Looking for a great place to pick up chicks? Berg’s Hatchery of Russell can help you with that.
The family business, currently owned by Kevin and Connie Berg, has been turning eggs into fluffy chicks for over 65 years.
“Hatching chicken eggs is an extremely rewarding experience, which requires good planning, dedication, flexibility and observation skills,” said Kevin. “Chicken eggs have an incubation period of about 21 days and can be hatched using either a specialized incubator under carefully monitored conditions, as we do, or broody hens.”
The Berg family became involved in the hatchery business in 1953 when Rudolph Berg (Kevin’s grandfather), set up a turkey breeder flock and bought a small wooden incubator (800 eggs) and set it up in the family living room. This was very typical of pioneer hatchery men, to start in the house or garage.
In 1958 the Bergs built a small hatchery on the family farm north of Russell. Additional machines were added to increase the capacity to 15,000 eggs, and the operation continued to grow with more expansion in 1960.
In 1968, Kevin’s grandfather Rudolph and father Earl purchased the hatchery east of Russell on Highway 45 known as Kinney Hatchery, which had a capacity of 30,000 eggs. In 1974, the hatchery became a husband and wife operation when Earl and wife Betty took it over, and expanded the capacity to 200,000 eggs. Twenty years later, Kevin and wife Connie, became the third generation of the Berg family to take over the business, and remain today.
During the 1970s and ’80s, Earl and Betty had many breeder flocks for the hatchery that included ducks, geese, grey lines, turkeys and broiler breeders, along with operating a grain farm. Over this time, the Bergs were assisted by a number of Russell-area farmers, who were producers for different breeds needed for the hatchery. With the number of farmers declining in the mid-1990s, third-generation owners, Kevin and Connie, knew the hatchery had to change.
With that in mind, they expanded the hatchery sales area and closed the eight stores serving western Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan, using agents instead of their own stores. Now there are well over 35 agents across Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario selling Berg’s chicks.
A 6,500-broiler breeder farm was built in 1994, approximately a kilometre east of the hatchery, to produce broiler hatching eggs for the hatchery, and this became the home of Kevin and Connie and children, Missy and Vincent.
Berg’s Hatchery is known for mainly serving hobbyists, supplying chicks from mid-April to mid-June to area producers. Eggs are hatched year round for Hutterite colonies, but not for large commercial quotas.
On average, one million chicks are sold yearly by Berg’s Hatchery. Layers, meat breeds, specialty birds, and some species of turkeys are all hatched at Russell. Although waterfowl is sold, eggs are not hatched on the premises.
“Today our incubating capacity is 250,000 eggs, hatching 70,000 chicks per week,” said Kevin. “We are proud of our repeat service. We guarantee that all Berg’s chicks, ducklings and pullets are produced from eggs supplied by strong, healthy, government-approved breeding flocks.”
The business employs 12 to 15 people including vehicle drivers at their busiest time of the year. In all, Berg’s Hatchery has 40 agents – 20 in Manitoba, 16 in Saskatchewan, three in Ontario, and one in Alberta.
Priding themselves on service, quality, and hatching capacity, Kevin and Connie are pleased that the business has provided a great avenue to raise their children, and let them spread their wings in a rural community setting.
“Our daughter Melissa, 26, is a registered nurse, married to Aaron Kelly, and has three children, Cooper, Emily and Annie, while son Vincent, 21, is a journeyman Red Seal electrician,” Kevin said. “With neither having an interest in the hatchery business, and Connie and me getting older, the time has come to put the business on the market.”