About 18,000 chickens died in Thursday's wildfire near Rolleston.
The chickens were housed in three sheds on an egg farm in Selwyn Rd owned by Allan and Judy Marshall.
The couple had left earlier that day for a holiday at Gore Bay and had just arrived at their destination when news of the fire threatening their property reached them. They headed straight back, only to find their livelihood in ruins.
The 18,000 laying hens they farmed all perished in the fire.
It is believed they died from smoke inhalation before the flames ripped through the shed they were housed in. The shed was built three years ago to meet new animal welfare regulations.
Marshall, who has owned the farm for 20 years and employs five staff, said he had done everything in his power to prevent a fire in the business but there was nothing he could have done to stop yesterday's wildfire.
"It was the perfect storm. We are all out of jobs basically. If we can get back up and running, we will."
The business is insured, and other egg farmers have rallied around to help the Marshalls, offering them eggs so they can continue to supply their customers.
The offers of help have come from as far away as Dunedin.
The Marshalls' house escaped the flames.
In neighbouring properties, gallant efforts by locals, volunteers and SPCA Canterbury staff to save livestock and pets meant fewer casualties than feared.
SPCA Canterbury animal welfare manager Geoff Sutton said a total of about 200 sheep, cattle and horses were removed from at-risk properties, as well as about half a dozen pets.
Some of the animals were stressed and had been exposed to intense heat and smoke, but were otherwise unharmed, he said.
"It was a bit disorganised initially, but everyone knew what needed to be done and just got on with the job."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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