Hatching experience for bird nerds: Southern Alberta company planning to expand Canada-wide

LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. — What started as a fun and educational side business may soon be going national.

“Our plan is to go right across Canada with this,” said Dean Torgerson, one of the founders of Nanny McCluckins, a company that rents out eggs and equipment so families can hatch chicks at home.

Torgerson, from Calgary, hatched the idea for the business along with his wife Kathy and their partner Marilyn Hnatuk.

“We wanted to bring something families could do together. Something that was educational but also a lot of fun,” said Kathy. In less than two years the business has expanded across much of Alberta, and has brought the hatching experience to Vancouver and the Okanagan in British Columbia.

They are actively working on finding agents in eastern Canada, and plan to launch in Toronto within a couple of months.

“When we saw this opportunity we thought it would be super fun,” said Gemma Salt, who has become a repeat customer.

Salt has three young children, and decided to try the hatching experience a few months after the pandemic started, while they were waiting for school to resume.

“We were stuck at home, so it was a good experience that was going to take a month and something to look forward too.”

The hatching experiences are based on a four week rental that includes fertilized eggs, a small incubator, a housing bin, food, a heater and shavings.

Hatchers are also provided with instructions on how to successfully hatch and care for the chicks.

Nanny, McCluckins, hatch, eggs, equipment

BABY BIRDS

The baby birds stay with the family for a week or so, before they are taken back to the farm where the eggs were laid.

“These are people who want to grow their birds so they can produce more eggs,” said Hnatuk. She said the company works with local family-owned farms.

“The farmers are excited that we are providing an educational experience because a lot of the city folks and kids don’t understand what the life cycle of a chicken will be.”

Hnatuk calls the experience a win-win situation for the farmers, because they get the chicks back while saving the time and cost of hatching them.

Salt said it’s like doing an experiment of the life cycle right in your home and has been a good learning experience for her children.

“And then we get to watch them hatch, which is super exciting.”

The incubation process typically takes 21 days but can sometimes take as long as 25. Hatchers can candle the eggs along the way and mark and track the chick’s progress.

Once the chicks are about 24 hours old they can be held.

The Torgersons said it has been cool to see the positive feedback they have received from families and school teachers.

As part of their business growth, they have been able to offer a larger selection of birds.

Gemma said the Salts have hatched a chicken, bantam roosters, and quail.

“We loved it so much we did it again and again, and we’re going to do it again next month.”

She said they are looking forward to raising some ducklings during the next hatch.

“The kids get to experience what it’s like to have a pet, and then they get to go back and be dirty somewhere else.”

A hatching experience costs $155 and must be booked in advance.

Alberta and B.C. hatches are already sold out until May.

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