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March 2, 2012

How to buy and sell farm animals on Craigslist

Your local Craigslist Farm + Garden site is a great place to buy and sell livestock and farm equipment. Mostly I've had good experiences. We've made new friends, met some nice folks, learned a lot, and made some great farming contacts.  But it doesn't always go like that.

Thursday I cooled my heels in the parking lot of a WalMart with an angry rooster waiting for someone to come and get him. They didn't show. Sitting there, wasting my time and gas, and having that poor little roo stomp his feet in angry protest... I got the idea to maybe give some pointers about "how to buy farm critters on Craigslist."  Just so's ya know.

Some folks are nervous about this - and just like anything else, you should be smart about what you are doing and realize that there are bad people out there. Scammers sometimes reply to ads - and you never know who's gonna show up to buy your hatching eggs or whatnot. We follow some simple rules to make sure things go smoothly.

First, when you post an ad make sure you always include a picture and the price of whatever you are selling. Folks will determine in a matter of seconds if they are interested or not. Then expect a couple of different kinds of people to answer:

1. Scammers working out of Nigeria and points elsewhere. 
2. Kids who never asked their parents if they can get a duck.
3. Looky-loos who are not really interested.
4. Folks who are legitimately interested.

Some people will only use a phone number for ad replies but I do not. Mostly because if you have a GPS enabled phone, or a landline, everyone will know where to roll up with their stock trailer and steal your goat when you are not home. So I only provide an email contact until I can figure out if they are a "real" buyer or not.

You can usually determine if someone in serious after a few email exchanges or if you talk with them directly on the phone after the initial email. Scammer can be ID'd because they will reply in bad English or reply immediately after the post goes live with something like "Do you still have your item available." Just don't reply to those inquiries. Legitimate inquires usually are more conversational, such as "I saw your ad on craigslist and I was wondering if the chickens are laying now?"

Ask questions, set terms, get more pictures. Its really 'buyer beware' so do your homework before you determine to buy, or sell, your critter to someone else. I always say cash only and that we will meet locally or "somewhere in between."  I do not like people to come to our property for a lot of reasons. Mostly because you really need Kevlar and a tetanus shot to even walk on the property.... and also because I'm here alone much of the time.

Not to mention that many folks bring their kids. We are not kid proof. You can imagine how that goes between OD the Killer Gander and our hard workin' farm dogs who do not want to be your friend. And, its bad biosecurity protocol. I'm not pointing any fingers but we had some folks come and get ducks one time and shortly after several of our turkeys flopped over dead from the cocci.

I choose meeting places with big well lit parking lots, security cameras, and next to a freeway. Inevitably everyone know where the Target is off thus and such freeway. Tell them to meet you 'out away from the rest of the cars' near the parking lot enterance. And let them know what kind of vehicle you will be driving. That way its easy to find the folks looking around for you and not zooming past to the parking spot closest to the store.

Tell them to bring a carrier for whoever you've got to sell. Large poultry can be secured in a feedsack. Cut a hole in a bottom corner of the sack big enough for your turkey, duck, or goose to pop their heads thru, put the bird into the sack head first so they can find the hole, then tie the open end together with baling twine. Easy peasy. But just make sure you put them in a box or a laundry basket so they don't roll around. Don't ask me how I know this.

This may sound over simplistic, but for heavens sakes, show up. On time. Make sure you have each other's cell phone numbers and confirm that you are leaving before you drive off and call or text if there are any delays. You might just be getting a free rooster or a $5 duck - but its my time and gas to get there.

Show up with cash and the correct change. Don't hand me a $100 for a $5 duck. Sure - count change if you have to, that's just fine. It is a fact that we sold a goat and the buyer counted the last $6 in quarters. I'm not even kidding.They were so excited they rushed out of the house without all the money and had to improvise with what was in the car. We all had a good laugh and that goat went to a very loving home.

Don't stalk the person you sold that critter to - I've heard crazy tales about previous owners wanting to "come by" and see the goat they sold, or wanting updates or whatever. You know... once you part with livestock its not really your job to say what the new owner should or should not do. So be sure you are ready to let that animal go, emotionally and physically.

On that same thought, don't call me up and ask if you can bring the ducks back because you haven't emotionally bonded with them. I'm not even kidding - someone asked me this. I am not Nordstroms and that is not a Mercedes. Its a $5 duck.

If you decide you don't like the make or model, or don't think they are snugly enough, then either send them to the pot or re-sell them. Not only will I think you are creepy - there is no way I'm letting an animal who been on another property come back. I don't know what your husbandry practices are or what you've exposed that animal to in or on your soil. So no, there is not a return policy. Professional breeders will sometimes take back animals if there is a bad fit with their new home - but there is a huge difference between a prizewinning $600 doe and that $5 duck.

The only exception to this is the best idea I've ever heard. One of my pals sells chicks with a "rooster return policy."  If you get a rooster you don't want then you can return him for the originally paid price. The owner gets rid of an unwanted roo - and my pal gets a "free" meal. Of course the roos are quarantined and immediately dressed for dinner.

If I am the buyer than I usually send a thank you and "we all got home safe" email as a courtesy. I've gotten these and it makes me feel good that the new owners took the time to let me know the critter was safe. Sometimes I've gotten follow up emails from folks telling me about the critter's new life there. Honestly I love this and its fun to make new friends.

Bad experiences, like today, are few and far between. I love going to other people's farms to see their set up. And there is nothing like a huge hay barn filled with alfalfa to make your heart soar. And we've had some pretty funny experiences. 

For instance, we still recall the first time we sold poultry in the parking lot of our little church. We laughed and called it evangelism thru poultry, thanked the buyers, and smiled widely as we went into the service. However by the end of the sermon we were so wracked with guilt at using the church for "money changing," or "goose changing" such as it was,  that we confessed to the pastor and shoved the ill-gotten-gains in his hand. He laughed and said it was just fine and no problem. We were forgiven but come to think of it, he kept that cash.  Anyway, we've had several church parking lot poultry sales and all the old timers get a big hoot out of what we're selling this time. Its pretty big talk for our little church.

However, our best experience was when I answered a CL ad for someone who wanted a rooster (not today).  I left my phone number and shortly after got a call, but then they hung up when I answered. A few minutes later they called again and it was a woman who had obviously been crying. Turns out her beloved rooster had been killed and she was heartbroken. I had just the new little friend for her. We agreed to meet and she took him lovingly in her arms. And then got in her car and drove away. Then I realized she hadn't paid me. A couple days later I received the most loving note from her and the $5. She still keeps in touch and I tell you the truth, that little rooster has the best home in all of the poultry world.

Thinking of that woman, and all the other great folks we've met, takes the edge of my bad attitude about today. You win some and you loose some. But mostly things go pretty well.

How about you? Whatcha buying or selling on craiglist?

Happy Friday everyone! Now get out there and sell chickens in the church parking lot. I betcha tongues will be wagging for sure by the time they pass the plate around for the offering. You'd best put that money right on in there - the pastor will be watching for sure.