Spotlight on Hays Creek Farm in Opp, Alabama
Chad Boothe of Hays Creek Farm in Opp, Alabama, is known for the exceptional size, uniformity and health of the birds he produces, as well as the fastidious manner in which he maintains his farm.
A pullet farm, Hays Creek Farm grows baby chicks which are intended to be breeder hens when they reach maturity. Boothe receives them when they are only hours old and keeps to a specific lighting and feeding schedule for 21 weeks, until they reach maturity. They are then shipped to a hen house where they begin laying eggs.
A Top Producer - By Every Measure
"Chad just does a super job," says Tommy Rials, flock supervisor for Southeast Alabama. "He's always around the farm. His heart is good. He's a good grower, always on top of it. If he's got problems, he jumps on and fixes it. If he can't fix it, then he calls me and we'll work it out. He's a good fellow all the way around."
The success of a pullet farm is judged by specific criteria including: livability, how many birds get shipped to the hen house; uniformity, growing birds in a similar height, weight, flesh and reserves; and overall health of the birds.
"He's one of the top producers," Rials says. "As far as the bird health, he keeps them cool and keeps them warm, they always have plenty of water and plenty of feed."
Unlike broiler chicks, pullets are on a feeding schedule which keeps them small enough to breed and lay eggs.
"We feed the birds every day until 15 days, then we go on a skip-a-day program. It helps control bird size, weight and uniformity. Otherwise they would be like broilers. They don't lay when they get too big. At 14 weeks, we go to a five-on, two-off, feed schedule," explains Rials.
"Plus, he always keeps it clean and neat - any time you go there, he's at the houses," reports Rials.
By the Numbers
Boothe's pullet farm consists of two 60 X 580 foot poultry houses. Each house holds 25,000 to 60,000 chicks at a time. He grows two flocks of 100,000 to 120,000 per year. Up to 240,000 laying hens leave his farm annually.
The farm sits on 40 acres in Coffee County. On the pasture Boothe grows hay that he sells to nearby farmers. He sells his litter to a local row farmer, who produces peanuts, cotton and other crops, not using it himself because the timing is usually off for his hay growing season.
The same year that Boothe built his houses in 2008, he and his wife Ciji married. They lived a little over a mile from the farm until 2010 when they built their farm house. That farm house is where they are raising their two-year-old son, Hollice.
Prior to choosing to become a poultry farmer, Boothe was a procurement forester for a mill in McDavid, Florida for eight years. After high school he obtained an Associates Degree from Lurleen B. Wallace Junior College in Andalusia, Alabama.
"I negotiated to buy the timber from individuals, wood suppliers and dealers for mill that I worked for," explains Boothe. "But I wanted to have my own business and be my own boss, and I've been around poultry farming pretty much all my life. If you live down here in South Alabama, and if you're a country boy, you're pretty much around it."
As far as his son one day taking over the farm, Stinson says, "Someday, maybe."
Boothe didn't grow up on a farm; however, his two uncles were chicken farmers, as are his in-laws.
"It's been a good business for them, so that was one reason I decided to build chicken houses," Boothe says.
Farming gives Boothe flexibility in his family life. Being on the farm every day, Boothe is able to fully participate in parenting his son. His wife is a registered nurse who works in the emergency room at Andalusia Regional Hospital three days a week. Their extended family also lives nearby, helping raise Hollice.
"I love that he's being raised on a farm," Boothe says. "I think it's perfect for him. He gets to see things that other children don't get to see. I'm proud that my son will be raised around farming."
Technology and Passion
When the Boothes built their farm, they used the latest state-of-the-art technology to ensure the safety and comfort of the chickens, including installing 70-foot recirculating cool pads to temper the heat and humidity of the South. He also carefully observes the bio-security measures required by Pilgrim's to prevent his flock from being exposed to disease, viruses or other contamination.
While the last few years of the economy have been a rough ride, Boothe believes poultry farming is a worthy investment. He expects his success to grow as the economy climbs its way back up. Regardless of the economy, Boothe says he loves being a poultry farmer.
"There is something very satisfying about chicken farming. If you do good job, and grow the chickens right, they go on to produce great eggs. There's a satisfaction there, that you've done your job, it makes you feel good," reports Boothe. "I also like working by myself. Farming, it's something that you have to want to do. If you enjoy it, it's an easy job, but it's not for everyone."