Many Middle Tennesseeans, including numerous Murfreesboro residents with backyard chickens, have purchased birds and eggs from Poultry Hollow Hatchery, a family farm located in Smith County, about 40 miles northeast of Murfreesboro.
Poultry Hollow housed and sold many different varieties of chickens, as well as ducks, guineas, turkeys and geese, eggs and frozen chickens and turkeys.
However, in the early morning hours of Dec. 8, Poultry Hollow owner Judy Wood awoke to a nightmare. Looking out of her window before dawn that cool morning, Wood saw her barn, home to an estimated 2,000 animals, burning down.
“It was totally engulfed in flames, the whole hollow was lit up like daylight,” she said. “My heart just sunk.”
She called 911, called her son and business partner Todd Rutigliano, who lives near her house next to the hatchery, and then ran to the barn to try and save some of her birds.
Todd arrived shortly thereafter, cutting some wires allowing them to access the barn, where they were able to save some of the layers.
“We have about a hundred chickens left,” Wood said a week after the fire. “All my quail, all my doves, all my guineas that were small and were still in the coop, all my pigeons—they’re all gone.”
Wood said that she truly is grateful that the disaster did not hurt or kill any people, and that preventing even a small percentage of the birds from being burned to death meant a lot to her.
“It’s better than nothing . . . It would have been even harder if it were everything,” she said.
Wood also said that she has received “a ton of notes” from customers and friends, and that outpouring of support has helped keep her going, but that she has experienced an overwhelming sadness after losing the birds.
“I’m taking it a day at a time,” she said.
Wood continued saying Poultry Hollow will only receive about $15,000 from insurance for the lost barn, other surrounding buildings and all of the damaged equipment, not enough to even come close to replacing it, and only $1,000 for the 2,000 lost birds.
As far as rebuilding, “A lot will involve what my grandsons want,” Wood said. Two of her grandsons, now in their early 20s, work with her at Poultry Hollow. At 73, Wood said she does not have the energy or ability to lead the rebuilding effort; she would love to see her family take on the task of rebuilding the barn, restocking and keeping the hatchery going into a new chapter, but also understands that her grandsons may decide to move onto to other professional endeavors.
“That’s what we’ll have to sit down and talk about,” Wood told the Murfreesboro Pulse. “It’s going to be a long process. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Inspectors determined that the blaze began from a heat lamp in a brooder containing gold sexlink chicks, and a small crack in the brooder box allowed enough oxygen in to quickly feed the small fire.
“I don’t know if I can pick myself up and wipe myself off this time,” Wood said. “I want to. But if I can’t, I’m going to be devastated.”
For more information on Poultry Hollow Hatchery, visit poultryhollow.org; supporters can also find a fundraising campaign for Judy and Poultry Hollow on gofundme.com.