I recently came across a copy of Successful Hatchery Operation – compiled by the Service Department of The Buckeye Incubator Company and the Newtown Giant Incubator Company, Springfield Ohio, U.S.A.
Published in 1926, it is self-described as -“A Text Book on Methods of Hatching and Selling Baby Chicks For Profit!” (Their exclamation point, not mine.) Intrigued, I poured myself a cup of coffee and settled down to see what I could learn.
The first thing I noticed was that writers seemed to be a bit more polite in the early 1900’s. In the introduction, the text declared that The Buckeye Company “desires in no way to promote propaganda of any kind, but simply to narrate plain statements of fact concerning a giant industry.” I think that a few national news agencies would do well to heed by this timely advice.
Along with that statement of neutrality, the introduction ended with this incredibly civilized signoff –
“Should the reader desire information other than given in this book, a letter addressed to The Buckeye Incubator Company, Springfield Ohio, will receive prompt and detailed acknowledgement.”
Who wouldn’t want to read a book that was so careful of its readers’ feelings and needs? I like that, I felt like I should be drinking tea with the milk added first instead of my mug of black coffee.
Chapter 1 begins with The Baby Chick Business:
“From this early beginning the commercial hatching of baby chicks developed slowly until the about 1918 or 1919, when poultry conditions demanded and newly developed equipment made possible its sensational growth. From hatcheries of only a few hundred egg capacity, the business has grown until today hatcheries of over one hundred thousand egg capacity are fairly common, and there are several hatcheries in the United States whose capacities range from five hundred thousand to one million egg capacity each. Altogether there are at the present time about seven thousand commercial hatcheries in the United States. Last year these hatcheries produced somewhere between four hundred million and five hundred million chicks.”
If those were the numbers in 1926, I wondered what they could possibly be today where we have more sophisticated machinery and better conditions. I looked up egg production and found this on wikipedia: “Between 2007 and 2010 a total of about 90 billion eggs were produced by per year.”
That number is simply staggering. 90 billion eggs. If you figure a hen lays an egg roughly every other day, we are talking about a lot of hens laying a lot of eggs. And a lot of anything means big business. Thinking about those numbers, I wrote to Murray McMurray Hatchery, one of the biggest rare breeds hatcheries in the U.S. "Can you give me an idea of your egg capacity? I'm reading a 1926 hatchery guide and it talks about some hatcheries in the US with 500K to 1 million egg capacity each. If that's what was happening in 1926, I'm sure the numbers are much greater today." And then feeling like I should end on a polite note, I added: "Many thanks for your help. Your reply will receive a prompt and detailed acknowledgement." Even though I received an automated reply telling me that someone would get back to me in 2-3 business days (and of course, I sent this out at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday) within half an hour there was a reply in my inbox.
"Hatchery started in 1917 and has grown tremendously, especially in the last 15 years.
Capacity increased this last couple of years by nearly 40%. somewhere between 130 and 150 thousand eggs a week but this time of year 35,000 weekly.
Murray McMurray Hatchery"
Either that Murray McMurry Hatchery has excellent customer service (which from previous encounters, I can vouch that they do) or I ended up winning them over with my courteous signoff after all. I guess using honey to catch those flies is as old as, well, at least 1926. So If we go with the low average of 130 thousand a week (to adjust for the slow season) that comes to approximately 6,760,000 (that’s a 6 in the million position) from just *one* hatchery. No wonder people went into the hatchery business. Apparently chicks and eggs are gold.
Well, well, I had thought I was going to have some chuckles from this old chicken hatchery guide, but it looks like that was not to be the case, instead this old dog was definitely learning a new trick or two. I went to brew another pot of coffee, I think this book and I will be spending a lot of time together.
Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons. Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences and lessons learned living with chickens (yes, chickens).Visit her blog at www.SimpleThrift.wordpress.com.
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