DELTA -- They arrived weary after an exhausting truck trip from California, 130,000 of them just one day old.
But the new chicks quickly gained their strength. They came in December to their destination 18 miles northwest of Delta, the first chickens to become part of an operation that will produce 25 million eggs annually.SunBest Farms' newest facility is well under way and construction is on schedule for large buildings that will house more than one million laying hens in the $20-million facility. Spokesman Dick Latta said one building more than 400 feet long and nearly 60 feet wide has been completed and two more are planned. The total number of laying hens is expected to reach 1.25 million.
SunBest Farms is one of three enterprises, also including Olson Farms Inc. and Cal-Maine, that brought to reality the egg-producing venture.
Latta said last year that the companies wanted to build the farm miles from Delta because they "didn't want to be harassing neighbors."
Prior to the completion of construction, many Delta residents said they were not too concerned about possible odors or environmental problems with the project. Robert Thomas, general manager of a construction company near the farm, said at the time that local residents did not seem to have strong opinions for or against the operation.
Officials say they have taken a good look at possible effects on the environment and have done what is necessary to protect it.
For instance, more than 80 tests were conducted by state and county officials prior to approving a permit to drill a 300-foot deep well that will provide water for employee housing. Lagoons for waste water from washing the eggs will be built and lined with rock, clay and vinyl to prevent contamination of ground water. Chicken droppings will be used for fertilizer and hauled to area farms.
As for the pullets themselves, after maturing to 18 weeks they will becoming laying hens, but their lifetimes will be relatively short. After producing eggs for about two years, their production will stop and they'll become chicken products in the marketplace, replaced with younger hens to repeat the cycle once again.
Chicks to fill the second and third large buildings are expected to arrive at the site in February and April, Latta said. When the facility is completed, hens will be in full production at about a dozen hen houses. But for now, the pullets are carefully watched and cared for by Jennifer Holman and Dee Callister as they grow to maturity.
Much of the operation will be automated. Latta said conveyor belts will carry the eggs from hen houses to a processing house where they will be washed, dried, and packaged before being shipped by truck to market.
Ingredients to be used in the hens' feed will be shipped to an area feed mill to be built in Lynndyl. The feed will then be trucked to the Delta Egg Farm where the hens will be housed.
Feed is currently being purchased in Tooele until the mill is completed later this year.