Don’t mess with the chickens in Schnecksville, Pa. They’re some pretty tough birds, as an organic pasture farmer recently found out.
Rob Fix, who runs the Ledamete Grass Farm (that’s right, “let ’em eat” grass), says of his 612 chickens he had only one casualty from the storm.
Fix told NewsWorks on Monday that he was worried about the animals’ safety. They were to spend their first night in an outdoor shelter just as Sandy was gearing up to make landfall.
Fix raises his chickens outdoors on organic pasture from the age of three weeks. “My role as a farmer is to provide the animals with as natural an existence as I can,” he said
They’re just standard broilers, meant to be grown inside in a climate-controlled environment. “These chickens are not meant to see anything like that,” he said.
His two coops, constructed from 10′ x 30′ green house frames and tarped with recycled vinyl billboards, are sitting out on top of a hill on his land, a prime target for high winds.
Fix says he spent two days putting the shelters together, staking them down, tying straps across the tarps. But there was no telling what would happen in Monday night’s storm.
“I checked in on them every couple of hours,” Fix said. “I was amazed at how calm they were.”
At 2 a.m. Tuesday, he made his last check. The wind was whipping so loudly around those coops, he said he wished he had earplugs. But the coops stayed put. When he went out on Tuesday morning, only one of the birds was dead.
As of Thursday, farm life was gradually returning to normal. The cows were back out to pasture. The pigs were doing fine in their shelters. Fix suspects some of the birds may yet come down with stress-related illness, but he says it all could have turned out much worse.
The Fixes are still without power, but a back-up generator is keeping the operation alive, and phone service was restored Wednesday night.