Exotic Animal Owner Envisions Chicken Museum

OLMSTED FALLS, Ohio (AP) - Jim Burnette's menagerie includes monkeys, llamas and wallabies, but it's his chickens that have him hatching an idea for the state's first poultry museum.

The 67-year-old Proctorville native has owned Burnette's Animal Farm and Educational Center for the last 30 years in Olmsted Township near Cleveland.

Now he wants to get out of the exotic animal business and turn his focus to domestic animals and the museum.

"See," he said, pointing to a picture of him at age 7. "There I am, and there's my dog tucked under one arm, and my chicken under the other."

Paging through the photo album, he said, "You can see my entire life develop, and there I am, always, with chickens around me."

Today, his farm is filled with 3,000 pieces of mostly chicken memorabilia, including egg cups, egg necklaces, incubators and a chicken-plucking machine. Add to that more than 25 breeds of fowl that live on the 2.5-acre farm.

"Chickens have played an important part in man's life from the earliest concept of man raising them for meat and eggs," Burnette said. "People don't realize how much history there is behind poultry."

Ohio ranks No. 2 nationwide in egg production, said Jim Ramey, state statistician for the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service.

It's 11th in turkey production, and Burnette said his museum would pay homage to "a small amount of turkey," along with ducks, pigeons, geese and doves.

Jay Walker, a farmhand who works at Burnette's farm, says: "People crack on him about his chickens. But for him, it all started with the chicken. He always wanted something for his chickens."

Last year, Burnette placed an advertisement seeking poultry enthusiasts to serve on his museum's board. He received just one reply, and the woman never called back.

No matter to Burnette, who is sure his project will fly.

He wants chickens to have the respect he saw on a recent 16-day international poultry tour. "Now, the German people take their poultry much differently," he said. "There is a chicken in every back yard." Holland just built a $3 million museum devoted to the bird, he said.

Chickens also get attention at the National Poultry Museum at the National Agricultural Museum and Hall of Fame outside Kansas City, Kan. Hall Director Tim Nimz said poultry enthusiasts across the country raised $30,000 to build a replica of a hatchery there.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)