All of disputed farm’s chickens fly the coop

Operation once had 15,000 laying hens, all of which are gone per court order

The propriety of operating a crowded, confined chicken egg-laying operation in a rural-residential area has divided many folks in Delta County, since a 15,000-hen farm began operating near Hotchkiss in 2012.

But by early Monday morning, all of the chickens at the Powell Mesa farm operated by the family of Edwin Hostetler were gone — transported off the property in accordance with a cease and desist order issued by Delta County earlier this year.

Delta County officials — who were compelled to issue the order at the behest of District Judge Steven Patrick, after he decided health concerns from residents had not been adequately looked into — had vigorously defended their approvals of the Powell Mesa farm and another planned for nearby Redlands Mesa.

County commissioners, along with a large percentage of Delta County citizens who vocally supported the confined egg-laying farms, have consistently held that a broad right-to-farm statute applies to the proposed farms.

But Judge Patrick held in a key ruling in September that Delta County officials did not even get in touch with a number of county citizens who filed official health-related complaints in conjunction with the farms.

After a recent hearing following an appellate denial, Judge Patrick concluded again that “the record lacked any (support) contrary to the evidence in the record suggesting … the pulmonary health concerns identified by downwind neighbors from the development had increased significantly once it was operational.”

That meant the cease and desist order issued by the county was in effect — after a number of legal stays had been exhausted — with a Monday deadline looming for the chickens to be gone from the property.

“(Monday) afternoon, Ken Nordstrom, our environmental health director, went up to inspect. He was accompanied by representatives of the Hostetlers, and a sole representative for the plaintiffs, and confirmed that indeed all of the chickens were gone,” said Christine Knight, Delta County attorney.

In an affidavit hoping to stay Judge Patrick’s shut-down decision pending appeal, Edwin Hostetler said he and his family face “substantial and irreparable harm” in having to remove or kill the 15,000 chickens at the Powell Mesa farm.

He estimated the cost to haul them away at more than $14,000, a loss of production per day at $1,130, and a cost per day of replacement eggs to fulfill his contracts at $787.

Hostetler further cited related outstanding liabilities on Sept. 19, 2013, of more than $64,000 still owed on the chickens, more than $566,000 owed on the building and equipment, nearly $15,000 owed for corn, and almost $134,000 owed on a line of credit.


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