HARROD — While large-scale poultry operations can sometimes evoke images of chickens confined to cages unable to move, an Auglaize Township operation is demonstrating a different approach.
Ruth Farms, home of Happy Yolks LLC, held an open house Thursday to give the public a look at its operation, which is still under construction. Ruth Farms will use Tecno Cage Free Poultry Systems, which houses a large number of laying hens without the confinement of cages. The operation will consist of two buildings, each of which will have two stories containing six, 468-foot long rows of feeder space, able to accomodate over 101,000 layers per floor.
When chickens first arrive, they are kept in the feeder space for one week to acclimate them as to where to find food and water. Then the chickens are free to exit the feeding area and move about in the building. The lighting is programmed to represent outdoor sunlight, so as the sun sets, the interior lights will dim, prompting the chickens to return to their feeding area as they seek higher perches, an instinctive measure chickens use to avoid predators overnight, according to Ruth Farms co-owner Dan Gossard.
Food and water will be supplied in the feeder spaces, with conveyor belts catching the eggs and transporting them to a central collection area where they are then boxed and refrigerated for shipping.
One innovation in the system involves collection of manure from the chickens, according to Gossard.
“The system takes it out the back, dries it and takes it to a building, where it is dry, so you don’t have the flies and the smell,” he said. “We’re going to use it on our fields. It will supply roughly 3,000 to 4,000 acres per year. It replaces the mined fertilizer, like potash. One company that was here even pelletizes it to sell it to people for gardens.”
Those fields will then grow the corn and soybeans used for feed for the chickens, Gossard said.
Once the chickens begin arriving later in December, Gossard estimates that the facility will process nearly 28,000 dozen eggs per day when full capacity is reached, with the eggs then being shipped to such destinations as Walmart and McDonald’s.
“They are distributed nationwide,” he said.