Silver Valley Hutterite Colony accepts first chicks July 19
The population of Saddle Hills County jumped by about 16,000 on July 19, when the Silver Valley Hutterite Colony took delivery of the first batch of chicks at their egg layer facility near Bonanza.
The new arrivals were greeted just after noon and immediately provided with food and water in their new 14,000 square foot home on the colony north of Bonanza.
The facility makes up one-half the large complex which is still being completed and will ultimately be home to some 30,000 egg-laying chickens.
The chicks were delivered from the Rochester Hatchery in Westlock, Alta., in a temperature controlled semi-trailer and quickly moved into the barn where their new climate-controlled environment awaited them.
“Everything in these chickens’ lives is controlled by automation,” says Frank Tschetter. “From their feed and water to the humidity inside the barn and the lighting, everything is controlled by the computer systems in the adjoining section of the barn.”
The feed consists of specially made pellets with each pellet containing pre-determined levels of wheat, soybean and canola oil provided by Masterfeeds in Edmonton.
The feed is dispensed through a series of hoppers and tubes into trays which also provide a steady supply of water. The chicks are kept warm by radiant heat, which keeps the birds warm but doesn’t warm up the air in the barn. During a typical layer cycle of one year, the temperature starts at 90 F at the floor and drops slowly over that time to 70 F.
Special fans behind light filters on the side walls of the facility suck old air out and new air is introduced through vents in the ceiling. The whole process is automated to control humidity and air quality.
No outside light is allowed into the barn. Lighting is strictly controlled in order to keep the chickens laying as daylight hours fall.
Egg production typically adjusts to daylight patterns. In natural light conditions, without the help of artificial light, hens lay the majority of their eggs during the spring and summer months and will either stop laying during winter months or lay at a lower rate.
Hens in a facility like the Silver Valley Hutterite Colony’s facility begin laying eggs between 18 and 22 weeks. The flock generally reaches peak egg production [90 plus per cent] around 30 to 32 weeks.
“We hope our chickens will be producing one egg per day to maintain the production levels we hope to achieve,” says Tschetter.
The eggs will be collected and shipped to Sparks Egg Farms, a wholesaler in Calgary which will pick up a load of eggs from the farm every three days. The whole flock is rotated on a one-year basis with three weeks between flocks to clean and disinfect the facility.
The Colony is hoping that its investment in what is a new form of agribusiness for Saddle Hills County, will yield positive results and help the Colony to sustain itself.
Saddle Hills County worked with the Colony to ensure that all planning requirements and regulations for the confined feeding operation were approved by the Natural Resources Conservation Board.
“We are very appreciative to the county for helping us with this important new venture,” Tschetter says.
“We’d like to invite any of our neighbours to arrange for a visit of our facility.”
Spotlight thanks Saddle Hills County for the article and photos.