SEBASTOPOL, Calif. (KTVU) - A family-run farm in Sebastopol tells KTVU thieves have stolen hundreds of their unique hens, which produce eggs for customers all over Sonoma County.
Gerald Leuschen, owner of Buddy's Farm, says the loss is hard to take, especially with Easter less than two weeks away.
Around town, Leuschen is known as the chicken whisperer or egg man. He says now he only has half of the 600 to 700 hens that he and his family raised.
"These are animals I held in my hands as chicks and raised them through to this stage," said Leuschen.
Recently, he noticed many of the hens were gone, so the flock a lot smaller. Leuschen suspects that thieves came in the cover of darkness and removed the hens from the coop, which he kept unlocked until the theft.
"For someone to come in and do that is a violation. It's a huge violation," said Leuschen, "I'm angry they're taking the food right out of my family's mouth, but I can't carry that anger."
Leuschen runs the farm with the help of his two young sons and his wife.
"It's shocking. It hurts. We spent a lot of time and our hearts into this." said Suzanne Leuschen.
The couple says their business, started a few years ago, is still struggling to thrive. The chickens are bred and incubated in the Leuschens' home.
The unique hens are known for their ability to lay eggs of unusual pastel colors including pale blues, greens , pinks and yellows.
The Leuschens say demand is especially high with Easter coming. "To have the unique colors that we had, to not be able to provide that… that's definitely going to be hard for us," said Suzanne Leuschen.
Gerald Leuschen estimates his loss of 300 hens to cost about $30,000, but he says he won't give up.
"We're going to start over again. Persevere, keep doing what we're doing. People love our product. We love doing it. We'll rebuild. It's going to take time."
Leuschen says he just wants his hens back.
He is offering a $250 reward for information leading to their return. He's asking anyone with information to contact the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office.
Leuschen can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org