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East County Wednesday, Jun. 15, 2016 6 years ago

Chickens on Rye

Love of chickens helps local couple discover another way to scratch out a living.
by: Jessica Salmond Staff Writer

Midway through their Online Chicken School podcast, Don Gangnagel asked his wife, Suzy, to take a break from the all-important topic of “coping with scissor beak,” to share some chicken humor.

She quickly obliged, recounting one of their many experiences since they began raising chickens three years ago at their Rye Road home.

Suzy Gangnagel launched into a description of how she had picked up their barred rock rooster, who is, of course, named Dwayne The Rock, and was walking around their yard when she remembered she had something cooking in her oven.

With Dwayne The Rock tucked under her arm, she hurried into the house, opened the oven and peered inside.

"The Rock" doles out treats to his girls.
"The Rock" doles out treats to his girls.

“You should have seen the look on his face when I opened the oven,” Gangnagel told her podcast listeners about the rooster. “I had a conversation with him and said, ‘Let this be a lesson to you.’ I think he got it, too. He has been the sweetest rooster since then.”

Obviously, Don and Suzy aren’t typical poultry farmers.

Together 14 years, their passion for chickens didn’t start until three years ago when they moved from their Tara apartment to the country. Suzy had a five-year plan for accumulating chickens, goats and dogs, but Don’s plan spanned only three months.

The Gangnagels can get five to six eggs per hen per week.
The Gangnagels can get five to six eggs per hen per week.

Don’s plan won.

Three months after moving to their Rye Road property, they had three Golden Laced Wyandottes in the car.

Their next stop was Tractor Supply Co., and they ran down the aisles to pick up supplies. Don remembers calling out to the employees, “Don’t close yet!”

It wasn’t long before they added three Splash Wyandottes and four Barred Plymouth Rocks. Their farm had 10 chickens.

Since then, their passion has grown not only to raise their own chickens, but to share information. They like to share the mistakes they’ve made in their flight to raise flightless birds.

“There is a big demand for chickens,” Suzy said. “But people don’t know what they are doing, and how to care for them.”

The Gangnagels shared their knowledge on a local basis, but eventually decided they could reach more people through their Online Chicken School podcast.

Their aim? To educate first-time chicken owners.

“You have to get your hands on a chicken,” said Don, who is a graphic designer for Salt and Light Productions during the day.

He checked out other classes about raising chickens, and he discovered the same thing. “No chicken within a mile,” he said,

Although the couple thought they were just joking with each other about starting a chicken class, it started to make sense. About a year into their chicken experiment, they began to hold seminars at their home, keeping the class size to 10 to keep it manageable.

Then, they started getting calls from people who wanted to take the class who lived out of the area. Not wanting to increase the class size, they chose an alternative way to reach the flocks around the country, the podcast.

Suzy said they kept it strictly how-to at first, but as people started reaching out with more questions and personal stories, even sending pictures to the Gangnagels of their first chicks, they loosened up and started having more fun. They became somewhat of a comedy team, adding thousands of followers from

all over the world. Don calls their sense of humor, “dorky.”

“People responded to that,” said Suzy, who works for a roofing company in Englewood. “They like the stories.”

And they’ve got stories. The couple’s favorite thing about raising chickens is seeing the personalities of their broods interacting together.

“Six chickens running around the yard is more entertaining than TV,” Don said. “It’s fun to see them interacting with the world around them.”

Although comedy has become a staple of their sessions, the information flows as well. They told their podcast audience, for example, that Delaware hens do a great job weeding the garden because they are workaholics, and they fertilize it as well.

People now come to them for information on all kinds of poultry ventures. 

“They want to make sure (the chickens) have a good life,” Suzy said.

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