Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Painters Poultry Produced Hundreds of Thousands of Chicks

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Painters Poultry Produced Hundreds of Thousands of Chicks

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Jo McTammany

In the 1960s, '70s and into the early '90s, one of Clay County's largest employers, Painters Poultry's chicken hatchery, was nestled amidst vast and towering pine forests on the west side of Highway 17 south of Orange Park. The unassuming building attracted attention only because with WAPE and the fire tower, it was pretty much the only man-made structure on the lonely road to Green Cove Springs.

In the early 1960s, the fledgling Clay County Development Authority purchased the old WW II airfield land, built the building and installed a plastics company as its first tenant in an effort to bring jobs into the county. Sadly, the company failed and George Painter was enticed to locate at the site.

Before Painter came to Clay County, many families raised chickens in backyard coops mainly for fresh eggs and fried chicken dinners. A few, like the Geisons in Orange Park and Sam Saunders on Thunder Road, were serious egg producers and supplied area retail markets. Often, the egg money from housewives sales of small quantities of eggs to local grocers helped pay taxes in lean crop years.

But the Painter hatchery was something entirely different and the beginning of the fast-growing, specialized agribusiness focused on raising chickens strictly for meat production. From the egg to the table, the company oversaw every step to ensure quality and enhance productivity.

The company breeding farms like the one on Thunder Road produced the hatchery eggs with a flock of 10,000 hens and 1,000 roosters. With special feed and optimal conditions, 85 percent of the farm's eggs produced wet peeping chicks.

Specially bred fertile eggs were delivered to the hatchery and deposited in the company's initial six incubators. The machines were mechanical marvels maintaining humidity and temperature at a constant 99 degrees. …

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