Well, Farm Dad had been given a finish date of today for the chicken run as there was a poultry auction in the local town and we wanted to have the option to buy if we spotted something we like. Well he hammered and nailed and sawed and dug and hid from the rain and dodged the branches whizzing past in the 70+mph winds we have had here over the last few days and completed the run the day before our trip to the sale! Thanks Farm Dad, you are a star!!!
But what were we supposed to take to a poultry sale? We had never been to an animal auction, or any auction, and we had never had to transport chickens anywhere! All we had was a selection of cat boxes, so they would have to do. We had assumed that cardboard boxes would do but hte auction house had a specific rule about 'no cardboard boxes'. So being good little children we cleaned and disinfected the cat carriers and off we went.
When we got there we knew we would have to register and get a catalogue but where and how was a mystery! I flagged down a likely looking lad with a catalogue and enquired about that. He told us they were just in a box on the Auction House's own stall that was selling animal carriers - cardboard ones I might add!!! There was only one catalogue on the stall and we weren't sure if it was actually the one they, we waited for our moment, picked it up and acted casual!!!
We went around and there was everything you could want, eggs, hatching eggs, boxes of chicks, groups of hens of all ages and breeds, trios and in the last cage at the top... it looks like... it is! A rabbit! It was very exciting and a bit scary but we chose the birds we liked the look of and marked them down to come back when the bidding started. We also marked down similar lots to watch and see what prices they went for, hopefully to give us some idea of the going rate so we wouldn't pay over the odds, at least not to far hopefully!
There was alsorts on our list of possible buys including some ex-free range hens from a commercial farm. I thought this was good and asked the guy selling about them. He said they had several thousand free range hens and when their hens reach 72 weeks they are sold as meat birds. But they had seen that there was nothing wrong with them as layers for the pets market and in the guys words 'seemed a waste' sending them to slaughter so they were trying selling them to see how it went. He had put in about 30 lots of 6 hens.
The first lot we tried for was a selection of 7 brown hens, that's as descriptive as they got ,but bidding went higher than we wanted. They were very pretty little hens and there were several people after them, I think for that reason.
Next up came the first of two lots of hens that we'd liked the look of, we tried bidding and so did someone else, they pushed above our top bid, *glum face*, and then someone else joined in, up it went. No chance there then. We'd decided that whenever we bid we'd stick to our limits and wouldn't get drawn into a 'perhaps if we just bid once more....'. Never having been to an auction before we knew we must enjoy it but not get so caught up that we went crazy.
The second lot of these birds came up and we thought we'd try our luck again. He tried starting the bidding where the others left off! No chance! We all stared blankly at him and forced him to start right down the cheap end of the scale, we bid, someone bid against us! Grrr! Although not surprising the interest there had been in the last lot. But there was only one competetor. We hit our top bid again, they'd gone higher before. Would someone else join in as before? Hearts in our mouths and realising I was willing the hammer with my mind...
"Hit the hammer down, hit it!! There must be others after these, they were after the others! HIT THE HAMMER!!!"
He did! We'd done it! We had just bought some chickens! At an auction!
Now... how the heck do you pay for them?...
We had to go right out of the hall, pay at the office and get a 'You may take your chickens' pass - again another helpful person explained it all. By the end of this we were known by everyone cos of our questions or the escaped chicken incident (see below) and even a window cleaner who kept having to hold the door open for Farm Baby's pram!
We paid for our chickens, bought some sundries and asked to put up a poster (more about that later). Then, after retrieving the cat boxes we headed back in. We realised again that the cardboard box rule was 'just for show' as someone left with the CD Player box full of chickens!!
We asked the guy who was sent to help us if he thought all the hens would fit in our cages, he looked at the hens, then at the boxes, back at the hens, 'Yeah' he said with a rather uninterested shrug. Hmmmm.... 'Will you be alright with them?' For some reason Farm Guy said yes so we were left to box our own hens. We opened the cage and immediately a chicken flew out. Everyone around stopped to watch the fun and we felt them willing the other hens to follow suit so they could watch us chasing hens all over the hall. We grabbed the escapee and posted her into a box. The others seemed less inclined for a re-enactment of the Great Escape.
'Ha!' onlookers, our other hens are well behaved, sorry to spoil your viewing fun! I was surprised how well behaved they were to be honest, they had no problem being picked up, there was no chasing and no flapping. They are slightly older than pullets so the age may have calmed them slightly. We were boxed and ready, off we went.
Home we arrived and got our ladies unpacked. So, you have all read patiently through the waffle above to reach the bit you want to see.. lets meet the girls. Only a few photos, letting them settle in before the paparazzi get really into them! There are eight all together and they are Lohmann Browns, check out my page here about their history. They aren't a fancy breed with a capital F but they are a known breed rather than 'hen'. Apparently they are the kind of hen you would find in commercial farms, your supermarket eggs are likely to be from a Lohmann Brown, but these hens will have a better life than ones for the supermarket trade.
And very pretty they are too... we think so anyway!