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Richfield sales rep becoming an ‘eggs’-pert at handling chickens; local residents also raising hens

Posted: February 28, 2017

by Chris Collins

 

Several Richfield residents raise chickens in their backyards as a hobby and for eggs they say are much fresher and tastier than those bought at a supermarket.

 

It’s one thing for a family to take the time to feed and care for a few chickens. It’s another for a corporation to set up a small chicken operation and assign an employee – let’s say a sales representative for Group Management Services in Richfield – to supervise the chicken department. 

 

 But that’s exactly what Mike Kahoe did. Kahoe, head of Group Management Services, decided that purchasing chickens and allowing his employees to take home the eggs made for good employee relations. That led to sales rep Eric Drumheller becoming caretaker of 10 Hubbard Isa Brown chickens.

 

 “They live about four years and lay eggs for about two-and-a-half years,” Drumheller said. “Each chicken lays four or five eggs a week. So after I’m done with meetings, maybe around 10 in the morning, I grab the feed, and here they come. I make sure they have water, pull out the eggs and put them in cartons. We also have a garden that a company takes care of, which produces vegetables that employees can take home.” 

 

According to Drumheller, supermarkets can’t come close to giving customers truly fresh eggs. “Eggs in stores are usually two to three weeks old by the time they get to the shelves,” he said.

 

The Richfield office of GMS is one of nine around the country, so it’s possible that employees in Atlanta, Houston, McLean, Va., Cherry Hill, N.J., Charlotte, N.C., Las Vegas, Columbus and Cincinnati at some point will be taking home eggs in their briefcases. 

 

“We have 150 employees at this office,” Drumheller said. 

 

GMS has outgrown its building on Columbia Road and is seeking new quarters. “I think we might get more chickens when we move,” Drumheller said.

 

After more than six months tending to chickens, Drumheller has become their friend. “Absolutely, they know me,” he said. “They let me squat down and pet them. They come running when they see me. It’s crazy.”

 

The urban chicken-farming movement started about 10 years ago in Portland, Ore., and Seattle but has spread across the country. Raising farm animals is illegal in many cities, but keeping chickens is legal in Richfield, according to Rich Jandrey, who keeps a flock of about 40 chickens and 20 ducks in his backyard. About 20 of the hens are “layers” that produce eggs; the others are “fancies,” special breeds like Rhode Island Reds, Silver Laced Wyandottes and bantam chickens that are about one-quarter the size of standard hens.

 

Jandrey takes his fancies to competitions at county fairs and poultry shows and uses them as breeding stock for mostly 4-H kids to raise. He started raising and showing chickens as a teenager in 4-H and earned a degree in poultry science from Ohio State University’s College of Agriculture. 

 

“I let ‘em run the yard,” said Jandrey, adding that they eat insects and scare away chipmunks. During winter, the flock stays in cages in a small barn. The birds’ body heat is enough to keep them warm. 

 

Jandrey buys young hens called pullets for less than $10 each from trusted sources, and they begin laying eggs at about 18 weeks. They usually lay eggs for about 1 1/2 years, and then rest or molt for a few months before resuming egg production.

 

Jandrey, a carpenter who operates Above Board Construction, treats his customers to fresh eggs. His wife also sells eggs to family and friends.

 

Ruth Jocek, parks and recreation director for the village of Richfield, has four chickens and has owned as many as eight. “The eggs are fantastic,’’ she said. “Nobody realizes how old the eggs are on the shelf at the grocery store.”

 

Jocek and her husband, Bill, converted a play set in the yard into a 6-by-10-foot chicken coop. She rakes the crushed limestone floor of the coop every few weeks, because the chickens scratch away at it, leaving gaps at the bottom of the fence that could be breached by a predator.

 

Jocek also has a cat and dog that are about the same size as the hens. “They all seem to get along in the backyard,” she said. “We did acquire two new hens around last Easter, but they aren’t getting along with the other girls [two hens she already had].” 

 

Rebecca Gilmore of Richfield Township, a senior buyer, has 15 hens and a rooster (Humphrey Bogart) named after movie stars. She keeps the chickens in a 12-by-12-foot coop originally built in the 1960s and since renovated. About half of her hens are heritage brand breeds and the others are fancies.

 

“I’m a farm girl at heart,” she said. “I’ve always been in love with chickens.” Her chickens lay eggs of different colors, and the coop has three separate pens and a sand floor with pine tree branches and ladder segments for the hens to roost.

 

She adds scented flower petals to the nesting boxes to keep the odor down, and when temperatures drop into the 20s, Gilmore uses ceramic lights like those in reptile displays at zoos for warmth.

 

By the time they are about three years old, the layers no longer produce eggs, and Jandrey sells them at an auction. They are not good to eat because the meat is tough.  

 

When Jocek started raising hens an expert told her to avoid getting attached to them: “Don’t name them,” she said. “They are not pets.” Gilmore is attached to her birds, and after their egg-laying years have passed, she keeps them until they die of natural causes.

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