Well Laura threw down the gauntlet in her blog (http://crooksandcrazies.blogspot.com) regarding the infamous chicken show, and since I'm sitting at the tire dealership awaiting work on the van, what better time to tell my side of the story?
My friend Heather and I were chatting on Facebook a couple of weeks ago when she mentioned that there was an Old English Game (OEG) bantam show being held in Salisbury. She wondered how far it was from her, and I told her that it was an hour from me, which would make it two hours from her. She decided that was too far for her to go, but since I have OEG bantams, I was curious about the show and decided to find out more about it. If you've ever tried to research chicken shows in the Web, you'll know that information is practicially non-existent. You'd think we were talking about cockfights for all the apparent secrecy surrounding times, locations, etc.
But Kelly lives down that way, so I e-mailed her and asked her if she could find out anything for me, since she is well connected in the area. And while I was at it, I asked her if she wanted to work dogs, since I was going to be in the area anyway. She thought dog working would be a good idea, and at that point, I decided to invite Laura. So you see, while the dog working may have looked like a bribe, it was really an afterthought, with the chicken show taking top billing for my weekend.
The intrepid Laura, always up for a good time, agreed to brave the chicken show in exchange for a chance to work her dogs on different sheep in a different location. So yeah, maybe there was a bit of bribery too.
On the way down, I explained chicken showing to her. They're in cages in rows and you just walk up and down the rows and see what's there. My main purpose for going was to see if there was anything I liked, figuring that I could then track down the owner/breeder and talk turkey, er, chicken, regarding buying some birds at a later date.
Imagine my surprise when we pulled into the fairgrounds to find cages of chickens and other critters lined up outside the arena. This was just a show; it was also a sale! Woohoo! I could see Laura visibly blanche at the idea that we would be strolling through all the outdoor "exhibits," but she gamely followed me up and down rows as I perused the stock for sale. Frankly, the cutest thing there was a crate full of rat terrier puppies, but we looked at the only briefly as I was on a bantam mission. Unfortunately, since I hadn't realized there was going to be a sale, I hadn't brought any of my small, chicken-sized crates with me, and as Laura and I were together, every available crate in the van had a dog in it. Laura's "gigantor" chickens were Jersey Giants, a breed I'd love to own, but realistically I don't have much money and I had absolutely no way to cram them into the van with seven dogs, an X-pen and various and sundry other stuff.
But don't think I was completely deterred. I dragged Laura into the arena so we could look at the show chickens. I was mainly looking for color varieties I don't own and just comparing sizes, since show chickens (like everything that's shown, it seems) are generally larger than the chickens I have at home. I got a good idea of the color variants I'd like to add to my flock and then hauled Laura back outside to do some shopping.
The chickens I really wanted were a pair of spangles (chocolate colored with white spots, sort of like a nonpareil candy), but the owner wasn't there and a neighboring seller told me that he thought all those birds were sold. I inquired about a blue hen from a different seller and was told she cost $25. What? Sorry, but I am not about to pay that for one little hen that, knowing my luck, would immediately be carried off by a Cooper's hawk. So I kept looking. At chicken shows, you're generally not going to be able to buy just a hen or two. Everyone always has extra roosters, and of course no one wants extra roosters. We all have extras hanging around. Most people will sell pairs, but if you're lucky, you can talk someone into selling a trio. And that's what I did. I got a trio of BB Reds. The rooster is a classic red with green/black tail feathers--nothing exotic. But the hens are a lovely grey/red, so I took the rooster to get the hens. And as Kelly pointed out, at least he's new genetics for my flock.
And with the purchase of that trio, the excitement began. Since I didn't have a crate, I asked the seller for a box. We caught the rooster and one hen. When we caught the last hen and he went to place her in the box, she squeezed back out of the top before he could tape it and took flight.
At which point a scream emanated from Laura's throat. I mean, she screamed like a girl. Over a little tiny chicken taking flight. I'm still chuckling over it. Laura claims the chicken flew at her face. Maybe. She also claims that the flight of the hen started up a cacophony of chicken and duck noise, and it's true that the entire area erupted in wild poultry sounds, but I have to wonder if the hen's escape, a la Chicken Run, or Laura's scream was the cause of the screeching and squawking that followed.
Some quick-witted fellow reached out as the hen circled near his truck and caught her in mid-flight and I went to gather her from him. Interestingly, the seller just sort of stood there while all this was going on. Perhaps Laura's scream paralyzed the poor chap.
We got the hen back in the box and the box taped safely up. I figured poor Laura had had enough excitement for one day (little did I know the additional excitement that awaited us in a cut over cornfield), and we headed for the exit. On the way out, I stopped at one more seller to ask about a trio of blues. The guy said he'd give me a deal, only $40. Needless to say, they stayed. Well, I might have been tempted, but really I already had one box of chickens that I was going to have to worry about hanging out while we worked dogs, so I really didn't need any more. There's always next year.
I wonder if Laura will want to go with me?
I'm sure the sheep work was a real let down after the excitement of the chicken show. Kelly had hauled her sheep from home to a cut over cornfield behind the feed store. It took us a few attempts to figure out the best way to work the sheep on the field, given the draw back to the trailer and to the pen with the extra sheep, and--in the case of the sheep called Doughnut--the draw to the pond. But once we worked out the best way to work them, all the young dogs (yep, we took sheep to a strange field and didn't have a single experienced older dog with us in case of emergencies--brilliant, huh?) got a chance and in general it went pretty well. The young dogs did typical young dog stuff--running tight, not covering as well as they might, pushing too hard on the fetch, but once they settled down, we also saw some very nice work.
So while I might not be able to convince Laura to attend a chicken show for the sake of the chickens again in the near future (I heard her on the phone with her mom at one point, and even though I couldn't hear the other side of the conversation, I could tell from Laura's comments that her mother must be just rolling her eyes!), I bet if I lure her with more sheep work, I can slip a show in here or there....
You're a good sport, Laura!