Truck carrying 14,000 chickens breaks down on I-90. Mechanics, Addison Fire Department show some pluck trying to save as many as they can in the heat.

·2 min read

Andrew Loucks got a call at 8:43 a.m. Tuesday that a semitrailer driving west on Interstate 90 near Randall Road in the Elgin area lost a wheel.

Loucks, a mechanic at Super Truck Service in west suburban Addison, didn’t think anything of the call. But when he got to the semi, he found 14,000 live chickens in the trailer.

“I didn’t want the chickens to die,” Loucks said. “I didn’t know what to do. I don’t want him to drive back without a wheel, and it was leaning really hard.”

He couldn’t tow the truck the nearly 30 miles back to the shop because tipping the trailer up could be even more dangerous for the chickens, Loucks said, so his team chained up an axle and had the semi drive back to Super Truck Service on eight wheels instead of 10. That meant driving 35 to 40 mph down I-90, which wasn’t a very safe option either, Loucks said.

After returning to the shop at 562 S. Vista Ave. in Addison, and with the temperatures rising, Loucks said the first thing he did was grab a garden hose as he started to “water the chickens,” despite being afraid of birds.

“That’s all I’ve been thinking about all day long. I just feel really really bad,” Loucks said.

A medic crew from the Addison Fire Protection District drove by about 1 p.m. and saw Loucks hosing down the semi packed with chickens, according to Chris Mansfield, the battalion chief. The medics knew the garden hose wouldn’t be enough to keep the chickens cool enough to survive the heat, so they dispatched a fire truck and hosed “probably several hundred gallons of water” on the chickens, Mansfield said.

Loucks was able to offload the chickens into the repair shop to get them into the shade. Two “giant” fans were cooling the chickens, one sucking away hot air and another blowing cool air.

Despite the best efforts of Loucks and the fire department, several hundred “if not a thousand” of the chickens died, Mansfield said.

About 4:30 p.m., the thousands of chickens were inside the shop, waiting for a truck from Wisconsin picked them up and finish transporting them to a farm, Mansfield said.

cproctor@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @ceproctor23