I was making my weekly trip up to Tractor Supply to get all the animals feed and the manager was there and told me about a guy that came in and left his phone number on the door for a poultry show he needed entries for at the Coosa Valley Fair in Rome. Ears perked up I took down the number and called him. It was not really a real show, not like I go to. The judges were not ABA or APA sanctioned, it would have just been fair officials judging. So far he had no entries. So I asked him how many coops he had. He had fifteen. I told him I could fill them all easily and he said "Oh no! We have to let any others that want to enter enter their birds" I said well, I thought you wanted a show? He relented and said he did, but could I wait until right before the fair opening to see if anyone else had entries. I agreed to that. There was only one other person that turned up with birds, and it was an employee of Tractor Supply. He filled three pens and I took the others up. I went up a couple of days before the fair as the head honcho wanted to meet with me and let me see the setup beforehand so I would know what was going on, so I made a quick trip up and it was a nice set up, plenty of room in the coops for large fowl, so that is what I brought.
I don't work with the public much. I can be a social person when the need arises, but normally I keep to myself. Of course I was a bit anxious about the whole thing.
I told him I was not interested in judging or ribbons or anything of that nature, but that I would be more of an exhibit and I showed him a few pictures on my phone of birds I would be bringing. He said he would pay me a hundred dollars. That was good with me, since I was originally going to do it for free, but I didnt tell him that. Little did I know, before it was all over with, I would be wishing I had gotten paid a lot more for it that I did. As I said, I don't usually do this sort of thing, so I was feeling my way through.
When I arrived with my birds on the first day I was excited to share my beautiful birds with the public, educating them and expanding their way of thinking about chickens. Remember, I am in a rural area and most people have never seen any of the more exotic and unusual breeds.
I got everyones food and water cups set up, put shavings on the floor of each pen and got them in their coops. I was told that I could leave my birds there each night as there would be security patrolling the grounds. I only saw security personnel maybe a total of two times the whole five days I was there. There was no way I was leaving my champion prized birds there anyway. All the "I am sorry, we were watching" doesnt bring back a bird from being injured or stolen. So each day I came and set up, and each night I packed up every stitch of everything, food cups, coop cards, everything. It was a lot of work, but I know people would have messed with stuff, so in the long run it was worth the small amount of aggravation as opposed to a large amount of aggravation.
After the first day and night I got home and was pretty tired. The second day I got up and did it all over again. This day was 'Kids Day'. It was nerve racking and very stressful. I had one sign that said "Please Dont Put Your Fingers In Cages". In light of that some genius boy about nine years old read the sign and proceeded to tell his friends, "You can't touch these on THIS side of the table, but you can on the OTHER side". Because of course I assumed people would see the sign and common sense would tell them not to put their fingers in ANY of the cages. My fault for assuming.
Throughout the day I had kids blowing on the birds, banging on the cages, yelling at the birds. I had some parents that would stop their kids short and tell them not to put their fingers in the cages, to stay back, and so on.
I was very glad for the day to be over and to pack up and go home. After the second day I was wondering what in the world was I thinking.
Third day of the fair. Senior Day. The best day I had, wonderful day. I am thinking it is because I am closer to this crowds age than children. I talked to some wonderful people that day. Lots of stories told to me, lots of really nice people. I really enjoyed most of the third day very much.
On the fourth day I had made more signs.
I made another "No fingers" sign for the OTHER side of the table, and I made two of these, AND I wrapped yellow CAUTION tape around the edges of the table.
You may be surprised, or maybe not, to know that an adult in his 60's thereabouts was one that threw a pizza crust into one of the cages. I also found peanuts in the shell in another cage. What makes people think it is okay to do this? My birds are show birds. They don't eat junk food. Their diet is made up of things that is healthy and good for them. Just because I put my birds on display for the public does not give them the right to do whatever they want with them.
So, even with all the signs, caution tape, and me sitting right there I still had people being weird. I had an elderly woman come up, she put her hand and arm right through a cage to touch a bird. WHY? I asked her to please not do that. She came over to talk to me and starting telling me a story about how she grew up around chickens.
There is a sign at the Georgia National Fair rabbit exhibit. If I ever do this again I will make a sign like theirs. I wish I had taken a picture of it. It roughly states this:
Please do not touch the rabbits
You have owned rabbits, have rabbits, know someone that owns rabbits, think that this sign doesnt mean you, if you have a dog, cat, or some other pet,
and it goes on and on, because that is what you have to do with the general public. Now, even though this sign is there, they have had to wrap each cage in fine mesh wire. It used to just be on the bottom half of the cages, you know, going halfway up the sides. Not anymore. Now it is all the way to the top. Because people just can't behave.
Onto the fifth day. I was so tired. I was beat down and had a new respect for anyone that does any kind of exhibit at a fair. I got there and set up. I was told today was going to be so busy. It turned out for some reason Friday was the hectic day. Saturday, either I was just so tired I didnt care anymore or it wasnt as busy. I was told I could pack up early that evening. I was told it was going to get weird. While I was packing up it did get weird. There are some strange people that come out after dark on Saturday night at the fair. People kept trying to talk to me as I packed up and I just kept on packing. If I had talked to anyone for long I would have never gotten out of there. There were packs of teenagers doing weird stuff in front of the cages and I wanted to get OUT OF THERE. So I did. I had two middle age ladies who appeared to be drunk running their keys back and forth across the cages to get the birds to look at them to take a pictures. Crazy.
Now, let us discuss the 'other' birds brought to the fair. This alone was stressful. He had brought some very bad looking polish and silkies. I am not talking about them just not being show quality. I am talking about they looked like they had been caught in a fan and chewed up. The first day I was way too busy to look at them closely, but the second day I looked closer and I figured they probably had mites on their body, but I had already took precautions for that by spraying my birds to keep them off. Then I saw it. Some of his birds had LEG MITES. Oh yes, in the chicken fancy this is dreaded. They are very contagious and very hard to get rid of once your bird has them. It is also very painful for the bird as the mites get under the scales of the legs and secrete waste, pushing the scales up and crusting up the legs down to the flesh. Very irritating and painful.
I freaked out. I went over to the TSC display and told him he had to remove those birds right away. I explained why and that I could in no way take a chance on my show birds getting such an ailment. He said they didnt bring a cage, but they would remove them the next day.
TWO days went by before they finally removed them. I told the head of the fair about it. We ended up pulling out more cages from his storage and putting them on the ground under the table so I could get the table clean with bleach water and let it dry. I told him I would fill the other three cages with fine birds the last two days of the fair. Over the days those birds were still on the table I sprayed all my birds legs with permethryn spray every day, freaking out the whole time. I even put a cardboard divider between my birds cage and the others. By the time they were removed the TSC guy wasnt speaking to me anymore. I don't care if he doesnt like it, he wouldnt have gotten through the door at a real show. At one point one of the polish hens began pecking away at the roosters butt, at the base of the feathers because it was so inviting and bare. Fairgoers were freaking out because there was blood on her face, blood on his butt. I kept telling people I was sorry but they were not my birds and I had already asked for them to be removed. Terrible, so I went and told the guy who owns them and he said he would phone his wife, but no one ever came, no one did anything.
On a good note. I was told by the president and the secretary of the fair that they had never seen so many people over in the barn, that is was truly a fantastic display and attraction, and wanted me to do it again next year. I want more money, thats all I can say. ;)
I take the good with the bad. If I had a dollar for everytime I heard
"I never seen a chicken like that!" or "What is that?" because they didnt realize it was a chicken, I would be rich. It is fun to people watch. I had one poor ignorant soul come around 'educating' his boys on them.
"THEMS FIGHTIN' CHICKENS RIGHT THAR BOYS" as he pointed to the buff laced polish.
I laughed and said, no sir, that breed is actually very docile and friendly.
He proceeded to tell me "Well, they ain't got them SPURS fer nuthin' !!"
and I said well sir, all roosters have spurs. The concept was lost on him. I shrugged and went on to talking to other folks.
I made signs, with the breed, a brief history of the breed, and the chickens name. People still came up and said, oh yes, here it comes, "What kind of chicken is that?"
I have had some time to destress and deflate and I laugh about it now. This is not a complete account of all my encounters. There were more bad ones. I yelled at some kids to STOP banging on the cages and keep their fingers out on the fourth day, parents standing right there. I had some good encounters with folks that wanted my email or phone number to buy birds from me this coming Spring. I even met a guy that his daughter shows, he lives in Arkansas. I sold him three great birds. We are friends now and that made it worth it. I had one wonderful lady that paints and she wants me to send her some pictures of my birds so she can paint them. I met some really nice people. Sometimes I had a great time, sometimes not so much.
Would I do this again? I really can't say right now. I can say I know I am not cut out to work for extended periods of time with the public. Hard as I may try, I don't hold up well. ;)