Chicken swaps draw together bird lovers
Prince George, a mild-mannered Cochin chicken, was surprised with a new girlfriend Sunday morning, courtesy of his owner, Nadine Drylie of Delmont.
Drylie was among dozens of poultry and waterfowl lovers at the Tractor Supply Co. store in Murrysville for a once-a-month “Chicken Swap” event that attracts farmers, wannabe farmers, animal lovers, parents with children and pet lovers to the store’s parking lot on the first Sunday of each month.
Count Drylie among the pet lovers.
“I got Prince George a year ago, and he’s basically a lap chicken. He’s just so gentle, nice and loves to be held,” Drylie gushed as she proudly cuddled her new, white, soft-feathered hen.
Drylie says her living space and zoning in Delmont doesn’t permit her to pen Prince George there, so she boards him at her friend’s small farmlike spread in a rural section of Murrysville. But there’s one problem.
“My friends, Barb and Don Venus, raise a different kind of chicken, and Prince George likes the hens. But they are so aggressive with him, they really push him around. I thought I’d get him a girlfriend who is his own size,” Drylie said.
Drylie said she and her teenage son, Connor, enjoy hanging out with their pet chicken.
“Now, they (the Venuses) will enjoy the fringe benefit of eggs, and Connor and I can enjoy our lap chickens. … I just love them,” Drylie said.
Pickups, cars, sport-utility vehicles and even a food truck serving barbecue sandwiches filled the store parking lot and driveway during the event.
In addition to many breeds of chickens, the swap features live ducks, ducklings, rabbits and even goats.
Domesticated animals such as cats and dogs are not permitted to be swapped or sold during the event, which is held from March until October, according to an announcement on Craigslist.
An employee said the store has hosted the event for about four years, and other U.S. stores do the same.
Dave Byrd, 52, of Shelocta was among the vendors, selling hens, roosters, peeps, ducklings and eggs from his five-acre spread in Indiana County.
“I’ve been coming to this for four years … the first Sunday of every month; then the third Sunday, I’ll be down at the Fayette County fairgrounds, near Uniontown, where they have something similar. And then the fourth Sunday I’ll be at the Tractor Supply in Natrona Heights, where they also have one,” said the aptly named Byrd.
Byrd has a job as a nurse at an Indiana County senior citizens’ home, but he loves the camaraderie and friendships forged at the swaps.
“You really meet a lot of nice people. People come and start setting up in the parking lot about 7 a.m., which is even before the store opens … and then it starts dwindling after lunch, but it’s really busy in the morning,” Byrd said.
Byrd noted that a lot of the vendors trade, and some come from as far as West Virginia.
“I will say it’s one big expensive hobby. But I really enjoy it,” he said.
Thomas Zielinski, 27, and Amanda Shaffer, 24, saw the event advertised on Craigslist and wanted to add to their small, backyard flock of five chickens: four roosters and one hen.
“Our hen, Big Red, is laying eggs, but only one a day or maybe every other day, and we wanted another (hen). This one is already laying,” Shaffer said as she carefully tucked away a black hen in a container in their pickup.
“I grew up on a farm, and I missed it. … We also have two goats,” Zielinski said.
Unlike Drylie, Shaffer and Zielinski had not decided on a name for their new black hen.
As for Drylie, she said Prince George’s new mate is “Princess Diana.”
No one was available for comment Sunday at the Tractor Supply headquarters in Brentwood, Tenn. However, the company website indicated that one of its stores in Milford, N.H., is believed to have hosted the first “livestock swap,” which spread to other regions.
Paul Peirce is a reporter for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or [email protected]