Whelen’s Poultry Farm – Specializes in baby chicks and pullets
By F.W. Beeson
By F.W. Beeson
On a south slope, overlooking the Fraser river and bounded on the north by the scenic Marine drive, and less than seven miles from the heart of Vancouver, is a very compact, very up-to-date poultry farm. Business principles have been employed in the building up and in the operation of the farm and it has been successful over a period of 13 years.
The Riverview Poultry Farm is owned and operated by Mr George Whelen, and the breed that has been his standby is the S.C. White Leghorn.
Although Mr. Whelen breeds Leghorns, he does not to any great extent enter into the competitive field as a breeder of pedigree stock. He is a specialist, however, and his energies are concentrated on producing quality baby chicks and your pullets. He is ideally equipped for the is branch of poultry farming and on visiting him th elater part of November I found him, not hatching chicks, but in the feed shed of his brooder house, putting finishing touches wherever needed so that when chick time comes around everything will be readiness.
The first inspection we made was of this brooder house and it was at once evident that much thought and care had been put into its construction. The building measures 116 feet in length and is 22 feet wide. The feed shed is 16 by 22 feet and situated on the west end of the 100-foot brooding section. It is Mr. Whelen’s intention, as his business grows, to build a 100-foot section onto the west end of the feed shed which when completed will undoubtedly make a very fine and imposing building. But we are dealing with what is on the farm now, and before we got round all of it there was plenty!
In the basement of the feed shed a boiler is installed and anthracite coal used. Mr. Whelen is very well satisfied with this form of fuel saying that coaling up only has to be done twice a day ordinarily and during severe weather three times.
Up above the feed shed is the battery brooding room, heated with radiators to a temperature of 70 degrees F. Intake and outlet ventilators are provided assuring adequate fresh air. Two Buckeye brooding units are installed, each one containing six tiers with a partition down the centre forming 12 separate compartments. Each compartment is electrically heated and thermostatically controlled. The chicks on leaving the incubator are placed directly in the batteries, 100 to each compartment. Mr. Whelen says that for the first three days a brooder temperature of 95 degrees is maintained after which reductions are made day to day until at three weeks the old chicks are getting very little more than room temperature – 70 degree F. It will be understood then that this battery room has capacity for 2400 chicks.
At the end of the third week the sexes are separated, the cockerels being transferred to another building and placed in broiler batteries. This will be explained later. The pullets go into brooder house, which is the east wing of the building.
This 100-foot section is divided into 100 compartments, each 10 feet wide, and a passageway three feet in width runs the entire length along the front. Thus all the necessary attention to the birds can be accomplished from the inside, which is a great convenience. Each brooder section, then, measures 10 feet by 19. At the back of the rooms is the hot water supply in the form of a flow pipe and return. Lead pipes are connected to these mains in each section and carry the flow of water into radiators set horizontal and raised eight inches from the floor. Over these are canopies to deflect the heat. The flow of water in each radiator is controlled by means of a valve so that temperature can be controlled. The floor is covered with litter and although I have not seen it in operation the conditions seem to me ideal. Another feature that has much in its favor is the wire floor outside runs provided. The passageway along the front is raised up on 1×6’s and the chicks run under this to reach the outside. Once out there they have all the sunshine and fresh air possible and the floor being of half-inch netting, no contamination with droppings is possible. Mr. Whelen is emphatic that young pullets need sunshine and lots of exercise if they are to develop strong robust constitutions, and his method of supplying these conditions and at the same time obviating the possibilities of disease and worm infestation should appeal to all practical poultrymen. The wire run is two feet high and covered over the top with the same material. It was told it never needed cleaning and certainly at the time of my visit it looked spotless.
Next we went to the broiler building where, as before mentioned, the cockerels are taken at here weeks old. Here were five Buckeye broiler units, five tiers high and as with the chick batteries, divided down the centre, making 10 sections. These sections hold 30 cockerels each to eight weeks of age when a thinning out has been found beneficial. There is capacity her for 1500 young cockerels and they are forced along as fast as possible till they attain a weigh of one and a half to one and three quarter pounds each. The temperature of this building is maintained at around 60-70 degrees, heat only being necessary during the early part of the season, and supplied by a brooder stove. Asked as to whether he finds any difficulty in getting the chicks to grow feathers in the batteries, Mr. Whelen says that he has had trouble that way but by keeping the air humid and maintaining adequate fresh air in the room it can be avoided.
Leaving the batteries, we next went to see the breeding cockerels. They were a fine peppy bunch, pedigreed and from his finest hens. Great care is taken in the selection of eggs from which these birds are hatched, Mr. Whelen believing that such points as egg size, shell texture and shape are hereditary characteristics and when importing fresh blood every precaution is taken to ensure that these good points are prominent in the bird’s ancestries. After the cockerels we saw the breeding hens, and I would like to point out here that every bird, male and female, that is used for breeding purposes is blood tested for B.W.D. or Pullorum disease. This has been done for three consecutive years and higher hatchability and livability has been the reward.
Hatching is all done in a Petersime electric incubator, Mr. Whelen being very satisfied with the high quality of chick this machine produces.
The last place to visit and at the present time the most interesting was the up-to-date Jamesway equipped laying house.
The building is 90-feet long by 24-feet deep. It is completely insulated against heat and cold and scientifically ventilated with Jamesway equipment that even when the windows are closed right up, proper circulation of air is maintained. The house is divided into three pens, each 30 by 24 feet, and in each pen were 250 pullets. I must say that they looked very fit and active, tight feathered, red combed, and in fully production. The number of birds in a space of 70 square feet might seem like close quarters but these birds were very evenly spread out, evidently perfectly comfortable. There was no crowding under dropping boards at all, all seemed busy about their duty, being either in the nests, eating dry mash or drinking water, or else scratching the litter. Mr. Whelen is more or less of a pioneer in British Columbia in adopting this temperature-controlled style of house. Straw was on the floor but at the next clean-out peat moss will be used, and I was told that usually only one change of moss is necessary for the entire winter. Water is supplied automatically here and to accommodate the increased number of birds five rows of roost are installed instead of the more usual four.
Readers will note that this is a very compact farm and very easily operated. Everything is done systematically and the methods employed ensure stock of high quality being produced.
Last season being generally bad on account of low prices, I was surprised when Mr. Whelen told me that he fell short by about 1,000 pullets of the demand. During the season he is able to care for at least 6,000 pullets in his brooder house, so it may be inferred that even in a season of poor egg prices, chicks and pullets find a ready market providing they are of first-class quality.