A Poultry Industry History Museum Worth Crowing About

The National Poultry Museum, Bonner Springs, Kan., celebrates the farm-raised chicken, turkey, duck and goose tradition.

| October 2009

The American poultry industry finally has its own museum, and it’s one worth crowing about. On May 8, 2009, the National Poultry Museum was dedicated at the National Agricultural Center & Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kan.

The event capped a 15-year fundraising drive led by poultry expert Loyl Stromberg, Pine River, Minn., who donated many of the artifacts on display. Donors such as McMurray Hatchery, MCM Poultry Farm, National Pet Inc., the United Egg Assn., United Egg Producers, Nebraska Poultry Industries Inc., and many individuals donated funds to help open an initial poultry museum at the Ag Hall of Fame’s Farm Town USA in 1994 and the new museum this year.

“Our challenge was to develop a museum that not only contains artifacts, but also one that tells the story of the American poultry industry over the last two centuries,” says Museum Director Tim Daugherty. “Our curator, Kate Alexander, did an immense amount of research to create an exhibit that would help educate hundreds of school children who visit our center, as well as appeal to poultry professionals.”

Comprehensive displays

Inside the building, rooms filled with well-planned and informative exhibits trace the history of poultry production from the early Egyptians through the development of today’s vertically integrated broiler industry. Everywhere you look, you’ll find color photographs of nearly every breed of chicken, turkey, duck and goose raised on American farms from the 1800s through the present day, along with poultry statues and figurines made of porcelain, pottery, plaster, metal and wood.

Displays tracking the development of mechanical incubators and brooders include a large-capacity Jamesway incubator and a kerosene-heated National Ideal Premier hover that was still wrapped in 1943 newspapers in its original shipping crate when the museum staff assembled it for display. Although the first patent on a mechanical incubator was issued in 1843, commercial hatcheries relied on dozens of small, 300-egg incubators until 1896, when inventor Charles Cyphers built the first large-scale hatchery capable of hatching 20,000 eggs. The Cyphers Incubator Co. also introduced the first lamp-heated, multi-level brooding house large enough to accommodate up to 400 chicks.

One display is dedicated to the evolution of poultry housing, another to the art of sexing baby chicks (in the 1930s, specially trained chick sexers from Japan were brought to the U.S. to work for large hatcheries). Exhibits detailing the evolution of poultry disease control and nutrition call attention to the discoveries that adding vitamins A, B and D (along with iodine, potassium, magnesium and calcium) to poultry feed could reduce disease and boost production. Throughout the museum are displays of vintage poultry feeders, as well as crockery and metal water fountains used by poultry producers in the 1800s and early 1900s.