By RICHARD F. BELISLE
CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A total of 50,000 laying hens died and the chicken coop that housed them was destroyed in a Thursday morning fire at Hillside Poultry Farms near Chambersburg, officials said.
Pennsylvania State Police fire investigators said the source of the fire, which caused nearly $500,000 in damages, was electrical.
The burned bodies of the chickens were lined up row upon row in the cages in which they died.
Firefighters kept the fire contained to the 40-by-450-foot, 36-year-old frame building at the 1849 Letterkenny Road farm. Chickens in a nearby coop were not harmed.
Clifford Gayman, who with his brother Ronald owns Hillside Poultry Farms, said he was awakened at about 4 a.m. when an alarm signaled that the electricity was out in one of the chicken coops. When he went to investigate, he expected to have to start an emergency generator to get the electricity back on.