A CHOOK enthusiast friend of mine suggested we attend the poultry auction in Wonthaggi last Sunday. She keeps referring to it as the chook raffle so I get to thinking that maybe with a touch of luck we might stumble on a bargain.
When we arrive, the poultry pavilion is a milling cluster of the committed and the curious.
My companion is a dedicated australorp fan, the big, black and beautiful. She dislikes hens with yellow legs, a characteristic of the breeds of my choice, so we are not in competition with each other.
We enter the pavilion to see what is on offer. Inside room is tight and it’s peak-hour traffic pace as we shoulder our way between the narrow rows of pens.
A vast array awaits. There are lots of roosters, purebred and crossbred hens, bantams, gatherings of young chicks, even a rabbit or two. Intending buyers must first register at the desk, which I fail to do, but there are friends who have so all is not lost. I can book my purchase under their name. After all, what are friends for?
All too soon, the sale is under way. Alan Bolding of Alex Scott Livestock Agency is the auctioneer. He obviously subscribes to the theory that a fast sale is a good sale. It's pressure time. Blink and you miss out.
My hopes of a bargain are not looking so hot and the pen of three barnevelders that is the standout for me brings twice my tentative bid. My companion also misses out on the small offering of the birds of her choice.
Inverloch artist Frank Schooneveldt, of Goat Island Gallery, is more successful. “Mary said it would be OK to get a rooster," he says and he buys an impressive looking speckled Sussex.
Loch farmer, dog and horse breeder Allan Dixon is hoping to add to his silky bantam flock. There are a number on offer so his chances look good. But there is strong competition. Iola and her brother Levi from Leongatha are on the same track. They are seeking silkies and have already acquired three lots. The sale is still in progress but I ask if they will show me what they have already bought. They have diverged into some exotic breeds. Levi says he plans to extend their chook run, which seems like a wise idea, considering the mix.
Iola is a buyer with a confident, no-nonsense approach and I get the feeling they have unfinished business, so I move on.
As a parting shot, I ask Levi how old he is. “Eight, and my sister is 10,” he replies.
There is an overflow here. The ducks and peacocks didn't make it into the main pavilion and are displayed in makeshift pens outside. Here I meet up with Ray Laidlaw from Lake Bolac, farmer, poultry merchant and ex-axeman, though he looks like he could still send chips flying. He is down with a brother and some friends for additional muscle to help with a trailer load of grain for sale. They have travelled some 400 kilometres and arrived at 6am after a night in Melbourne.
“How’d you fill in the morning hours since arriving?" I ask.
"Slept" was the one-word response.
The driving force behind the day is husband and wife team David and Kerril Holden of the South Gippsland Game Fowl Club. The last auction in Wonthaggi was several years ago but they hope to run another one in spring. Their main event is at Warragul in the first week in July. David says 800 attended last year.
For the record, the auction realised about $2500 with a top price of $100 for a pen of three lilac araucanas, a breed that originated in South America. They are known as “the hens with green eggs” on account of their beautiful eggs of a lovely green-blue colour.
I regret not being bolder on the barnevelders but buy a bag of sunflower seed from Ray so do not come away empty-handed. Next time, maybe.