Chicken farming as a sideline

HARLINGEN — For Randy and Mary Luplow, their chicken farm in western New York state was something of a sideline business.

They both had what you might call “day jobs.” Randy was a jailer with the county sheriff’s office in Batavia, about midway between Buffalo and Rochester. Mary was a middle school cafeteria manager.

But the chicken farm had been in Randy’s family for decades. His father started it in the late 1950s.

After Randy’s father died, he and Mary took over the business. That was in the early 1980s.

They were raising 24,000 chickens at a time in a three-story, 40 by 100-foot, cinder block barn.

Their business was a starter farm, contracted out with egg producers.

“We had chickens from 1 day old to 18 weeks old, until they were ready to lay eggs,” Mary said.

“When they were ready to lay eggs, we’d hire at least 20 kids to carry those chickens out four in each hand.”

The chickens would be loaded in cages and then into a semi truck to be taken to the farm where they would lay eggs.

“That was a family business. That put the kids through college,” Randy said.

They ran the chicken farm for about 20 years, until some equipment began to fail. Then they decided to take the business outdoors and raise ostriches for meat.

Randy, 65, and Mary, 64, are retired now and live in the Valley nine months out of the year. This is their second year as managers of the Palm Gardens RV Park in Harlingen.

The chicken barn had been in the family for as long as the business. But it’s no longer standing.

“Two years ago, our granddaughter texted me and said the barn fell down last night,” Mary said.

“It collapsed in a snow storm. The building was getting old and it wasn’t used anymore and it just went.

“It was a blessing. It needed to come down.”

The collapse left “a huge mess” of cinder blocks and rough-cut oak framing and flooring.

They’ve given away some of the cinder blocks, but Randy is finding a new purpose for the wood. He makes the frames for photographs of the kids and grandkids.

He’s also making stools and tables.