How We Ended Up Here (Pennsylvania, That Is)

An interesting thing happened on Monday. I sat down to write a blog like a responsible missionary type person then realized I forgot to fill up my coffee. I went to the coffee maker and found some paper towels to use a coffee filter because I couldn’t find the real filters. Then my phone dinged and I looked down at it. I wandered around a little doing some insignificant things. I sat back down at my computer and found out it was Saturday! A whole week just vaporized! I’ve heard of this phenomenon happening to old people but it can’t happen to me because I’m only 24, wait, no, 26 years old. Uh, actually I’m 28… Whatever.

We’re currently living in my aunt & uncle’s basement (Anna and Harvey Weaver). Their little country farm is located near Fivepointville, PA. They graciously allowed us to rent their basement apartment until the end of March so we could help my brother-in-law, Art Detweiler, with his hatchery during spring rush. Art is selling a whole bunch of chicks (like 40,000 chicks a week) to Tractor Supply stores for their “Chick Days.” This means he needs seasonal help and gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse so we packed the van and headed to Pennsylvania. We started planning this several months ago and the timing must’ve been a God thing because Art’s pregnant wife, Lisa, went into labor nine weeks early and is on bed rest in an effort to keep the little girl in the incubator a little longer (so to speak). This means Janice is available to help with the herd of children that are present in and around the household while I attempt to help in the hatchery. While not a knowledgable chicken farmer, I do know a little bit about them. They typically have two wings, a beak (usually just one), and lay eggs every so often. They also taste good if prepared properly. As it turns out, there’s more involved in hatching chicks than just grabbing some eggs and keeping them warm (although that’s basically the gist of it).

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Fertilized eggs gathered from the Rhode Island Red breeder flock. These get set into egg trays and chilled until they are ready to be put into the incubator.

Basically running a hatchery is performing mundane, dirty tasks on a recurring weekly basis. You try the best to smooth the process out and keep surprises from happening. It’s all new to me so it’s still interesting but I’m not sure I could do it long term.

You can tell I’m working hard by how dirty I am. Lazy people don’t get dirty.

However, it is pretty satisfying tending to the breeder flock, collecting the fertilized eggs, hatching them, and then boxing up the chicks and sending them all over the United States to little chicken farmers (and big ones) everywhere. It’s fun and amazing to see the science behind God’s creation. I’ve been washing trays, making boxes, stacking trays, sorting chicks, boxing chicks, and a lot of other work that requires a robotic work ethic. This week we made 300 large chick boxes with two dividers inserted in each one. Next week we’ll have to do about 600. I figured at my amateur box making rate of 50 per hour, it’ll take me 12 hours to fold enough boxes. I am getting better and better at it (that’s what happens when you do the same repeatedly for weeks). Luckily I have my wife to share the workload with. I offered to let her fold all 600 boxes herself if she wanted to get the full immersion of box making culture but she was gracious enough to insist we share the experience equally, or possibly even let experience it all on my own.


The biggest hinderance to getting into hatchery work is the smell of rotten eggs. Rotten eggs stink but what I didn’t realize is that they also build up lots of internal pressure, kind of like the unexploded ordinances they find in England or Vietnam that just sit there waiting for someone to poke them so can they can explode. Me and Durrell (one of the many people telling me what to do) were transferring eggs from the trays in the incubator to the trays in the hatcher. The trays in the incubator look like egg cartons and cradle the eggs while incubating. The eggs have to be switched to flat trays with higher side walls before the chicks hatch.


Otherwise the chicks would pop out of their eggs and instantly wreak havoc all over the inside of the incubator. Sometimes a chick will start developing while in the incubator but will die inside the egg. Then, when you take the eggs from the incubator and dump them into the trays to put into the hatcher, the rotten eggs will stay stuck in the egg trays. This is because the rotten egg usually has ooze coming from it that glues it to the tray. Experienced hatchery workers instantly recognize the rotten eggs and shrink back to the edges of the room. Then they get the new guy (me) to take the tray with the rotten egg outside to dispose of it. The hapless employee tries to get the egg unstuck from the tray by turning the tray upside down and poking the bottom of the egg. It instantly explodes in a yellow mist of the most foul smelling substance ever to come out of the rear of an animal. It smells like you left a slab of raw chicken meat sit in the trunk of your car for a week, put it in your pocket, then got into a fight with a skunk inside a public porta-potty. It’s gag inducing and the half the hatchery knows when someone was a little too careless with natures little hand grenades. That careless person is then ridiculed and shunned while they attempt to wash off the rotten chicken embryo with hand soap from the sink. This is all done in love, of course, as an attempt to persuade the careless person to be more careful in the future, not that they actually need to be told.

The best part about working in PA is that Adilene gets to hang out with her cousins, Jed, Clark, JJ, & Aleyah. It’s interesting seeing a different side comes out of her as she tries to keep up with all the other kids who are running circles around her. Adi will be walking any day now!

Photo Credit: Janice

I’m writing this blog on our way to see our friends Harvey and Lydiann in Delaware. They moved from Michigan to Delaware because Lydiann’s family lives there. I think so far we put on over 2,400 miles on the old Dodge Caravan in the last two weeks. And for those of you with children, you know how much fun it is driving around with kids in car seats. Oh well, I have a feeling there’s more moving and traveling and reunions and friendships and heartaches in our future of mission work. Like I told Janice, “Might as well get used to being on the move and missing people.”

So that’s why if you’re in Indiana or Michigan you’re not going to see much of us until the end of March. Thanks for praying for us and staying up to date with our family. We really appreciate everyone who has poured so much into our lives.



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