Baby Chicks on Board

How many chickens can you fit in an MAF airplane?

I usually ride in to the hangar with my husband, Dave. That means that when he has an early flight, unless I can find another ride, I go in early as well. I don’t particularly enjoy arriving a couple of hours early, but on this particular morning, we had an unusual flight booked and I was excited to see how it would go. When we arrived, there were already a couple of trucks waiting for us at our hanger. They were loaded with chickens. Lots of chickens. Chicks to be exact. There were boxes and boxes, each containing 100 chicks. All of the seats had been removed from our Caravan and Dave had done the calculations to determine how many boxes could fit based on space and weight limitations.

Dave Holmes and one of the fine-feathered passengers. Photo by Jill Holmes.

Before long, the boxes were unloaded from the truck and I was helping weigh them as Dave and the other pilots were busy loading them on the airplane. The sound of thousands of “cheeps” echoed in the hangar. After some quick math and careful positioning, we managed to fit 18,400 baby chicks onto the Caravan. The boxes reached the ceiling, and the pods down below were loaded as well. We were concerned about how well the chickens would do if it got cold when the plane got up to altitude, but apparently 18,400 chicks put off a lot of heat. When Dave got in the plane, the windshield had actually fogged up from their body heat. It was not only warm but noisy as well. Even with a noise-cancelling headset, he heard chirping the entire flight.

The 1-hour flight saved these fragile birds from 2 to 3 days on rough, bumpy roads–and certain death. Photo by Jill Holmes.

When he returned from the flight with the plane empty, my next task was the sniff test. Having been in the plane so long, he could no longer tell if the chickens had left an unpleasant odor. Fortunately, after they removed the plastic liner and vacuumed it out, our next passengers would never detect a hint of our feathered passengers. So the question is, why would chickens cross a road when they can get a lift on an MAF airplane?

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