Born a chicken farmer#039;s daughter

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Last weekend I did something I haven't done in a long time: I visited a chicken house.

When I walked into the door of Tom Duncan's poultry domicile, it took me back quite a few years. The heady scent of shavings, feathers, dust and a touch of ammonia hit my nose and brought back memories.

I grew up as a chicken farmer's daughter. Once my dad realized crop farming wasn't going to pay all the bills to raise his family, my parents had three chicken houses built.

I was old enough to remember watching the construction of the house known ever after as &#8220Number Three.”

Those three houses were across the road from the barn and to the right of our farmhouse.

On warm days, when the wind blew just right, and the chickens had grown enough to emit plenty of droppings, we got some mighty malodorous scents wafting right over to us.

Trust me, there's a reason the poultry industry folks suggest you build the chicken houses a fair distance from your own house.

On days the little white chicken buses arrived and I was out of school, I would help dump the biddies out of their cardboard cartons and, inevitably, pick up a few of the fuzzy yellow chicks to cuddle.

So cute when they are little, chickens go through a really awkward adolescence and no one can accuse them of being smart.

However, they are mighty tasty, and I ate plenty of chicken growing up. We ate it fried, baked, barbecued; we had chicken and dumplings, chicken salad and a few other ways I have probably forgotten, but no doubt enjoyed.

A certain number of chickens were allowed to my folks out of each &#8220bunch” they raised. The most we ever had at one time was 37,500, a number which seemed a gracious plenty to me.

These days, poultry farmer Tom Crenshaw has almost 200,000 broilers in his eight houses – a number that makes this gal's jaw drop.

All that square footage means there's a whole lot of house to clean out after each flock leaves the premises.

It's a lot of work, but it's part of what keeps our local poultry healthy in comparison with some of the Asian birds now fighting the avian flu.

With the enclosed houses here, limitations of contact with humans and other animals, proper nutrition and medication, Tom Duncan tells me it's very unlikely we would ever see the avian flu strike our poultry growers.

I'm glad to hear that, as I have a tender spot in my heart for all our poultry farmers. I also know their productivity adds tremendously to our county's and state's agricultural income.

You don't get rich raising chickens, but it is a way to make a decent living and enjoy living in the country.

As poultry farmers, my parents managed to raise three daughters and send them to college with the help of some scholarships, not to mention hay and cattle sales along the way.

The poultry industry will be one of the areas highlighted in our upcoming industry section in Horizons. Be sure and check it out!

Angie Long is Lifestyles reporter for The Greenville Advocate. She can be reached at 382-3111 ext. 132 or via email at