On a rural road in flat, fertile farmland not far from Sturgeon Bay, you may find a large sculpture of a rooster standing by a sign proclaiming the site of the Chicken Chapel.
This is the retirement home of Door County native Father Tony Birdsall who served nearby Corpus Christi parish until age 74. That was almost a dozen years ago, and retirement has allowed him more time to spend in his “Chapel.” “I go over there and enjoy myself and maybe say a little prayer also,” says Father Tony.
The chicken chapel is home to a diverse flock. “There’s a vast difference between the breeds of chickens,” explains Father Tony. A mix of Black Wyandottes, Light Sussexes, and Australorps keep the Father entertained, well-supplied in fresh eggs as well as ribbons from the Door County Fair where he has shown for years. “All you have to do is look at a perfect feathered chicken and there’s something of great beauty there,” Father Tony proclaims.
Back in his adjacent ranch house, there are even more chickens to be found in the form of decorative potholders, tea kettles, cookie jars and all manner of chicken art. “If there’s any chicken paraphernalia that I don’t have, it isn’t much, because I have a lot of it,” says Father Tony with a smile. “I did not buy a single one,” he adds of the many gifts from parishioners and neighbors. “What can they get Father Tony? Well, get him something that reminds him of chickens and he’ll be a happy man.”
Father Tony is a happy man as a Door County native living back in his beloved home. “I’ve been blessed, being appointed back to my home county of Door County, close to the parish where I was raised and baptized. So special.”