By Angie Baldelomar
As soon as the farm comes into view, you can see the chickens roaming free around the front of the house. On one of the hen houses, surrounded by a fence, the door hangs open.
Beaver Valley Poultry co-owner Whitney Witt said she lets the chickens roam free during the day. At her place, she said, she has around 1,400 chickens, and together with her mom, Kimberly, they have around 2,500 in their family business.
“I only realize there are that many,” she said, “at night when I close the buildings and in the morning when I let them go free.”
The chickens are calm around new people. A gate in the fence that surrounds their building in front of the house is open, so the birds can roam around the house during the day. The house and barns are surrounded by crops, which Ms. Witt said, is why they are put inside at night. Inside the fence, they have food, along with oyster shells, which as Ms. Witt explained, contain calcium that makes their egg shells hard.
The firm is licensed to sell eggs in Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska, she said. They deliver to the Nebraska Food Co-op in McCook, from where the free range, non-GMO eggs are shipped to other area states. In Kansas, they deliver to grocery stores and restaurants in Oberlin and to a co-op in Atwood, from where eggs are shipped to Colorado.
It all started because of Whitney, her mom recalls. She was the one who talked them into starting a chicken farm. Whitney said she had gone on a field trip with her mom’s second-grade class to a farm that supplied eggs commercially.
“We began fixing up old buildings we had on our farm,” she said, “to convert them into chicken houses, building nests and roosts.”
They pride themselves on the fact that their eggs are farm fresh, non-GMO, that is, they haven’t been fed any genetically modified grain.The hens are free to roam around the place and lay their eggs in the same hen house they go to at night. The Witts have a candler machine where they can spot any eggs that may be unfit to sell. Then they wash and process and package all of them on the farm each day.
When they need to get more chickens, she said, they use an incubator and then, once they have little chicks, they take some laying hens to be moms and put them with the chicks in a different pen.
The women said they don’t plan to increase the size of their flocks. It is already a time- consuming job for the family, they said, but they enjoy what they do, and from the passionate way they talk about the farm and the chicken flocks, there is no doubt they will continue to do that.
The story was published on page 1B of The Oberlin Herald‘s print edition on July 27, 2016.