The first load of 27,000 chickens arrived in the wee hours of Thursday, May 26, at the Edwin Hostetler ranch on Powell Mesa. The chickens had been ordered six months ago. They arrived by truck from Illinois.
The truck driver swung too wide to enter the Hostetler ranch and hit a neighbor's fence. Hostetler and a worker repaired the fence later that morning.
Also later that morning, county and town officials came for their third inspection since construction of the new operation, known as Western Slope Layers.
Mike Owens, Hotchkiss public works director, said, "I'm finding everything they are doing is being done according to all the regs. There have been a few things that they have changed, but they have to go through the engineering. You can draw something up on a plan, but then when you get to doing it you can see different ways of doing it. The end results will be the same." Hostetler will have to provide "as built" plans of the actual site when completed to the county and town.
"All the water management seems to be going well," Owens said. "Most of it is not complete yet, but we will be doing more inspections."
Asked if he has any concerns about water contamination from the operation, Owens said, "It's such a minimal concern. . . I walked it with both water commissioners, and they showed me how everything runs exactly. It would take a pretty extreme event for anything to get to Willow Heights." With a huge flow of water, comes dilution.
"There's always E Coli in raw water. I don't care where you pull it," Owens said. "There is an extreme possibility, but we have an extreme possibility of somebody dumping a gallon of spray in the reservoir above Leroux Creek. We don't have control of some of this stuff, and that would get directly into our drinking water. This has no way of getting into our drinking water. It has some possibility of getting into some irrigation systems which are irrigating fields full of manure already. It could get into Willow Heights sprinkler system, but it would be a very rare event if that happened. I'm not sure even if it did if there would be any kind of contaminant other than the natural kind of contaminants we see already. The county did take water samples all around the area . . . To get a baseline of what is in the water," Owens said.
Owens could not smell the chickens except when he stood in front of the building's fans. He also did not find the fans noisy. Those doing the inspection could have a normal conversation in front of the fans. Owens clearly heard a neighbor's power saw over the sound of the fans.
The chickens are housed in a new building approximately 400 feet long. Owens said the eggs will be sold to the Safeway chain of grocery stores as part of their Colorado products.
Bob Kalenak, Delta County engineer, also inspected the site last Thursday. He said the outdoor drainage system should have been completed earlier, but right now it does not pose a problem. Hostetler "is in no position right now to let his chickens outside anyway. He's not even fenced in, so he can't." The chickens will remain inside until the fenced area is completed.
Part of the plan is to have the chickens free range outside. In 14 months when the chickens have gone through their egg laying cycle, they will be removed from the property and the chicken facility cleaned out. Then a new bunch of chickens are delivered.
Kalenak described the interior of the chicken house shown in the photograph above. The photo shows one half of the building.
"The floor is dirt. The area is completely open to the chickens to "free range" — there are no cages.
"The meshed ramp area folds back for cleaning. In the current down position, the chickens climb on it to get to the feed and water dispensers. The fed dispensers are shown in the up position in the photo and are lowered to be within reach of the chickens on the ramp. Those would be the yellow caged looking units with the flying saucer gray bottom. The feed is sent to each dispenser via the gray tubes.
"The water dispensers are shown in the up position and are lowered as the feed dispensers. They appear like little yellow flowers facing downwards. They are also centrally fed with water and have a little nipple the chickens peck to get the water.
"The red laying houses are at the top and are where the chickens go to lay the eggs. The floor in them is slightly slanted toward the center so that when an egg is produced, gravity will do the work to remove the egg from the house and put it on a conveyer that is found in the center of the setup, at the back side of the laying house. The egg is then conveyed to the egg room, which is situated at the further end of the building in the picture."blog comments powered by Disqus