Read the original story written by Jeff Bleiler and published on The University Record website Oct. 2, 2023.
When Scott Haley sees something is amiss, he aims to fix it.
Such was the case about 12 years ago when he was on his way to a service call while working for a plumbing and heating business in northern Michigan and spotted something strange along Alpena State Road.
“I was heading to a cranberry farm way out in the woods and saw something out of the corner of my eye,” said Haley, facilities manager for the U-M Biological Station. “I hit the brakes, backed up my van, looked over and all I see is chickens in the woods.”
It was a typically cold late-January day, and some of the chickens were experiencing frostbite on their combs and feet.
“Somebody apparently didn’t want them. Instead of doing the right thing, they just let them go in the woods,” he said.
So he rounded them all up and took the 15 chickens back to his Cheboygan home that was equipped with a horse barn and partial coop. He made them a fresh meal and once satisfied they were in a safe, warm place, departed for the cranberry farm to complete the service call.
Since then, Haley and his wife, Tiffany, have raised and cared for more than 100 chickens, primarily for egg production, and providing them a “retirement home,” as he puts it, even after their egg-laying days are over.
The Haleys have about 30 chickens currently, including a batch of 3½-year-olds nearing retirement and a new group of chicks he acquired in the spring.
That devotion to nature harkens back to his upbringing and encompasses his home and work life to this day.
“I love nature and the wilderness,” Haley said. “I have an old Bronco that we like to take out two-tracking and drive the seasonal roads through the woods and go off-roading. We’ll take our dogs, pack a lunch and wherever we end up we’ll have lunch.”
Haley grew up in the Cheboygan home he now owns but studied at a trade school in Texas before moving back to Michigan. He worked over the years in various trades such as heavy-equipment repair, welding and fabrication, and commercial refrigeration before joining Werner Plumbing & Heating.
He worked there for 22 years with the Biological Station on the south shore of Douglas Lake as one of his many customers.
“I just kind of fell in love with the place, not even really knowing a lot of the ins and outs about it,” he said of UMBS. “I just loved it out here and I liked the people who worked here that I got to interact with when I did service work.”
When Tony Sutterley retired as facilities manager of UMBS, Haley applied for the open position and was hired in April 2018.
“I really didn’t know exactly what Tony did here. I knew he was the facilities manager, but I didn’t know what the job entailed, I just knew I could do it,” he said. “I just love the sense of community and the ability to not work in a crawl space or an attic all day long. It’s a beautiful setting here.
“We have 10,000 beautiful acres here on this amazing lake, and I get to work in and on the properties, and it’s very enjoyable.”
Many of the facilities and buildings at UMBS are aging, so Haley and his staff stay busy, whether it’s routine maintenance or sudden emergencies. It’s also the ideal setting for a nature lover.
One of the efforts undertaken by UMBS is the conservation and restoration of the Great Lakes’ piping plover population, which has quintupled over the past four decades. That was a career-long effort of Francie Cuthbert during her time at U-M and now at the University of Minnesota.
Haley is also interested in seeing this effort succeed, and recently installed air conditioning in the plover house because some of the chicks were struggling with humidity.
When an abandoned chick was brought to the conservation station and nursed back to health, Cuthbert and colleague Maureen Stine decided to honor Haley’s efforts by naming the chick “Guy Bob Haley.” The first two words were derived from acronyms of the colors of the bands on the chick’s legs.
“It was kind of cute and an honor they thought of me like that,” Haley said. “They had a hat made with the name inscribed on the side and a plover on the front, too.”
When he’s not helping keep UMBS operating, Haley enjoys cross-country trips or weekend getaways around Michigan with his wife.
For the past three years, they have driven a vehicle and belongings for their retired friends to their winter residence in Palm Desert, California, before flying back and doing the reverse in the spring when the couple returns to Cheboygan.
Along the way, the Haleys take side trips to hike, and have discovered a shared love of the desert Southwest.
Closer to home, they will venture to Pine Stump Junction or Deer Park in the Upper Peninsula and camp near Lake Superior.
“When we go camping, I always like to rustic camp,” he said. “It’s quieter, you don’t hear generators running, that kind of thing. We just try to get off the beaten path and get away from it all.
“We go to this one place called Blind Sucker Flooding. It’s really pretty there, quiet, and when the sun goes down you can hear the whip-poor-wills start singing. It’s really relaxing.”