The greatest of romances sneak up on you. Ayman Kaddouri learned this firsthand.
Fourteen years ago, he filled his dining room with straw, hung heat lamps from the chandelier, and invited 25 peeping chicks inside. “It was my wife who wanted chickens,” he says. “But I was the one who fell in love.”
Smitten with his 25 feathered house guests, he bought 50 more. And then 100 more. And then a few more for good measure. Today, Kaddouri’s property — a little shy of an acre off Crab Creek Road in Hendersonville — is alive with the sound of nearly 1,500 clucking, cackling, chirping, and crowing hens. The backyard brood is so much a part of Kaddouri’s identity that he’s now known as The Chicken Man.
Kaddouri admits it’s an unlikely transformation. For 20-some years, he was a mortgage broker in Florida. Before that, he spent his childhood bouncing between the United States and the Middle East, where his father worked in the hotel industry. Needless to say, running a chicken empire never crossed Kaddouri’s mind. But when the housing market imploded in the early 2000s, he knew it was time for a change of pace.
“After 2008, I was done. I got out of real estate and we moved to Hendersonville,” says Kaddouri.
That’s when his wife, Jill, who was raised in a rural town in New York, suggested chickens. The original plan was to keep hens for fresh eggs. But when the flock grew to 250 gals, “it clicked,” says Kaddouri. He realized he could make a living out of selling unique chicken breeds normally not found in backyards.
According to Kaddouri, most folks are accustomed to seeing Rhode Island Reds (the instantly recognizable American chicken), the glossy Black Australorp, and the popularized British breed Buff Orpington. “These are your basic breeds,” he says. However, there are hundreds of other chicken breeds in existence, all with unique physical characteristics and temperaments. Their eggs differ, too.”
Take the Easter Egger, for instance. This calm and friendly bird lays stunning eggs that range in color from peachy pink to sage green with speckles. Meanwhile, the Blue Andalusian is a slender chicken with slate-blue plumage and bright red wattles. Though their eggs aren’t as showy, these avians lay lots — about 150 per year.
“Different people click with different breeds,” Kaddouri says. While some chicken lovers might get starry-eyed for the showy Mottled Java or Ancona, others are drawn to the Swedish Flower Hen, an individually hardy but endangered breed. As for The Chicken Man’s own preference?
“I always tell people my favorite type of chicken is the last one I held.”
Clearly, love works in mysterious ways. It also makes fowl fanatics do mysterious things. Case in point: Kaddouri recently had a woman travel all the way from New Mexico for a Lavender Orpington, a large, amicable bird with violet-tinged plumage. “I thought it was crazy,” admits Kaddouri. “But it was a specific bird that she wasn’t able to find anywhere else.”
Though driving 22 hours across the country for a hen is a bit extreme, many of Kaddouri’s customers go to great lengths to buy his birds. During a sales event last spring, for instance, more than 250 people lined up outside The Chicken Man’s house. Some waited for as long as three hours.
It was like Black Friday — just with more feathers.
Since then, Kaddouri has adjusted his business practices to avoid turning his neighborhood into a parking lot. Birds are now available via pre-order or by appointment. “I’m trying to control the number of people that show up,” he explains.
Alas, demand is still outstripping supply. There are several reasons for this, one being the skyrocketing cost of groceries. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, egg prices have increased 60 percent in a single year. Desperate to fill their bellies without breaking the bank, suburbanites are turning their backyards into aviaries. “People are tired of paying $5 or more for a dozen eggs when they could raise chickens themselves,” says Kaddouri.
Demand for The Chicken Man’s hens also reflects his reputation for being, as one customer succinctly put it, “the best.” Unlike other poultry peddlers, Kaddouri keeps prices low (normally $15 to $30 per bird), guarantees females, and sells fully feathered, eight-week-old hens year-round — not just in the springtime. But more importantly, Kaddouri truly cares for his birds. “Hanging out with the chickens is like therapy,” he says.
Obviously, chicken farming is much more involved than “hanging out.” Work days normally call for eight hours of feeding, watering, and cleaning. But Kaddouri has never second-guessed his decision to trade the world of home financing for the world of chicken rearing. Even when an electrical fire destroyed his house in 2019, quitting wasn’t an option.
“I never really thought of not doing chickens,” says Kaddouri, who eventually rebuilt in the wake of the fire. “It is and always has been more of a passion than a job. Chickens are just what I love to do.”
The Chicken Man, 1 Shadow Valley Drive, Hendersonville. Find “The Chicken Man” on Facebook or see thechickenman.business.site.