Incubating a business, not just eggs

After 18 months of planning, Prairie Land Gamebirds recently expanded its business with the hatching of pheasant chicks from eggs incubated in a new facility. It takes 23 days for the eggs to hatch, owner David Wacker said. (Photo courtesy of David Wacker)

Prairie Land Gamebirds hatches first eggs following expansion

Prairie Land Gamebirds recently expanded its business with a new hatchery.

“After 18 months of planning, it was quite a relief to see those little chicks hatch,” said David Wacker, one of the owners of the business. “There was always some thought that we would do something wrong and they would not hatch.”

David, who runs the business with his son Ryan Wacker, said it has been positive to not rely on another entity to provide chicks to them.

“It takes 23 days for the eggs to hatch, so that is three weeks of wondering if you are doing things right,” David said.

Currently, David said they are getting about 3,000 eggs each day.

“When we reach peak egg production, we will get nearly 4,000 eggs a day,” he said. “We will hatch about 220,000 chicks this year. By mid-August, the hens will quit laying eggs.”

Prairie Land Gamebirds plans to hatch 220,000
chicks this year. Owner David Wacker said he hopes
to sell some to producers next year. Prairie Land
Gamebirds is also hatching chukar, another gamebird species. (Photo courtesy of David Wacker)

David said they will be setting new eggs in the incubators until mid-August.

“[This] means we will hatch new chicks every week from now through [the] first part of September,” he said. “We have four incubators and each one can hold 21,500 eggs. We have built the hatchery so that we can expand without having to build a bigger building.”

David had to design and build a hatchery building to prepare for the chicks, as well as buy and install the correct equipment, which included an alarm system.

“Poultry requires 13 hours of daylight for them to begin laying eggs,” he said. “We had to put lights on our hens to bring them into egg production when we wanted.”

David created an additional position to help with the operations.

“It was the best thing that we did to hire a consultant to help us through the first year,” David said.

David said the expansions made sense financially. Originally, half of the chicks were coming to Kansas from Wisconsin, David said, which creates potential hazards.

“In the event of a disease outbreak, there is always the risk that they cannot be shipped across state lines,” he said. “A few years ago with the Avian Influenza outbreak, our chicks from Wisconsin were not allowed to travel through the state of Iowa so they had to transport them around Iowa. It also reduces the risk of bringing in a disease from our chick suppliers.”

Originally, David planned to just hatch the chicks for his own business, but he said he has had inquiries about selling the chicks.

“Next year, we plan to work vigorously at marketing them to other producers,” he said.

David said Prairie Land Gamebirds is also starting to hatch chukar, another gamebird.

In addition, David said they will have hen pheasant chicks to give away most weeks. He said any interested farmers can contact him if they would like to grow some to restock property.

By Hailey Dixon For the Lincoln Sentinel