Big On Bantams

August 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Related Interests

Two men crowing unabashedly about their pets

Although their backgrounds are vastly different, Payung Khipsanguan and Aree Rodsiri share a common interest, and both of them have now undertaken the role of beauty trainer and groomer. Every day, the two 51-year-old men train a group of feathered adolescents that regularly compete in the many annual beauty pageants held almost everywhere at different times of the year. Their efforts and labour of love pay off handsomely as many of their “trained beauty queens” tend to sweep the awards at beauty contest after beauty contest. However, if they fail to beat their competitors, the lovelies do not upset their owners in the least. “My bantams are my pride and joy, and I really and truly love them,” declared Mr Payung. “After I had been keeping bantams for a long while, some of my friends encouraged me to enter my pets in beauty contests, and now I really enjoy doing that because I can see other beautiful bantams and, at the same time, get to know fellow bantam devotees,” added Mr Aree. While Uncle Payung is fascinated by Thai bantams, Uncle Aree has an eye for the foreign breed widely known as kai jae sakol. Both connoisseurs have their own reasons when it comes to their choice of ideal feathered friends. “Thai bantams come in a wide range of colours; there are about 12 shades and tones. Besides, their body is proportionate. On top of that, they look like adorable dolls. When they strut about, they look so cute,” said Mr Payung. “I like the colours black, white and gold, and I can find these three colours in foreign strains.

One species has a white body with a distinct black tail while another has sparkling gold feathers,” added Mr Aree. Though they are captivated by different breeds, they take equally good care of their favourites in their own ways. Before going to work, Mr Payung drops in on his bantams and spends an hour with all of them, feeding them and giving them clean water, so as to be sure that they have everything they need while he is away. “My life will be empty if I don’t take care of them regularly. Now I have about 20 bantams under my care and I have to do everything for them alone. I’m more than happy taking on this responsibility,” said Mr Payung. In return for his attentive care, his bantams serve as perfectly on-time natural alarm clocks that wake their master up early in the morning. “To me, an alarm clock is useless as I can confidently depend on these creatures. They are more reliable and tell the time more precisely. I wake up happy every morning thanks to their cheerful crows,” said Mr Payung. When dawn breaks at Mr Aree’s house, all lives, whether human or animals, begin their routines energetically and enthusiastically. All the 30 males, 30 females and 10 baby bantams have to take turns being trained to walk in a majestic posture. The walking practice lasts about two hours. In the late morning, Mr Aree carries out his grooming procedures to keep all of his pets healthy and gleaming. “I have to bathe my bantams from time to time, dry their feathers, and leave them in the open air for a while. Otherwise, they might develop pneumonia.

“After the wet session, I check their eyes to determine whether they are infected with parasites. If they are, I just give them some eye drops. In addition, I trim their nails and spurs so that they can walk more comfortably,” he explained. When it comes to their animals’ diets, both Mr Payung and Mr Aree choose only the most nutritious food. Apart from commercial food, Mr Payung feeds his chicken on unhusked rice grain, grass and millet. On any special day, he will hunt for a special treat like the leaves of the acacia tree for them. “I also allow my bantams to walk on the grass to feed on pebbles and sand, which are necessary to their digestive system,” said Mr Payung. As for Mr Aree, he resorts to polished red rice and bird food as supplementary diets for his bantams. Occasionally, he gives them a kind of feather-nourishment vitamin to keep their plumage smooth and glossy. When night falls, all the bantams at the two houses go to bed in their respective private cosy condo that is wrapped with fine mesh to keep away mosquitoes and other insects that can disturb them and prevent them from having a restful night. “I have built two-storeyed condos for my bantams. They’re secured with bars and covered with high-quality nets. During the cold season, I keep them warm with several light bulbs,” said Mr Aree. “I too have two-storeyed condos for my chickens. Each floor has three compartments. And when I have to take them out to any competition, I put them in a special cage made from high-quality teak that can accommodate two bantams at a time. It costs about 2,000 baht, and I’m more than ready and willing to pay that amount to facilitate my bantams,” said Mr Payung. When the bird flu hit all parts of the country a few years ago, both Mr Payung and Mr Aree, as well as their bantams, had to bear the burden of the plight. Mr Payung started raising bantams in 2000, but he had to stop breeding them for three years due to the bird flu outbreak. “I was afraid that my bantams would be infected with the bird flu, so I refrained from reproducing them. I feared I might not be able to take care of them closely and attentively. All that I wanted to do then was to ensure that my existing bantams stayed alive,” he explained. Mr Aree had to relocate all of his bantams simultaneously to his sister’s house in an effort to keep them safe from the epidemic. “I visited them regularly. And when they saw me, they recognised me. They would coo happily. When the bird-flu scare ended, I immediately took them back home,” said Mr Aree. At the end of every day, both Mr Payung and Mr Aree are overwhelmed by the great joy and memorable experiences that have come their way through their pets, and those feelings grow ever more intensely as they engross themselves in their bantam activities. “To me, the bantam is a genuinely beautiful animal. I can touch and play with it at will. Bantams are tamer than birds. If we play with a bird, it usually flees and flies away. But that doesn’t happen with a bantam. I always play with my bantams while feeding them,” said Mr Payung. To Mr Aree, walking with a group of bantams is a favourite activity he doesn’t want to miss out on. “I feel so happy when I am taking them for a walk, and I can look at them non-stop. Feelings of contentment fill my heart when I hear them crow in chorus. Their voices add music and bliss to my day,” said the bantam lover.

Writer: Chompoo Trakullertsathien
Published: 16/08/2009 at 12:00 AM
Bangkok Post Newspaper section: Brunch

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