Canadian Poultry Magazine

Features 100th anniversary Notable People
Great Chicken Ranch in Heart of Movie Plant

August 1929


October 12, 2012
By Tom Reed

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One hundred and thirty-four thousand dollars will do a great many things besides founding a model poultry ranch.

Yet Carl Laemmle, motion picture magnate and veteran producer, does not regret his indulgence in his favorite hobby.

The Universal Poultry Ranch, located at Mr. Laemmle’s big studio on Ventura Boulevard, is the particular apple of the producer’s eye.  Many of his friends declare he is prouder of it than the tremendous motion picture organization he has built up n the last decade. When he returns to the studio after his annual European trip it is the first place he visits. He receives reports of its progress while he is spending the summer in Carlsbad.

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One hundred and thirty-four thousand dollars will do a great many things besides founding a model poultry ranch.

Yet Carl Laemmle, motion picture magnate and veteran producer, does not regret his indulgence in his favorite hobby.

The Universal Poultry Ranch, located at Mr. Laemmle’s big studio on Ventura Boulevard, is the particular apple of the producer’s eye.  Many of his friends declare he is prouder of it than the tremendous motion picture organization he has built up n the last decade. When he returns to the studio after his annual European trip it is the first place he visits. He receives reports of its progress while he is spending the summer in Carlsbad.

The poultry ranch, standing incongruously as the only real thing in several acres of backless sets on the Universal “back ranch,” is now in its third year of existence.

Mr. Laemmle has equipped it with the most modern contrivances he imported from New York, Ourt Felker, an expert on the subject, and appointed him as manager on the ranch.  The new manager is as completely foreign to the movies as is the ranch.  He sits in his office, guards jealously his flocks and watches, with tolerant amusement, the antics of the strange world into which he ahs been immigrated. The ranch, in the midst of what is said to be the world’s largest studio, is as far removed from the movies as though it were in Hoboken.

The ranch was founded by Mr. Laemmle some years ago for several reasons. He cannot explain it himself, except that it is a whimsical hobby. Certainly finances had nothing to do with it, for it is not a money- making institution. Someone whimsically observed once that it is possibly the only place where Mr. Laemmle can go and not be asked to do things.  The chickens, it is reasoned, at least won’t ask him to put them into pictures, or try to sell him scenarios.

A great many employees of Universal City are only hazily aware of the ranch’s existence and most of the two thousand or more workers have never been in or near it. Outside its own domain, the only evidence of it in the studio is a modest sign in the studio restaurant, which offers fresh eggs for sale.

In poultry circles—I assume there are circles of poultry fans—however, the ranch is much better known than in Hollywood. It is regarded as one of the best appointed poultry ranches in the West, and its inhabitants (feathered or shelled) are of very high quality.

Statistics are dull, except to those vitally interested in their subject, so we’ll polish them off in a single paragraph. The ranch has a capacity of about 6,000 adult birds and 8,000 baby chicks. It boasts incubator space for 136,000 eggs, which I regard as a matter of public interest. Translated into omelettes, with a corresponding number of French fried potatoes on the side, this becomes, like the Time and Space in the philosophical sense, beyond human understanding. I was tempted, however, to point out that the incubators would probably hold a great many more eggs if they were broken before putting them in.

The feathered inmates of the poultry ranch are intended as purely commercial birds—I quote Mr. Felker again. No particular attempt is made to develop blue-ribboners, although some of the better specimens might win poultry show prizes. It is the purpose of the ranch to develop a strain of heavy-laying birds. Hatching eggs, baby chicks, pullets and cockerels are sold to farms and ranches all over Southern California, and a comparatively few eggs are sold for purposes of scrambling and frying to private consumers as well as the Universal employees.

Whatever the purpose, and financial status of the movies’ only poultry ranch may be, however, it remains as a personal hobby and Mr. Laemmle intends to continue it so. As any shrewd business man would, he will make profits from his hobby if it is convenient to do so, but primarily he gets more enjoyment from foregoing a return on his investment in order to derive personal satisfaction from the thought that he is maintaining a model seminary for chickens who do not smoke, roll their stockings, drink of dance the Charleston.