“How many cardboard boxes will you need?” The auctioning of small animals.

When Jenn first heard that the Muskoka/Parry Sound Poultry and Pigeon Association was having a ‘small animal’ auction in Powassan, the first thought that entered her head was that it would be a perfect place to take four kids for the day, each with twenty dollars to spend so they could bid on an animal. The second thought in Jenn’s head was that the first one made perfect sense; that it was rational on all accounts and was made with well thought out judgment and clarity of mind. The fact that three of the four kids lived in the City of Oshawa didn’t matter to Jenn; and when asked where these kids were going to keep any animals should they be successful in bidding the reply was quick and simple: “at our house.” Now I’m involved, too. The possibility that the kids could buy more than one animal was there, also, for they had twenty dollars and a bid might be accepted at ten. Or eight. Or lower. The auction was on Saturday so Friday night saw us loading every spare crate we had into the back of what was going to be an already packed mini-van; a mini-van that we had borrowed for the weekend so we could cart around four kids.

Saturday came and we made the trip to Powassan. We parked our vehicle in a mowed field amid people unloading chickens, phesants, goats, pigs and anything else that might have fallen under the ‘amall animal’ label. It was not quite 09h30 and it was already hot. Inside the sale barn – which doubled for the Powassan Fair’s party-central if the painting on the side was anything to go by – were crates of all shapes and sizes full of animals. Somewhere in the regulations of the auction was stipulated that sellers had to supply buyers with transportation crates so almost every animal was housed in a cardboard box vented with a hole cut in the side and covered with chicken wire or plastic snowfence that had been Tuck-taped on. Peacocks seemed to have been put into the boxes and then had the last side added on so their tails could stick out. It seemed as though table space was at a premium because boxes were not only piled in front of one another, but stacked, in some case five high. It also seemed as though it was first-come, first served for table space. There seemed to be no logical lay-out of animals. Everybody just shoved their boxes where they thought they’d fit and to Hell with organization. Or at least that is how it appeared. But it didn’t matter because although the two aisles were packed with people looking at the animals, they couldn’t see them anyway with the cardboard box crates and the randomization in general.  I don’t want to pretend to be naive about this, or suggest that spending part of a day in a crate is somehow harmful to the animals.  That isn’t my intent at all.  In fact, it is lucky the animals had crates that they could be taken home in because some people don’t think to bring a crate to these things and then the drive home becomes a little driving and a lot of animal wrangling.  However, we were sort of hoping for tailgate sales before the auction; seeing the animals a bit better and not having to wait until the animal of your choice came up to the auction block.  Unfortunately, this was not the way things were done.

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One of the tables of animals to be auctioned off.

A peacock, awaiting the bidding process.

We lined up to get our bidder number. We were sixty one and although I don’t know how many people were there, I did see bidder number 91 at one point. There was a slow gravitation to the front of the barn, where the auction was to take place, as people started to take their seats. By the time we took ours, it was a long plank of wood behind the more comfortable stacking chairs with backs. The murmuring of the audience grew silent as the auctioneer took the microphone and began to speak.

“Okay. Can everybody hear me in the back? Okay. We’re going to start the auction and we’re going to move through things quickly, okay? So, with any luck, we’ll be out of here at around five or so. Okay?”

Seriously? I thought. Five? Oh, man.

But then, this: “Okay. We have runners here who will bring you your animal. Please have cash ready. We only accept cash, okay?” At least we wouldn’t have to wait ’til the auction was over to get any animals that we might buy.

There is some action on the stage as the first of the animals to be auctioned off – a pair of chickens – flap as they are put in the display crates and the auction starts for real.

“Okay. We’ll start the bidding for these chickens at a dollar. Who’ll give me a dollar? Okay, thank you. Do I hear two? [big breath] twoandadollartwoandadollardollardollardollar, who’ll bid twotwotwoIgottwonowthreenowthreeandtwoandathree, twoandathreewho’llgivemethreethreethreeno? Two! Sold for two dollars to buyer number 10!” And on he went to item number two.

