A few Sundays ago, I went to my first real country poultry swap. It was quite an experience – tailgates down in a large gravel parking lot near the feed ‘n seed, children walking around cradling baby chicks, bunnies, hens, old men wrestling 15 pound roosters from their cages, a lady selling rabbits she claimed were litter-box-trainable, and one particularly solicitous young boy, cockerel in hand, who walked from person to person, proclaiming, “Want him? Five dollars. Want him? Five dollars. I’ll let you hold him. Want to buy him? Five dollars,” as he proudly shoved his little roo in the general direction of anyone who would pay the slightest bit of attention to him. Another girl begged her father for a Silkie for her 4H competition, and he hurried her away from the lady selling them with a hushed, “Silkies never win,” in his girl’s ear.
A young man held a beautiful white rooster in his arms, as he walked with his wife and daughter, both toting rabbits. Curious, we asked the breed of his roo, which he told us, and which we then promptly forgot because of what followed. “Yeah, me and my brother used to fight roosters all the time back when cock fighting was still legal in the state. Now will you let me do this to you like the other roosters would back then?” he asked his rooster, holding its head in his hand and facing him. Then without warning, he put the entirety of the bird’s beak in his mouth, and pulled it out with a quick motion, sucking down on its nostrils. Overcome by the overall perverseness and unsanitary nature of what we had just witnessed, YC was halfway across the parking lot before the man had even finished what he had started. As if propelled by some unnatural fascination, I stayed long enough to listen to, “We used to have to do that all the time at cock fights. You know, they get all bloodied up in their nose and mouth and face, and you have to suck the blood out,” before I quickly headed across the parking lot as well.
But not all of our experiences at the swap were as out of the ordinary as that one. We also met a very nice lady who showed off her new Double Barred Lemon Cuckoo Orpington rooster. Cradling the giant roo in her arms, she showed us how she calms and “tames” them by flipping them over, and gently stroking the underneath of their necks, explaining that this will slow lull them into a relaxed state, and that they will even fall asleep in this state. It’s something I vowed to try with Georgina-Henrietta. (I think if I ever caught Eloise and tried to “tame” her, she’d go into fits.) The lady also told us about a product called VetRx, which she uses whenever her hens get “colds,” or just in general to keep them in good health since it’s a natural product. (TIP: she said she puts a little under their wing, so they smell it every time they burrow their heads under their wings. She also puts a bit on their beak/nose, and their legs.)
While we (I) almost walked away with a Cuckoo Orpington roo and a litter-box-trainable rabbit, YC managed to talk me out of both (this time around). But it was a lovely day, and we definitely learned a thing or two about a thing or two.