Saturday 15 October 2011

How to conduct oneself at a Poultry Auction....

Pre-Auction (Selling) Things to do...
  1. Identify birds for sale
  2. Segregate the blighters
  3. Find suitable box(es) for transportation
  4. Pack food and water for them....gin for you
  5. Wear nothing you care about
At Auction (Selling) Things to do...
  1. Get there stupidly early to bagsy an early lot/cage
  2. Beg everyone for help
  3. Take birds out of the box(es) and place into the selling cages without losing them...sheesh!
  4. Listen and act on all free advice offered, (if the veterans sense you are a virgin seller they will offer tons of advice) NB If the person looks like a complete numpty, consider the advice carefully...
  5. When your birds sell, don't cry, interview the new prospective parents or ask if you can visit.

This morning just after 6:30am I packed up the Bantam roosters and three of the girls, decided against the gin, and drove off into the sunrise towards Hereford.

It was a beautiful morning, cool not cold with not a whisper of a breeze, and I could hardly hear the pitiful cries of the chickens over the audio book, (Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass - brilliantly read by the author and actors.)

By the time I pulled into the livestock market, some twenty-five miles away from home, the sun was up and it was more like a summer morning than an autumn one. The market looked like a huge unfinished metal shed, unfinished because one side is open to the elements displaying the containment rails to keep cattle, pigs or sheep from escaping. It looks like an empty DIY or Wall-Mart superstore.

I wore old jeans, wellingtons and a baggy jumper together with my usual smile, the smile is invaluable for seeking out new friends in unfamiliar situations. While I unpacked my chickens, the transit van next to me in the car park was disgorging its colourful characters and their birds, (just for clarity by birds I mean birds, not street slang birds, though I strongly suspect these chaps were intimately acquainted with quite a few birds, if you know what I mean, nudge-nudge!)

By their voices I knew these chaps were Welsh and I would have described them as farmers, except that their earrings made me think they were more traders than farmers. As I got out of the car they toned down their banter, which had sounded very, very bawdy till they clocked me, and we all exchanged pleasantries about the weather, the fact that they'd driven from mid-Wales to come to the sale and the forthcoming rugby game on Saturday. (Cumoooonnnnn Wales!)

Their chief and ringleader was a stocky chap about my age, (... young, OK?!) He was twinkly-eyed and bar-room confident, a lovable rogue, - you know the type.

After the auction-porter and I had loaded my lots into three sales cages; 2 pairs comprising a cock and hen and a trio made of two cocks and one hen. The chief Welsh trader from the transit sidled up beside me to enquire about my chooks. Soon I had my very own personal advisor and he stood very close, whispering poultry secrets.

'You makin' a mistake there luv, you needs to make a trio, rather than leave that hen with the two cocks.' He said in his lovely Welsh accent. I, being blonde and tired, looked blank.

'I've made a trio,' I said, wondering if trio meant something different in Welsh and wishing I didn't have to discuss trios or cocks with a man I hardly knew.

'No luv, a trio's two hens and a cock, not two cocks and a hen!'


'I'll grab the cocks out and you can put the hen in with the pair if you like? You'll not make any money see, as the cocks'll cancel out the worth of the hen.'

Dear Lord why is everything so sodding complicated!

Anyhoo cocks grabbed (dear Lord!) and girls moved, all was happy in camp Archer. Bearing in mind that the sale didn't start for another 2 hours I decided not to stay chatting to my new best friend, as our vocab was worrying me, so instead I zoomed off to Asda, (big shop wow-wee) to get provisions for the mountain.

By ten, the metal shed was pretty full of cock-a-doodle-doos and lots of breeds of people. I wandered about, briefly on my own, observing the characters - a great place for the writing.

Soon I was joined by my buddy who chatted about chickens and horses and sheep until he enquired whether I had much land and livestock. I'm not sure it was a proposal of marriage, he sussing whether he and I could join poultry forces, but I found myself constantly mentioning my husband and the sprogs but not where we actually lived.

'Have you got raaabbits on the land?' He enquired kindly. I was glad we were moving away from the in-depth analysis of me and of the double entendre language he seemed to enjoy.

'God yes, loads. I can see them from my bedroom window every morning.' [Screech! Why did I mention the bedroom!!!]

'I'll do you a bit of ferretting up your way if you like, pop over like, [from mid-Wales!!!] bring me ferrets and the dogs for a bit of a session?' He said eyes a-twinkling.

I came over all Margo from The Good Life [clip below] after that...

'No thank you!' I said indignantly. 'My neighbour does all my ferreting!'  ... Oh! sob! He just grinned.

All in all it was an education. The money was appalling; the trio and pair fetched £11.50... I may have just covered the petrol... and the two cocks fetched a whopping .10p... purchased by my new best friend, a pity-purchase I fear but he did promise faithfully not to murder them.

Hey ho!


  1. Who knew selling chickens was so complicated? Glad you survived! How's Mrs. Archie?

  2. Utterly brilliant - we too went to a poultry auction recently, as potential buyers - it sounded likethe same people were there! It was our first and it was a real experience! We plan to go to another next month - I'll blog about it and link to this post!

  3. I couldn't part with any of my girls, especially the Buff Orpingtons. They are just so friendly. One got into the house last week and started to make a nest in my wife's PJs.

  4. 'Cross the Pond: Mrs Archie is delightful dashing this was and that with her brood of 8. We thought the 8 comprised 5 boys and 3 girls but now we think they might all be girls..... it's all terribly complicated!

    Elizabeth:It's great fun isn't it... but noisy! After my attack of the red mites (which I think I've cured) I noticed that several people in the crowd were itchy, clearly similarly afflicted! Take a look when you next go... don't stand next to the itchy people, that's my advice.. xx

    Wally B: Don't! You've made me feel guilty again. I just couldn't take the fighting with the 5 roosters, and the constant noise! It is a dilemma when you raise a brood - what to do if you have too many males? Personally I wanted to use them as meat birds (harsh but circle-of-life'ish) but the children revolted.

  5. Fabulous! What a wonderfully colourful tale. I shall, as you advise, stick to fattening my cockerels. I've been to poultry auctions and always come home with more than we went for. I once came back from a sheep auction where we bought so many I travelled home in the Land Rover with one lamb on my lap and another on the passenger seat. I don't go to auctions any more...

  6. What on earth is ferreting? Maybe best I leave it to my imagination. Thanks for this magnificent insight into country life.


The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon