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Something to crow about

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By Laura Clark

You got your New Zealand Whites. You got your Plymouth Barred Rocks.You’ve got your New Zealand Whites.

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You’ve got your Plymouth Barred Rocks.

And there’s plenty of ‘Ericanas,’ which is an Americana crossed with anything else, one farmer says.

The chicken swap is under way at Bob’s Hay Barn on 3rd Street in Shelbyville. Held the first Saturday of each month, the chicken swap brings together people looking to buy, sell or trade chickens…and some turkeys, quail and rabbits.

The New Zealand Whites are two puffy clouds of bunnies.

Steve Skelton of Frankfort brought the rabbits.

“I buy feed here, but this is my first time at the chicken swap,” Skelton said. “You’ll see just about anything at these things: dogs, goats, pigeons. I had laying hens.”

But by 10 a.m. he’s sold the hens and two roosters. He would like to sell the two rabbits or maybe trade for a California buck to crossbreed with his does at home. And no, these aren’t pets – cute as they are – these are meat rabbits.

In fact most of the chickens, especially the roosters, are bought with dinner in mind. A slow train temporarily drowns out the squawking roosters.

When it passes, a flurry of Spanish drifts from the back of one pick-up truck, where Kathy Mejia helps a man pay for two roosters, then stuff them in an old feed bag.

Mejia has been a friend and liaison for Shelbyville’s Hispanic community for years. With work being scarce right now, she joined with Sandi Coy, manager of Bob’s Hay Barn, to make this Saturday about more than swapping poultry.

Mejia collected food and clothing last week, which she spread about the back of a van in the parking lot. And here people can buy a rooster for about $6, and it tastes a heck of a lot better than the frozen ones at the grocery stores, Coy said.

“It’s called a community helping a community,” Coy said, watching the action in a flannel shirt and overalls. “This is our way of saying thank you to the farmers. They support us; we help support them. I enjoy it, and doggone it, I never leave without a chicken.”

The chicken swap began last year and has steadily grown, Coy said. This summer, they’d like to add a farmers’ market on Wednesdays to provide another fresh, local produce outlet in the community. There’s no cost to set up at the chicken swap, and Coy brings around her “expert chicken checking people” to make sure the birds have no obvious diseases.

Another popular seller is laying hens. Val Hoy of Shelbyville stands at the back of a van, talking with the family from Sunny Ridge Farm.

It was his first time here, Hoy said, and he was just checking out the chickens.

“I had several,” he said. “I lost a couple to dogs, one to a hawk and one to a car. I don’t want anymore roosters, I know that.”

Hoy looks over the chickens, talking about how to identify the sex of tiny chicks and weighing the merits of raising turkeys. Finally, he breaks down and buys the last hen.

“My rooster will be very appreciative,” Hoy says, as the hen goes into the feed sack.