– Gameness til the End
A look inside Koekkoek Poultry Farm
Arjan Koekkoek steps into a green pair of rubber boots sitting outside the door of his broiler barn. As he opens the door to the barn, a wave of heat flows out into the frigid November air.
Inside, a sea of yellow peeping puffballs scurry and tumble about. These 40,000 tiny chicks are the first residents of Koekkoek’s new broiler barn.
Koekkoek immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands in 2002 and bought the farm just outside of Barrhead. The property had five barns, including an old double-decker. After managing the farm for 10 years, Koekkoek decided to tear down the old barn and build a new one.
The new barn, which was just recently completed, is quite different than the other four. Koekkoek said it has concrete walls with insulation between, with a better insulated ceiling.
The technology is also impressive. Koekkoek controls everything from a control panel area in the lobby of the barn.
“We have the technology of computers. Everything is controlled by computers,” said Koekkoek. “Ventilation, temperature, bird weight, water consumption, you name it. It’s all done by the computers.”
The barn also harbours another new addition to the farm: a heat exchanger. Koekkoek is the first in Alberta to have one, and he said it is supposed to reduce heating costs between 50 and 70 per cent.
The heat exchanger just began operating last week. Although he isn’t sure about how it will work in the long-term, since it’s the first in the province, Koekkoek said he is quite excited about the machine.
“We are curious about how it’s going to work, especially because winters are really cold,” said Koekkoek. “It is not used very often in this cold climate, so we will see if it works.”
Koekkoek recently held an open house to celebrate the completion of the new broilerbarn. People interested in learning about how chickens are housed and raised in the new facility were invited to tour the operation and ask questions.
Despite the less than desirable weather, Koekkoek said about 50 people showed up for the open house. Questions ranged from how the new facility was built, to how chicks were raised, to inquiries about the new heat exchanger.
Koekkoek said he wasn’t originally planning on opening up the new barn to the community. However with recent negative publicity in the poultry business, he decided to shed some positive light on the chicken farming lifestyle. Particularly the fact his chickens are not housed in cages, rather they have free range.
“I think there’s a lot of misconception of how we raise chickens,” he said. “We try to do a good job to make sure the consumer will keep eating chicken, because it’s good for everybody.”
The farm has 60,000 birds, with 40,000 of them residing in the new barn.
Koekkoek does his chores twice a day. He goes through the barn and makes sure the ventalation is correct, and that there is enough feed and water available for the chicks.
“I make sure that they’re in good health,” he said.
After two decades in the poultry business, going out to the barn and seeing that all the chicks are happy is Koekkoek’s favourite part of the job.
“When the chicks are happy, then the farmer is happy too,” said Koekkoek. “I always say when we take good care of the chickens, then the chickens will take good care of us.”
Koekkoek Poultry Farm currently has 60,000 birds, 40,000 of those housed in the farm’s newest broiler barn. Owner Arjan Koekkoek has been in the poultry business for 20 years now, 10 of those in the Netherlands and the other 10 just outside of Barrhead. Kelly Brooks.