Thursday, August 30, 2018

Corvallis Chickens

Now that the forest fire smoke has cleared out, I’ve been writing while sitting outside on my deck.  One problem with this is that I get distracted watching the neighbor’s chickens running around freely in their backyard.  These chickens are attractive but not the same as those that made Benton County famous in the period circa 1920.  Those chickens were mostly white leghorns.

The growth of the local poultry business followed the establishment in 1907 of a poultry department at Oregon State University (then Oregon Agricultural College) under the leadership of James Dryden.  Dryden believed, as others did not, that selective breeding would result in more productive chickens.  Others had tried but failed. But by 1913, the OSU Poultry farm had improved both the White Leghorns and Barred Rocks and a hybrid call “Oregons.”

Oregon Agricultural College poultry farm 
One chicken, called Lady McDuff, won a lot of recognition for the program by laying a record-setting 303 eggs in 1913. The change was dramatic as the average hen then produced less than 100 eggs per year.   Newspapers around the country carried stories about this feat. She was not the only productive hen. Pens of OAC chickens also laid more eggs than other pens at the Panama Pacific Exhibition and at other egg-laying contests.

In 1911, Jess Hanson came to Oregon to work under Dryden at the agricultural experiment station.  In 1913, he established his own poultry farm on land along Western Blvd. in Corvallis.

He acquired stock from the OAC program and then commenced his own breeding program, developing the Hanson Strain of White Leghorns which produced over 200 eggs per year and won numerous egg-laying competitions

He incubated the eggs and sold over 105,000 baby chicks to buyers, making Hanson’s the largest business of its kind in the state.
The success of these two breeding programs attracted others to open their own poultry businesses in the area.

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

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