 hours of time banking time for it!
- She can cook. Some folks worked 60 or more hours a week and didn’t want to eat out every night so she offered to make them nutritious freezer meals. They bought the materials and she supplied the time. It worked out great!
- One single mother in our group needed babysitting one day a week for a month while her mother was in the hospital. My wife kept an eye on that little one as playmate to our own very easily and happily and earned time while doing it.
- Someone in the group wanted to learn how to knit and sew so she taught them.
- Another person wanted to know how to can vegetables and make jam. Again, she taught them.
- Our kids came along one day and earned family hours by helping decorate for a bar mitzvah. Then they were invited to stay and take part which wound up being a cool bonus and a learning experience for everyone.
- The other time our kids helped was by going to the local nursing home and reading to one member’s sick mother.
- I helped folks weed their gardens and paint their fences among other tasks like building chicken coops.
So as you can see, even a tiny child can contribute to a time bank. And yes, you’ll definitely get a lot out of it for yourself. If you’re older or disabled you can even probably find someone locally who can build that coop for you or maybe help you put up a chicken run. But more than that, time banking is a great way to get involved with your community and make new friends.
I do recommend that everyone who wants their own coop to at least try to build it themselves first and turn to outside sources for help when they get stuck. Most of the plans I sell are very easy to use and made with the beginner in mind. There is pride and satisfaction to be had when you manage to do something yourself. But for when you do get stuck . . . I definitely recommend time banking! 😉