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At the animal swap in Plant City, breeders and buyers meet

PLANT CITY

Once a month, in the early morning, they gather outside a feed store near the railroad tracks.

The vehicles line up. Truck tailgates go down and minivan hatches open. In an instant, cargo spaces transform into display shelves.

Then, they unveil the goods.

A rooster crows. Feathers flap. Turkeys gobble, and a rabbit sits quietly in its cage.

This is a small animal swap, where people sell, trade or bargain their way to a pet, farm animal or even a meal.

Donna Reeves started the gathering six months ago. A Plant City resident who raises chickens and other animals, Reeves grew tired of traveling out of the county to attend similar events. She wanted one close to home.

Her friend, Lisa Klatt, the owner of the Family Feed Store on Paul Buchman Highway, offered the lawn next to her business for the swap.

The second Saturday of each month the space rivals a petting zoo. Goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks. Once, they even had peacocks.

"Basically, anything that will fit in a truck bed," Klatt said.

The idea is to provide an opportunity for those raising animals to sell or trade them in a safe setting under their own rules, Reeves said. Each seller sets her own prices, and the swaps are free for sellers and buyers.

"A lot of us breed," Reeves said. "We try to breed the best traits we can get, and we sell the others."

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, Nick DiNisio had what he hoped was the buy of the season: turkeys.

"I raised them since they were a day old," he said of the 5-month-old Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys.

DiNisio, an accountant, lives on a small farm in Thonotosassa with his wife, 5-year-old daughter and a collection of mostly miniature animals.

"We have miniature goats, miniature sheep, miniature horses," DiNisio said. "Yeah, there's a theme."

He ordered the chicks through the mail and received them 24 hours after they hatched. He had hoped for a tom turkey that could strut around the farm but got eight hens instead.

He was asking $30 a hen, and if a buyer wanted one for their table, he didn't want to know.

"We don't slaughter or raise our animals for meat," he said.

But there is a plus side to turning his hand-raised birds into a meal, he said.

"We're better than Publix because we sell all the extra parts," DiNisio joked. "You get beaks, feet and feathers with our birds."

Mary Little, 60, of Plant City, doesn't want to think about people eating the Silkies, an ornamental breed of chicken, she raises. But if they do, they'll be in for a surprise.

"His skin is blue, bones are blue, his meat is even blue," she said as she held a buff-colored Silkie in her arms. "Can you imagine chicken noodle soup with blue meat?"

What she hopes people would want them for instead is companionship.

"They can't fly, they're good with kids, love baths," she said. "I have people who keep them as pets in apartments."

Little used to show the chickens she raised at fairs. Now she breeds them and sells them to children in 4-H.

"It's so much fun to see a child's face when they come running up to you when they win," she said.

She brings the ones with imperfections, such as feather discoloration or a missing toe, to the swaps. They sell for $5 each and giants, a larger breed, are $10.

Bernice Huff of Lakeland visited the swap recently looking for a bird that would sit on the porch with her.

She had never owned any poultry before and Little's description of their domesticity sold her. She bought a buff-colored one she planned to name Percy.

"I want one I can use as a pet, one that can sit on my lap and I can feed out of my hand," Huff said.

Roger Powell hoped for eggs.

"I've been wanting some laying chickens," said Powell, who lives in St. Petersburg.

Powell and his wife, Judy Powell, found out about the swap on Craigslist and decided to take a look.

After walking past all of the cages full of birds, Powell settled on one white speckled Java and three Marans chickens for $8 each from a Winter Haven farmer.

"I don't know much about them," Powell said.

He envisions many happy days with the hens at his house — as long as they lay eggs.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2442.

>> if you go

The animal swap

When: 9 a.m. Saturday

Where: The Family Feed Store, 669 Paul Buchman Highway, Plant City

For more information:
Call Donna Reeves at (813) 716-3222.

At the animal swap in Plant City, breeders and buyers meet 12/08/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 8, 2011 3:30am]

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