Richmond farm owners say flooding caught them by surprise

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RICHMOND, Vt. (WCAX) More than 2,000 chickens and turkeys are dead after drowning at a Vermont farm in last week's storm. The owners at Maple Wind farm say they woke up on Friday morning to find their birds in four-feet of water.

"We're very passionate about keeping our animals as stress-free as possible. Obviously, I failed in that respect," said Bruce Hennessey, who owns Maple Wind Farm along with his wife, Beth Whiting. "I was heartbroken about the way those birds passed."

The couple say they checked the forecast the night before and knew the storm was coming. "But this amount of rain and flooding was unexpected -- came out of nowhere," Whiting said.

Their farm along the Winooski River is prone to flooding. Before the storm arrived, they considered the difficult process of moving the birds to higher ground. But given the forecast, they decided it wouldn't be necessary. Now, they realize it was.

"I guess we shouldn't second guess that the banks of the river are going to hold that much water and consider moving the chickens prior," Whiting said.

And in a now-deleted Facebook post, hundreds of people criticized the way the animals were handled.

"The comments were basically uneducated and not confounded in any real understanding in what it is to be a farmer," Whiting said.

Many people questioned if the owners did enough to protect them. Hennessey believes they did. "We did everything that we could with the information we had. In the end, that wasn't enough, but certainly our thoughts and intentions were aligned with our mission to keep our animals and humans as healthy as possible," Hennessey said.

Hennessy and Whiting say they have filed a claim with their insurance company. They hope to get at least a portion of the estimated $60,000 they lost. They're also hopeful they will still be able to deliver Thanksgiving turkeys to families who ordered them before their birds died.