Hatching A Plan

It’s all in a day’s work for entrepreneur Ryan Kelsey, an 18-year-old who rises with the chickens.

| July/August 2017

  • One young entrepreneur starts his own hatchery business.
    Courtesy Valley Farms Hatchery
  • Ryan Kelsey feeds, waters, and prepares shipments first thing in the morning before school.
    Courtesy Valley Farms Hatchery
  • Ryan is adamant about following state and federal regulations.
    Courtesy Valley Farms Hatchery
  • Valley Farms Hatchery currently hatches about 500 chicks a week.
    Courtesy Valley Farms Hatchery
  • Valley Farms Hatchery has a no-kill policy for roosters.
    Courtesy Valley Farms Hatchery

When high school senior Ryan Kelsey has nothing to do, he just goes to the hen house and “talks” with his chickens. Lots of them. At age 12, Ryan started Valley Farms Hatchery in Spring Valley, Alabama. In 2012, he built his first hatchery, and now hatches between 300 and 500 eggs per week.

“From an early age, our son was fascinated by chickens,” his mother, Kim Kelsey, says. “Our family had always had a few chickens on our country place. When he was about 12 years old, he wanted to start his own business. His father and I supported him, but explained this was his project. We would help if needed, such as feed the chickens if he’s involved in school projects or other activities, but I would say he does 99 percent of the work.”

With the help of his father, Anthony Kelsey, they built a chicken pen and purchased an incubator. The operation started slowly but grew quickly — from hatching about 200 chicks each week to now hatching 500 per week. To be sure he isn’t inundated with chicks, he waits until orders arrive before he places the eggs in an incubator. Twenty-one days later, a peeping batch of chicks is ready for delivery.

When Ryan placed his first order from a hatchery, he had no idea chickens were so expensive. “They asked $3 each with a minimum order of 25,” he said. “You could say I was very proud of those first Rhode Island Reds of twenty hens and five roosters!”

“I wanted to sell chicks at a lower price and build my business,” Ryan says.

Advertising on social media, as well as traditional means, he built a booming trade. The young entrepreneur believes the Valley Farms Hatchery website has expanded his visibility. Several times a week, his email contacts receive a notice of available chicks, ducks, and guineas. Selling healthy chicks, he soon had customers returning and telling others.

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