Hundreds of farmers, smallholders and families were herded into Norwich Livestock Market as its “fur and feather” poultry and animal sale returned for the first time in 20 years.

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More than 100 cages were booked for the auction at the market, off Hall Road, with entries taken from across Norfolk and Suffolk including bantams, quails, ducks, gees, rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets – even a pony was brought for sale.

Organisers said they were amazed at the huge turn-out for the revived event, which they hope will now become a regular monthly fixture in the calendar.

The fur and feather sale had stopped operating by the time the market was closed during the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic and, until yesterday, had not been reinstated when the market re-opened for fortnightly cattle and sheep auctions in 2001.

Stephen Lutkin, chairman of Norwich Livestock Market, said: “We had so many entries that we had to stop taking them on Monday morning. But even with all those entries we didn’t know what it was going to be like – and we’ve had many more people than we imagined.

“There are a lot of local smallholders here but a lot of people keep chickens in their gardens these days, so it looks like it has become very popular.

“I think local food is prominent in people’s minds at the moment, particularly because of the horse meat scandal. People want to know where their food comes from and if you have got a chicken laying eggs in your back garden you can be sure that it is fresh and it is local.

“It is just nice to see so many people here, to show that a market is still needed in Norwich.”

Chicken breeds entered for the sale included Blue and Buff Orpingtons, Faverolles, Minorcas, Pekins and Silver Wynadottes.

Auctioneer David Ball said, including equipment and hatching eggs, more than 300 lots would have been sold by the end of the day.

He said: “It is unbelievable. I had hoped, from the amount of phone calls we had been getting, that it would be like this.”

The next fur and feather sale at Norwich Livestock Market will be on March 23.

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