Our local Lions Club runs a huge auction once a month, not just for poultry, but any household or farm goods you can think of can be found on auction there. We’ve found a few bargains over the years of visiting the general goods auctions, but until this week I hadn’t ever attended the poultry auction. Sure, we’ve looked around the sheds and eyed off all the different birds, but we always seem to have sourced our chickens from other places.
Yesterday that all changed. Armed with a fair slice of our “egg money” (the cash we’ve saved from selling eggs), we set off early to have a look and see what types of chickens were available. Little did I know of the entertainment in store for me in that shed. Rows of boxes of clucky chickens and haughty roosters awaited us. Sealed up with a variety of things, fruit tree netting secured with second-hand baling twine, gutter guard secured with C clips, boxes of all shapes and sizes stored in chook breeders’ dusty sheds for just this occasion. Nappy boxes, fruit boxes, microwave boxes. All turned into chook boxes for just this occasion. Buyer gets to take the chickens and the box.
After pacing up and down the aisles of boxes and peering in each and every box, trying to guess the breed of some and admiring the plumage on others I set my sights on a couple of boxes in particular, mentally set my price limit and waited for the auction to start. The longer we waited the stronger the smell of chook poo became in the shed, some of those birds had been there a couple of hours sitting in their boxes awaiting their fate. As we waited I sat next to an older man who’s wife had been breeding chickens for many years – they brought their roosters to the auction to get their numbers down and hoped that someone with more distant neighbours would need a fine looking rooster. “Too many roosters for an urban area”, they told me, so they had to go. To auction, or if they weren’t lucky, to the pot.
The crowd swelled and the auctioneer began by selling off bags of questionable quality wheat and seeds. The older man’s wife told me the seed was no good and sometimes the chickens wouldn’t even eat it – it definitely wasn’t worth the $10 a bag that people were punting. I wasn’t keen on it anyway so we sat together in the corner of the shed and waited for the real action.
And then he began, way down the other end of the shed to auction off the birds. Right down the other end of the aisle to the chickens that I had my eye on. It gave me a chance to understand the process, check out the bidding competition and see what I was up against. I managed to assess that a fair price for an item included all the chooks or roosters in that particular box, not a ‘per chook’ cost. This was a good sign!
At last the first box I had identified came up for auction. Four pretty chooks. Grey, black, brown and white. They would look good in the yard I thought. $20 sold to me. I was happy with my deal.
I picked up the box and turned to the red-headed teen standing next to me with whom I had been discussing the auction, and he and his younger, short-haired sister promptly declared “at least three of those are roosters!” My heart sank. Only time will tell if they were right or not. Those two country kids seemed to both be pretty keen chook raisers, animatedly discussing which breeds they were looking for and how much they had in their budget and could they get as many chickens as they wanted within their price bracket. I think they’ve spent a lot more time at poultry auctions than me and were probably much more experienced at determining a chicken’s gender!
As the auctioning went along I was really waiting for the young Araucana chickens – there were four boxes of them and I wanted the last box in particular. It contained older chickens so I thought I was more likely to get hens! But if the bidding was keen I might be up for a high price. As it came to the third box of Araucana, the interest from the crowd seemed to be waning and as I was keen for them, I couldn’t understand why others weren’t. At last the box I was after was under the hammer. After some to-and-fro with the lady standing next to me she folded at $15 and I took home another four birds for $16. I was happy.
And then the budgerigar escaped his perch! The red-headed teen shouted out above the crowd and the auctioneer that “the budgie got out again”, and he and his sister chased off after the escapee pet. Grasping at the bird net, chasing the bird with a bid for freedom around the shed in hope of getting it back in its cage before it came to its turn to be auctioned off. Over the ropes and chairs they chased the bird, sending it to the rafters, waiting, breath held, for the bird to descend low enough so they had half a chance of netting it. Eventually they tucked it up safely in its cage again and the rhythm of the auction returned undisturbed.
Having successfully bid for 10 birds we headed for home. I had expected to buy 4 chooks for our flock. I know some of these will inevitably turn out to be roosters so we will return them to the next auction and try out luck as vendors if some of them turn out to be boys.
If you’ve never been to a poultry auction in a country town it is definitely worth an early start on a Saturday morning – if only for the entertainment and delight in snagging a bargain. The conversations with chook lovers from all walks of life makes it even more interesting and enjoyable. And you never know – you might even get some nice egg-layers for your yard and a lot of entertainment as well.