From chicken farm to haven for horses
By Jamie Bowlin
Whip-O-Will Stables is a thriving equestrian facility nestled on 200 acres in beautiful West Dudley, MA. The stables are dedicated to the well-being of horses and other animals, and offer feed and a clean stall to many less fortunate and rescued horses. Whip-O-Will Stables has a reputation of caring for otherwise “unwanted” critters of all sizes. In addition to 16 horses, the stables house a variety of other animals, including rabbits, goats and ducks.
The facility has not always been a stable. “Whip-O-Will Farms” began in 1955, when Kenneth Chickering Sr. and his son Kenneth Chickering Jr. purchased a run- down dairy farm. The dilapidated 250-year-old farm house was uninhabitable at the time and required major renovations in order for the family to live there.
Whip-O-Will farms was converted into a commercial egg production facility, and in 1966 the Chickering family built the first commercial chicken coop, which housed 17,000 hens. Between 1966 and 1974 there were a total of four chicken coops or “cage houses” that were each able to house 17,000 chickens. In the 1980s, when the cage houses became automated, each cage house was able to keep 40,000 chickens. As a result, Whip-O-Will Farm was named the second largest egg producing farm in the state of Massachusetts.
The farm saw many generations of the Chickering family come and go with varying degrees of involvement. During its peak production, Kenneth Chickering Jr.’s two sons, Charles and Russell, and his daughter, Rondy (now Rondy Langlois), were involved in the egg production from raising chicks that would replace laying hens, to washing and packaging eggs in the processing plant, to distributing eggs to supermarkets all over Worcester County. In 1997 egg prices began to fall and the farm began to shut down its commercial egg production.
The first horse was purchased in 1995. “Nana’s Mr. Herby” was a retired sulky race horse. A “sulky” is a two-wheeled cart, somewhat like a chariot, that was pulled behind a horse during a race. “Nana’s Mr. Herby” was not a big winner on the race track, but was a great success in helping Whip-O-Will Farms transition from egg production to horse stables.
The building of stables on the property began in 1998. The family hoped that by building stables, they could maintain the land as a working farm so that income would be generated for remaining family members. Since 1998, Whip-O-Will Stables has returned to being a central part of Dudley’s landscape. The stables offer services from boarding horses, to riding lessons, after-school programs, summer camps and pony parties. Many of the horses at the Stables have found a second lease on life. Some of the horses have been rescued from abusive or neglectful situations, or were surrendered by owners who could no longer care for them. Twelve of the sixteen horses housed at the stables are owned by the Chickering family.
Today, Whip-o-Will Stables offers a wide variety of equine services and continues to be a ‘safe house’ for distressed animals.
For information on services, visit the Whip-o-Will web site at www.whipowillstables.weebly.com or call Amanda Chickering at 774-452-5062.
- Tuesday, 25 September 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Businesses in the News