Volume No. 16 Issue No. 11 November 2019  

  Cluckin' along

     Fans of the Cluckin' Chicken Ranch food truck and its farm-fresh fare can rejoice: Unlike some food trucks, this one has no plans to hibernate during the winter.
   "We're going to try to go out as much as possible, weather permitting,"said Chris Sniffen, who runs the business with Amber Hendrickson. The truck has been a regular weekend presence at the Smith Farms farmers market in Falcon; with the market closing for the season, look for the truck outside JAKs Brewing on Sundays. And it could show up elsewhere in the area, too.
   "We're hoping to find someplace in Falcon during the week," Hendrickson said. "It's been difficult to find a place where we can set up, pull in and get out easily; plus, we need parking for people and a place where people can find us."
   The food truck has also been a regular presence at the Hump Day Food Truck Rally, held Wednesdays in Colorado Springs. At some point, though, the business may no longer be on the move.
   "Our ultimate goal with this is we want to open a little restaurant in Falcon," Sniffen said. The area, he noted,"is kind of a food desert … other than fast food."
    There's no timeline for the restaurant, which would fit into the fast-casual model, but they're hoping the dream could become a reality in a couple of years.
   "We're trying to be realistic about it," Sniffen said. In the meantime, the food truck serves as a mobile laboratory to test new menu items. Sniffen and Hendrickson serve up breakfast and lunch; breakfast includes such items as the Mother Clucker (two jumbo eggs, cheese, thick-cut bacon and sage sausage on a bagel) and the Farmhand (a pile of fried hash browns and scrambled eggs covered in sausage gravy); while lunch includes sandwiches such as the Rowdy Rooster (shredded chicken covered in a tangy Buffalo sauce topped with homemade ranch on a hoagie roll).
   They both come up with menu items, Sniffen said. Hendrickson "does a lot of the dessert aspects and breakfast, and I do a lot of the chicken sandwiches."
   They also work together on the unusual food names; Nesting Box Nachos and What the Cluck! Crème are among the other menu items. "We like to have fun," Hendrickson said. "We figure the trailer might as well reflect that."
   Fun aside, running a food truck is a lot of work. There is the scouting for locations, the prep work, the ordering, the traveling, the cleanup and more. “Obviously, we're always working at this," Sniffen said.
   The food business evolved from the couple's ranch in Calhan, where they started with 15 chickens and the idea of delivering eggs to customers. But their flock quickly grew; in just a few years, they're now up to 1,200 chickens. They pondered what to do with excess eggs; the eggs from newly laying hens are small and not much in demand.
   The answer? Sell egg sandwiches. They began in 2017 with a 300-pound flat-top grill, wheeling it into a farmers market on "a little rinky dinky kitchen prep cart." They upgraded to mounting the grill on an ice cream cart for the next summer, and this year they moved on to the full-on food trailer as they continued to expand their menu.
   "We try to stay as local as possible," Hendrickson said; their bagels, for example, come from Olde World Bagel & Deli in Colorado Springs. Their flock continues to provide all the eggs, but the chicken comes from local butchers. They're always experimenting with different chicken sandwiches and wouldn't be able to meet the demand with their own chickens, Sniffen said.
   "There are days where we will go through 150 pounds,” he said.
   Meanwhile, there are eggs to pick up –- about a half-hour process twice a day. Since the chickens are free-range, they can't always be counted on to lay in the nesting boxes. "You always have some that will hide in the bushes," Hendrickson said.
   The food trailer is not Sniffen's first business; he and his brother, Ray Jr., started Ray's of Colorado, an all-natural bath product company. Sniffen kept the business going after Ray's death in 2012, but now he has put it aside as the Cluckin' Chicken Ranch has taken off.
   "We had to give something up for our sanity," Hendrickson said. Meanwhile, the couple say they're thrilled with the success they've had with the food truck.
   "We're very grateful about how quickly we've integrated into people's lives,” Hendrickson said. “We've got a lot of awesome customers who have really helped us grow."
   (For more information or to see where the Cluckin' Chicken Ranch food truck will be next, go to http://cluckinchickenranch.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/cluckinchickenfood.)
Amber Hendrickson and Chris Sniffen are always on the go with their Cluckin' Chicken Ranch food truck. Photos by Bill Radford
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