Last year about this time, I decided I wanted to be a chicken farmer. I’d heard of an auction the first of every month that the Amish normally attended and farmers from all around came to buy and sell their livestock and old goods. Being a city bred girl, with all my farm experience being riding a fat pony at a country kid’s house, I figured I could do it. People, I reasoned, have been raising and living off chickens for hundreds if not thousands of years, so surely it couldn’t be too hard. Besides everyone is going green and returning to nature, buying local, and humanely treated products, so there was a guaranteed market and chance of profit not just good eggs.
We arrived early just a little after 9:00 and had until 12:00 when we had to get back home. We’d brought lawn chairs and had our drinks. Surprisingly, the auction was well under way! Well, I’ve always heard farmers get up real early, but there was still plenty of stock from which to choose. And do I mean stock! Row after row of cages placed side by side on the ground. Probably thirty cages long and at least thirty cages wide with a little walking room in between them. Oh, and did I mention cages? Well, I guess I hadn’t thought that out too well. Lawn chairs are nice but I don’t think a forty-mile drive with twenty-five chickens running all around the car and two lawn chairs in the trunk was going to cut it! No problem! First things first and we proceeded to the goods area to buy a couple chicken cages. Oh, the things we saw! Rusty bits of old farm equipment that I couldn’t even start to put a name to going for twenty dollars, dog igloos, old fencing, watering pans, and huge feeders that go out in cow pastures, wood planks, hinges, old tools, and, YES, lots of cages. Some looked like a four-year-old had knocked them together with a few roofing nails and left over pieces of skids! Some were real nice and had hanging bottles and clean out bottoms. Some were so tiny they’d hardly hold a parakeet. Others you could get my Labrador in. But most surprisingly, the ones they were saying were for chickens were only about 8 inches tall. Well I’m no dummy! They weren’t tall enough for chickens! Chickens are at least 12 inches tall if not 18. There was no way I was going to crowd my poor little chickens up in those long skinny boxes. Besides those boxes were going for twenty-five and more! I ended up picking a double-decker cage about 4 feet by 2 feet by 3 feet made out of screen that could easily hold six of my twenty-five soon to be chickens. And just twelve bucks!
We trudged back to the livestock area dragging our huge, heavy, awkward cage with the excitement really setting in now! A glance at the cell phone told us we’d spent way too much time picking our cage. It was 10:45 and at least ten rows of livestock had been sold! Thank goodness all the different species were mixed up and there were still some chickens left. But how to choose?!
I’d done my homework. I’d looked up and read a lot about the different breeds but hardly any of the cages had signs on them. There were tiny yellow chicks, medium grown chicks and old chickens that already had eggs in their cages. The old ones looked like the best bet but I wondered just how old they were. When hubby asked me how long they lived I started veering away from them. (Don’t tell him but I haven’t a clue.) The sweet little peeps would have been fun but ages till they laid their first eggs and remember I want to make some money here! So I settled for medium ones. My choices were limited, only four batches of those left. One was marked Rhode Island Reds, the others had no markings at all. But the Reds were only in a group of six so if I got those I would need another batch of the no name brand. Well, that would work. It would be fun seeing what they grew into.
About that time Hubby fell in love with a little matched set of bantams. Obviously a boy and girl. He loved the feathers on their feet and I had heard how Banties were the best sitters so to increase my flock size I agreed we had to have them. Their price started at $2.50 each and moved up from there. I believe their beaks were lined with gold and we just didn’t know it yet. Anyway, once Hubby sets his mind to something it has to happen so we bought those gold lined birds!
Now time just keeps moving along and its almost noon. We have to leave and the Reds are coming up. By twenty after Hubby is pacing and we’re still three cages away. I plead my case. If we don’t buy chickens now there will not be another auction ‘til Spring and we’re miles away from making any money. He concedes.
Finally my Reds are up! I notice a little tow headed boy about eight years old and what appears to be his Grandpa looking at my chickens! He’s nodding his head excitedly and Gramps is grinning like crazy! Oh no! This isn’t looking good! The boy starts the bidding out at $5. He didn’t even wait for the auctioneer! I go $5.50. So that’s 5.50 times 6 for a total of 32.50 a little high but?! The brat boy goes 6! UGH! $6.25 comes out of my mouth! $37.50 that’s high! The little guy looks like he’s going to cry and I feel a twinge of guilt. But! They are MY CHICKENS! Grandpa looks over at me and then back to the auctioneer and calmly says 8. Now I’m mad! That is a ridiculous price for half grown chickens, even I know that! I grit my teeth and let them go. The little boy runs up to the auctioneer and says that’s the one I want! The auctioneer tells him “Son, they are a LOT you have to take them all or none”. Spoiled brat boy looks back to Grandpa and says I don’t want them all! Grandpa shrugs his shoulders and they turn and walk away. I, the Fool, the back up bidder win MY chickens at a ridiculous price of $37.50. If not for that boy I could have had them for around $15.
We shoved those chickens in their cage and head for home!