12. The Chicken Tragedy

12.  The Chicken Tragedy 

In 1943 Daddy answered an ad to make money raising chickens for food for the army.  The company supplied baby chicks and brooder huts.  We were to feed and raise the chickens three months to edible size, and then the company would buy them back.  It was win-win, help the war effort, and make some money.

The truck arrived with three men to build the huts.  One of the men had one arm, and I was fascinated to watch him stick a nail in the Celotex, a fiber board, then whip up his hammer to drive it through with one blow.  The huts were small, and seemed to be placed haphazardly wherever the material came off the truck.  There were half a dozen huts back of the chicken coop and shop, and several randomly placed south of the driveway by the maple tree.  A small kerosene stove provided heat in each hut.

The chicks arrived, and we were in business.  I think there were 1000 chicks, 100 in each hut.  Daddy carried chick feed around, and my job was to keep water in the tray in each hut.

March, 1943, a late winter storm swept across Lake Michigan with strong winds blowing snow, and freezing temperatures.  A freak 100 year storm they said.  Daddy braved the blizzard several times during the night to check, but the wind blew the heaters out, and the cheap fiber board was not meant to keep out freezing temperatures.

Next morning, I will never forget the drained and forlorn look on Daddy’s face as he carried bushel baskets of dead chicks to dispose of them.  It was a total loss. The huts set empty for several years until Daddy dismantled them. 

Daddy grew up on a farm, and understood the vicious nature of the weather. But like the strong man written about in the Bible, 2 Corinthians, 4:9, “…cast down, but not destroyed,” he grieved in silence awhile, then moved on with his life.

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