The auction started at 10h00 and by 10h15 it was hot, humid and stuffy. And that was outside. Inside, incredibly, it was even more so despite the barn’s open doors and the shade the barn provided. Beads of sweat were forming on the nose of one of the kids, old farmers were taking off their dirty ball caps to wipe their brows with a flannel sleeve from their shirts and some woman bid on a fat bunny by fanning her face with a bidding card. An hour went by and still nothing came up that the kids wanted to bid on. Although they had been very well behaved, they were getting antsy and wanted to leave. I took them outside to the van where we had a snack and they played tag and a very rule-less game of What Time is it, Mr. Wolf? Sufficiently fed and exercised, the kids wanted to go back to the auction to see how things were going. In a short time, we found Jenn standing on the far side of the barn.

I’ve heard it said that pigs sweat, men perspire and women glow. Well, Jenn wasn’t glowing. She looked like she’d just stepped off the surface of the sun. Beside her was a box and in the box was a small Rex rabbit. The kids and I went and put the rabbit in one of the cat-carriers we had brought with us and then I watched while they tried to feed it grass through the small holes and wire-mesh door. Jenn spent another hour or so gesticulating and flapping her card in the hopes of getting at least one other animal for the kids. In the end, she bought another Rex rabbit which was also packed into a cat carrier. We then spent the rest of the afternoon at a beach that was on the way home and the bunnies got a turn to sit in the open air (in an enclosure) and munch on grasses while the kids took turns in covering each other with sandy mud. Or maybe it was muddy sand – it’s been a long time since my Soils class.

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These are the new bunnies.  The one in the front, if I’m not mistaken, is Jewel, and the one in the back is Pickering.

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Another photo of Jewel.  Pickering is pretty camera shy.


12 Responses

  1. Sounds like you missed a good opportunity to get “one-of-everything” for the traveling zoo 😉

    Soooooo…do you have boy bunnies, girl bunnies or one of each? How long before you’ll be in the pet bunny business? Hahahahaha!

    • We could have had one of everything had we stayed longer. There was quite a variety. There were even pigeons…

      We are supposed to have a boy and a girl bunny, but they don’t really seem all that interested in each other at the moment. If they do get interested each other, though, it won’t be the pet bunny business, but more than likely the dogfood business.

      • Kind of like all these ducklings I’m raising…dogfood. Aren’t rex rabbits a dwarf variety though, or am I mixing them up with something else? If you do have one of each it probably won’t take long before they are showing interest. We got 2 young female rabbits one spring (meat variety, but for pets). Kept them housed in the backyard and moved them out to the chicken coop for the winter. In the spring I started letting them out into the fenced chicken yard and my neighbour’s rabbit that was always escaping from her barn came visiting one day. He dug his way in and I ended up with 2 litters, 12 in one and 6 in the other. We gave them all away as pets except Maria’s favourite that we kept.

      • Rex rabbits can be found in a dwarf variety, but they are also standard sized for the fur market. The ones we have, although you could use them for fur, are strictly ornamental, unless they start to reproduce. Then there won’t be much ornamentation, just food.

        I bet with all your dogs running loose, Maria’s rabbit must have been the fastest bunny in the township.

      • Not the baby she kept. We used to bring him out of his hutch to eat grass in the back yard and “Chocolate Milk” quickly learned that if he just sat still the dogs wouldn’t chase. We had two large hutches in the backyard, one about 4×8 that housed the two females and attached to that was his 4×4 hutch. We’re now down to just the one female so Chocolate Milk’s hutch has been converted to a dog house/shelter. The one remaining female has a burrow made under the hutches and occasionally tunnels right out. She’ll pop in and out and seems to feel pretty safe with the dogs. If they get too close she just disappears down her tunnel. Occasionally they’ve surprised her and sent her running around the hutch a few times before she got back down her hole but they never hurt her. My guys are more interested in the thrill of the chase or herding than in catching anything. If it doesn’t move, they don’t chase. They’ll just stand there (or lie down) and stare.

      • Lucky rabbits.

        I know all too well the stare.

  2. Most small animals love to hide in and chew on the leftover cardboard tubes from paper towels and toilet paper.

  3. Curious nature that I have, I went looking for info about Rex rabbits. I didn’t realize that there are mini rex and standard and they are known for their “velveteen” soft coat. Hmmmmmm…maybe dogfood and the fur trade if they begin reproducing?

    • Have you ever read the children’s story “The Velveteen Rabbit?” If started lopping off the heads of those bunnies to make gloves, I’ll be lynched.

      • Well I didn’t mean Jewel and Pickering…I meant any offspring that YOU would plan to turn into dogfood 😉

      • Well, if I do end up knocking off the offspring for food you can bet I’ll have the softest lined, warmest pair of over mitts ever.

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