The chickens on the bus go cluck, cluck, cluck
Andria Bufka, owner of Red Gate Farm in Leelanau County, and her husband Bob had planned to combine their chicken flocks and build a coop from an old greenhouse structure frame in November 2019.
“That year we got 30 inches of snow, I think it was like November 10, so it was pretty early to get that much snow,” Bufka said. “There was no way we were going to be able to take that framed outbuilding and make it into a coop because it had to be moved to.”
Bob, who works at Glen Lake Public Schools, knew there were a few buses up for sale and suggested they get one to turn into a coop.
Although Bufka was first confused by the idea of a “chicken bus,” it only took some Google searching to see if it was possible for her to agree.
“(Bob) gutted all the seats and built a partition between the back of the driver's seat (with a little room to keep food) and the rest of the bus,” Bufka said. “And we got some 20 foot long wood ladders and that's what they roost on. A friend of ours gave us some old roofing material, it's like a super thick rubber, and we put that on the floor and ran it halfway up the walls.”
Now nearly two years later, what was supposed to be a temporary fix due to an early Michigan winter and a global pandemic has become an attraction that put Red Gate Farm on people’s radar.
“The bus was just kind of a band-aid solution,” Bufka said. “I made a separate Facebook page, because I thought if I post this chicken stuff on my personal page, nobody really cares and on the Red Gate Farm pageI post a lot of what I'm baking for the farm stand.”
Bufka said when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, more people started to see the page since they were at home. With this the chicken bus became very popular.
“This is my eighth season with my farm and I feel like it wasn't until I got the chicken bus that people started to know about Red Gate Farm,” Bufka said. “So you know, I like that. It's fun, and it's kind of a quirky thing.”
Although the bright yellow school bus may not be Bufka’s first choice for a chicken coop, others just love it and are intrigued by it.
“I used to do a video every day and then sometimes I get busy and I don't do the video,” Bufka said. “(In the videos) I talked a little bit as I walked towards the bus, I opened the door, I talked to the girls. I mean it's the same thing every day, but my mother loves this video. So if I don't do the video, or if I don't do the video for a day or two, she's calling me like ‘What's going on? Why haven't you done the video?’”
Although Bufka has always had chickens for the eggs, she didn’t start to appreciate them until she got the bus.
“When they roam the yard I get a chance to watch them up close a lot more,” Bufka said. “They're just funny, quirky little animals, but they're like dogs where they want to be fed. So when we let them out in the yard, if I go outside, they'll all run to me. If I'm walking from the front deck out to my garden, they'll follow me the entire way. It's pretty funny, I like watching them.”
This story is part of the Michigan News Group Internship. A collaboration between WCMU and eight newspapers, including Leelanau Enterprise.