Keir Schutte and her husband were at an Avon animal shelter four years ago this month when a bantam rooster changed her life.

“I said I’d take four bunnies to foster,” she recalled. “Somebody had just picked up a bantam rooster. He must have been dumped along the road. I knew nothing about chickens, but he let me pick him up. I was walking around with him and he laid his head on my shoulder and went to sleep.”

That sealed the deal. She took him home and named him Chicken Nugget. They’ve been together since and Schutte named her newly founded animal rescue operation Chicken Nugget and Gang in his honor.

Nugget, as she calls him, follows Schutte around inside the heated 1,400-square-foot pole barn that serves as a small animal sanctuary behind the Shuttes’ rural Lebanon home.

“Once a week he comes up to the house and I hold him and watch a movie. He hangs out, and I put him in the laundry room with a towel,” she said.

Nugget has good manners, she said, and always lets his harem of rescued hens eat before him.

“We got some baby chicks and he sat on them and raised them,” she said with a smile.

Weather permitting, the chickens spend their days in a 1,100-square-foot space behind the pole barn. It’s surrounded by a high board fence and features a coop to keep them secure from predators at night.

Somewhere over the years, Schutte’s fostering and rescuing morphed into a full-blown sanctuary for small animals and birds. She works closely with animal control officials in Boone and Johnson counties and takes in animals that were discarded or abandoned, nurses them back to health when needed, and offers them up for adoption through her website: chickennuggetandgang.com and her Facebook page: facebook.com/ChickenNuggetandGang/.

The ones that have had a rough life before she rescued them — like Potter, a rabbit who was rescued from the home of a hoarder — have had enough challenges and have earned a permanent home with Schutte.

Over the years, she’s hosted cockatiels, doves, parakeets, finches, ducks, lovebirds, pigeons, finches, chickens, chinchillas, hedgehogs, bunnies, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice and white rats.

“I’m not re-homing any of the birds. They’ve already been through enough and we’re going to build an outdoor aviary for them,” she said.

The neighborhood association in her small subdivision has been very tolerant and she works hard to not become a nuisance.

“I’m limited by where we live and I’ve got to be respectful. I’m maxed out now and can’t take any more animals at present,” she said.

The barn is not open to the public, as Schutte has adoption events off site at locales including Pet Valu and Pet Supplies Plus.

She has conducted a few fundraising events to benefit other people and organizations.

“Last year I saw on Facebook a veteran who didn’t have money to pay for his dog’s heartworm treatment, so Chicken Nugget and Gang wrote a check and paid for the heartworm treatments,” she said.

She’s also helped out with veterinarian bills when folks can’t afford to keep their pets.

And she did a couple of fundraising events for a Zionsville boy who needed a kidney transplant.

The homeowners association limits residents to three dogs per household. She has two big white Great Pyrenees dogs, Rock and Axel, and an old and cranky Pekinese, Dory.

Rock, one of the Great Pyrs, is almost a constant companion to Schutte, accompanying her to fundraising and other related events and, with Nugget, has become a symbol of the sanctuary and its charitable outreach.

Chicken Nugget and Rock will greet customers in the store that day.

Owners Sarah Hine, her husband Alex, and Sarah’s mother Suzanne Taylor have pledged to donate 15% of their sales that day to Chicken Nugget and Gang.

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