Rain pelting the tin roof gives a soft-solid background
to hens muttering annoyance and cocks crowing their outrage.
All those birds, five hundred or more,
waiting to be judged, their worth determined,
to be found wanting or wanted.
And, above it all, punctuated by squeals of feedback,
the auctioneer calling:
00000who’ll start me at $40,
0000should be everywhere…
0000who’ll start me at 20
0000Come on, who’ll start me at $5…
The air is thick and dusty with the smell of sawdust, feathers and bird shit,
overt and unavoidable,
but it is the subtle, the subconscious, scents
that cannot be ignored –
the pheromones that lace the air
twining invisibly through it as tension builds,
like a drug hidden in a drink,
trickling, then flooding, adrenaline into veins,
making the lifting of a hand inevitable…
00005 to you
0000That’s to you, the lady at the front… $20
000050… any more?
0000to the gentleman in the blue – number?
I have missed out this time, but next time…
I love the Goulburn poultry auctions. They’ve been few and far between because of COVID, but there was one last Sunday. I went hoping to get a few cheap chooks because my girls are getting a bit long in the… ummm… beaks. I ended up bringing home a dozen birds. They wouldn’t all fit in the carrier, so I had to go get some cardboard boxes as well. And my car stank of chickens for the next few days, which is inconvenient because the driver’s window doesn’t open anymore. Maybe next time I replace the car I’ll get a ute.
I always get carried away at the auction – I’m not usually a competitive person, but the adrenaline that comes with someone bidding against you, even if it’s for a chicken you don’t really need, that is hard to resist. And when the serious poultry fanciers turn up their noses at a cross breed, and no one bids – that’s even harder to resist. I always feel terrible for the poor chook no one wants to give even $5 for, sitting in its cage between birds that have sold for near a hundred.
So now I find myself with 22 birds in the coop, most of whom cost me $5 (and the three araucanas that were… well… somewhat more than that). Oh, and five chicks in a broody box in the house… oops…