Land and estate auctions might be more common, but once a month the population of Yoder swells with consigners and bidders who flock to a row of trees off Switzer Road for a fowl auction.
Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks and common white hens cluck and squawk in cages next to exotic fan-tailed pigeons, Muscovy ducks, West England Tumblers and baby peacocks.
Year round, on the last Friday of every month, poultry producers begin arriving about 2 p.m. in old pickup trucks or tractors hauling trailers.
The fowl are carried in a variety of cages, from the standard fare to cardboard boxes with fencing on top, to a hen roosting in a plastic laundry basket.
On a recent Friday, several barefooted boys, heads topped with straw hats, juggled a large cage of flapping pigeons.
Long rows formed at this outdoor market as more consigners arrived before the start of the sale. Along with the fowl, there were several cages of rabbits and even a billy goat for sale. Some unloaded bales of straw; others stacked old chicken feeders, warming lights and incubators, and other poultry paraphernalia that would be sold during the auction.
Pam Seck of Haven unloaded her Muscovy ducks and then piled some excess garden produce next to the cage. Others stacked cartons of eggs to auction off. Several productive hens laid eggs while they waited for the auction to begin at 4 p.m.
At this most recent event, auctioneer David Keim and his wife, Elsie, had to check in 87 consignors. Plus, they had 160 people bidding.
For about 10 years, Keim and his family have been hosting the auction at Yoder.
“They were having a poultry auction at South Hutchinson, but a lot of the local parents didn’t want their kids going over there,” Keim said. As it turned out, there was enough interest locally to start an auction.
“For the first couple of years, we didn’t know if we should go on in the winter. We only had a couple of items and it was real cold,” Elsie Keim said. “But, every year it gets bigger. We try to keep it to just poultry and related items. But, some people bring miscellaneous stuff.”
Now, like clockwork on the last Friday of the month, whether it’s a triple-digit day in July or a freezing January afternoon, the auction is a go.
Elsie Keim was concerned when it was 105 degrees in June and July. But the weather didn’t deter the crowd.
“There is a lot of shade, and we just kept pouring water on the poultry,” said Elsie, who took extra care to ensure the birds were cooled off.
Several consigners at the recent auction said it was time to cull their flocks for winter.
“I brought three roosters I don’t want to feed this winter,” said Vera Bontrager, Yoder. “I like to sell in March and April and again in September.”
Bontrager hoped she would get between $4 and $6 for the roosters, a far cry from what she received several years ago after egg prices soared. At that time, she recalled, she had brought eight laying hens to the auction that sold for $26 each. But, that was a one time event.
Floyd Ritter, who lives on the edge of Maize, said this was the time of year people decide they don’t want to feed too many birds. He had brought four roosters to sell, having left one at home to breed about 15 hens.
“There is too much crowing in the morning,” announced Marcus Schrock, who was unloading a cage of roosters.
Once the auction began, the first birds to go were three Americana pullets selling for $5.25 each. Monty Davis, of Canton was the highest bidder and seemed pleased. But that was just the beginning. There were rows and rows of cages to bid on and a few stragglers still being checked in, and the auction would continue into the dark of the night.
David Keim would continue his rhythmic bid-calling, moving along the rows, his path lit by the headlights from nearby vehicles and several flashlights.