Chicken Talk

Georgie Cartanza came back to our classroom to expand on the first discussion about growing chicken in Delmarva by talking a bit more about the evolution of the industry and it’s history. Between the 3 counties in Delaware, 8 counties in Maryland, and the 1 county in Virginia, Delmarva produces 605 million birds every year, which is 9.6% of the national production. That’s a lot of birds! How did this industry become so large?

The north-south development of first railroads and then the Dupont highway really facilitated the growth of the poultry industry. The Dupont highway allowed more chicken than ever to be transported to big cities nearby that had large demands for food sources. Cities have lots of mouths to feed, and you need roads to be able to transport your goods to the demand. Poultry companies became vertically integrated, controlling every step of the path from the hatching of the chicks to raising them on the farms to the processing, advertising, and delivery. This meant that the company had input on every step of the chicken’s life.

The housing of the chickens changed throughout the years. Housing the chickens in shed style houses to open barn yards to frame pole type construction evolved over the years. People even tried to house chickens in multi-story houses or “hotels”, which didn’t last long as it was difficult to move chickens between levels. The modern chicken house features several advances in technology to make the chickens the most comfortable possible. Ventilation and temperature control have come a long way since the first shed-style houses. Phasing from open drinking systems- which were hard to keep free of litter and waste- to nipple drinkers greatly improved sanitation and chick health. We all need clean drinking water! Delmarva was in the perfect place geographically to be able to grow and sell the thousands of chickens we eat today.

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